Wine critic blends memoir with criticism

For almost 30 years Alice Feiring has been writing witty, authoritative books about the enjoyment which can be derived from savoring fine wines. Her views that wine should be made as naturally as possible, without additives of any sort, were initially considered controversial by some so-called wine experts. As time has passed her supposed wine radicalism is now often accepted as having been visionary.

She was right, wines made in the old traditions, without all those disgusting chemicals, can be very flavorful and delicious. After all these years Feiring maintains her dedication to spreading that natural wine gospel. In her most recent book she blends memoir with wine criticism. The result is quite tasty.

“To Fall in Love, Drink This - a Wine Writer’s Memoir” is a series of essays, vignettes from Feiring’s life. Some of the entries are amusing. Others are downright chilling. The idea for the book started with an essay the author wrote for a magazine during the pandemic. In that piece she pondered the experience of what it felt like to be imbibing unique wines all by herself.

That piece isn’t in the finished book although there is a longer essay which mines that same theme of drinking while being alone. At one point during the shutdown she realized that she was losing her enthusiasm for wine. Something was off, she wasn’t deriving her usual pleasure from it. She utilized a somewhat unorthodox method to rekindle that essential joy.

Her second essay, “Photo Session,” presents us with a shocking bit of her personal history that will reverberate long after you finish reading about it. When Alice was 14, her father dropped her off at a Manhattan bookstore. As she was walking away with her purchase a young man approached her.

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He claimed he was a photographer and wanted to take her picture. He lured her into his apartment. She soon realized she was in a dire situation but managed to escape. Later in the book we realize this drama did not end there. Years later Feiring noticed a news story about the apprehension of a guy known as “The Dating Game” serial killer. She saw his photo and recognized him. It was that same fellow, her “photographer.” Talk about a close call.

We travel the globe and learn about many wines. She escorts us through Italy, France, Chile, the Czech Republic, and the vineyards of Long Island. Her writing style is charming-as we trek across her reminiscences we wonder, how can she manage to shift each memory into another wine anecdote?

She does it very well. Even the story of her trip to Poland in the dead of winter transitions into more fascinating wine lore. Feiring and a friend take a cab to a desolate former concentration camp. They get lost briefly in a blizzard. In a recent interview she told me she had wanted to conclude that one with a story about vodka but her publisher insisted she should stick with the wine. This reviewer was rather delighted that she did.

Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews authors every Saturday at 7 a.m. and on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more information, visit www.wyso.org/programs/book-nook. Contact him at vick@vickmickunas.com.