Bloggerview #12: Eric Asimov

Bloggerview #12
Who: Eric Asimov
Blog: The Pour

When Eric Asimov’s wine blog, The Pour, first appeared at the New York Times website I couldn’t wait to see how the New York Times would interpret "the wine blog" format. Would they misunderstand the medium? Would it be a vehicle merely to move folks to their other digital products. Then Eric started writing. Regularly. "The New York Times" disappeared from my understanding of The Pour and I began reading "Eric Asimov". The most fascinating thing about The Pour is that we see a different type of writer than the "Eric-Asimov-of-the-New-York-Times". It is a more personal, introspective, even opinionated, writer. I understand this difference as the difference between traditional journalism and traditional blogging. Still, it turns out Eric is among the most wine-knowledgeable bloggers around. More importantly, his blog posts identify him as among the best writers in wine blogging.

1. When did you begin blogging and why?

I began in March 2006, and it wasn’t my idea. As everybody knows newspapers are having a tough time finding their way in the online world, and as The Times was gingerly developing its online presence several columnists, including me, were asked by editors if they wanted to start blogging. They offered almost no guidelines about what they wanted in a blog. Essentially, they left it to me to do what I wanted, which is sort of unheard of at The Times and was very liberating. I presume they were trusting that we early bloggers could do something Timesian even if it did not conform to the rigid structures of the newspaper. I wasn’t sure how I would manage the added work. But I was excited to have a platform beyond my weekly column. I wasn’t sure where it was going to go, but it’s been remarkably rewarding. 

2. In two sentences describe the focus of your wine blog.
Drinking, not tasting, was the original thought and it still pretty much holds true. It’s also a chance to deal with news, issues and more personal occurrences that don’t really fit in the newspaper.

3. What sets your wine blog apart from the pack?
Well, of course I benefit greatly from having the institutional visibility and resources of The Times. As a reporter and critic I have access that most people don’t have, so I have an unusual point of view in writing about issues and personalities. Beyond that, in my blog I’ve tried to take a stand against the tyranny of tasting notes that has overtaken the wine-drinking world. I don’t write about wines that I’ve tasted and spat, I write about wines that I’ve drunk, most often in the context of a meal. So I feel that I’m giving a more complete picture of the pleasures of wine drinking than you get reading the usual litany of wines and scores.  Also, though wine is my primary focus I write also about beer and spirits, which I hope can help bring down the absurd boundaries that seem to force people to choose one and deride the others. Why can’t we have it all?

4. How would you characterize the growth in your readership since beginning your blog?
I hate to say it but as a blogger for a great big company we have people who worry about that thing so that I don’t have to.  While I really have no idea about page views and things like that, I can judge by the people who comment on the blog that I have a consistent readership of people who know a hell of a lot about all aspects of the business. One revelation for me has been just how much knowledge is out there.

5. Do you accept sample for review?
The short answer is no. Any wines that we review we purchase ourselves through the various retail outlets. Now I’m speaking of the wines we review in the newspaper through the NYT wine panel. We can only sample a finite number of wines, and we don’t want to give an advantage to those producers who send us samples. So we simply rule them out. For my blog, I don’t taste vast numbers of wines, so I tend to buy specific wines that I intend to drink. Samples that I taste – because we still receive an awful lot of them – are strictly for my own edification.

6. What kind of wine rating/review system do you use and why?
I don’t rate wines at all in my blog. In the newspaper we use a zero-to-four star scale. I’m not philosophically opposed to ratings. They’re handy consumer cues in the context of long lists of tasting notes. Honestly, most tasting notes sound pretty much the same anyway, regardless of what kind of wine is being tasted, so when you are dealing with many different bottles it helps to penetrate the sameness. But in my blog, I’m not dealing with lots of different wines. I’m not going to write about 20 different Napa cabernets, so there’s no point to scoring wines.

7. How do you fit the maintenance of your wine blog into your daily schedule?
Maintenance? Again, I have the luxury of not having to deal with the technical aspects of a blog site. I’m fortunate to have experts to compensate for my computer illiteracy. 

8. Have you utilized any particular techniques to successfully market your blog?
Don’t mean to repeat myself, but again I have an advantage that sets me apart from many blogs. I have not had to worry about the technical and marketing particulars, which makes my blog very different from the more typical one person labor of love. At the same time, I like talking about my blog, and when given the opportunity I’ll natter on until told to shut up.

9. In your view how, if at all, is blogging different than traditional wine writing for print?
Well it’s absolutely different. First of all, it’s completely democratic, so anybody can create a podium for themselves, and the audience selects what’s important and what’s not. Blogging creates an opportunity for many voices to be heard. For somebody like me, who operates according to the fairly rigid structure of a weekly column, it’s been a wonderful opportunity to expand and go off in ways that are not available in print. As a writer there’s a great freedom to knowing I can say as much or as little as I want, without having to worry about confining myself to 1000 words.  I know wineries worry about the negative impact of letting anybody say whatever they want, but I do think the audience eventually recognizes who has something knowledgeable to say and who does not, who is stooging for a particular winery or writing more as a marketer, and who are the independent voices.

10. Which other wine blogs do you read regularly?
Well aside from Vinography, Fermentation and
Dr. Vino, I am a big fan of: Rockss and Fruit—, Do Bianchi—, Jamie Goode’s blog—, Brooklyn Guy Loves Wine—, Bigger Than Your Head,, Mondosapore— and Alice Feiring.  I keep track of a lot of other blogs, as you can tell from my ever-expanding blog roll, but these are my most regular reads.

11. Do you believe wine blogs have made any marked impact on the wine industry or wine culture?
Of course they have, at least as far as wine culture goes. Voices come from everywhere! The raw intelligence around the world now has an opportunity to weigh in. You can listen or not as you wish. My guess is the wine industry, like the restaurant industry, has rabbit ears.

12. Vacation: Paris or the Caribbean?
Paris, 9 times out of 10. I can’t completely deny the occasional need for mindless baking, gorgeous waves and tropical drinks.

13. Pet: Dog or Cat?

14. Airplane Reading: New Yorker or People?
New Yorker, except for flights under 20 minutes.

15. Car: Prius or BMW?
Look, I live in Manhattan. How about a cab?

16. Chablis or California Chardonnay?
What is it with these this-or-that questions? Must we be so categorical? Can’t we enjoy each for its special qualities? OK, Chablis.

17. What Would Your Last Meal on Earth Consist of?
Fresh eggs imbued with truffles; a small portion of spaghetti carbonara; a beautiful roast pork, full of flavor, the edges just barely caramelized, the fat meltingly sweet; Sichuan tea-smoked duck; the most wonderful fresh-baked bread; morels sautéed in butter; my wife’s Brussels sprouts; a ripe epoisses; wild local strawberries and fresh cherries. A great Champagne, a 20-year-old Montrachet, a beautifully aged Gevrey-Chambertin, a great old Barolo. And by the time I say trockenbeerenauslese, I’m ready to go.

18. What is Heaven Like?
It can’t be much different from the Sonoma Coast.

19. If you could invite 4 people dead or alive to your fantasy dinner party, who would they be and who would you have bring the wine?
Excluding my wife and two sons, whom I have the privilege of eating with most nights: Bob Dylan, Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe and my father. In fact, I’d give up the others if I could have one more meal with my father.

20. What advice would you give to someone considering starting a wine blog?
Be passionate, have a point of view, enjoy writing, and do it because you love it and can’t help it.

Posted In: Bloggerviews


9 Responses

  1. Terry Hughes - November 20, 2007

    Very nice interview with one of my faves. Thanks, Tom.
    And thanks, Eric, for the props…

  2. Eddie H. - November 20, 2007

    The Bloggerview profiles are excellent; kind of like gossip pages for the wine blog obsessed. This one takes the cake. Great job interviewing a great wine writer.

  3. Thomas - November 21, 2007

    Nice interview, Tom.
    I noticed the answer to question number 5–reminded me of the quotes you pulled out of one of my blog entries and that we discussed in Comments about my reluctance to accept free wine for evaluation. Eric is of course correct; he has to be; he’s in my camp on this one!
    For the sake of disclosure, Eric once visited my retail shop (is-wine). He must not have been impressed–he said nothing about us in the Times 😉

  4. Alfonso Cevola - November 21, 2007

    now if you can only root out Alice F. for her “innerview”

  5. Terry Hughes - November 21, 2007

    Yes, Alice and Tom, what a combo! Things’d never be the same.

  6. Lyle Fass - November 21, 2007

    As always . . .I am in your eternal debt.
    Great interview.

  7. Dale Cruse - November 25, 2007

    I just learned what “epoisses” is. Thanks! Good interview!

  8. Blackbird - November 26, 2007

    That final meal description is the all time great response to this question. Worth sending around.

  9. Brooklynguy - December 12, 2007

    Hi Tom,
    Nice series, I’m enjoying it. Now that Eric mentioned my blog in his interview, maybe you might include it in your blogroll? Thanks- happy holidays

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