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Christopher Kimball: “Wine is too hard”

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christopher kimball wineGood news for those of us who care about wine. The past decade’s enthusiasm for food and home cooking, which has given us the slow food, local food, and the farm to table movements, as well as consumers paying attention to how their food is made, could soon come to wine.

“Someone needs to come along and make wine simple,” says Christopher Kimball, the proprietor of the America’s Test Kitchen empire, which includes TV and radio shows, cookbooks, and Cook’s Illustrated magazine. He’ll be in Dallas on Oct. 29 with the America’s Test Kitchen road show, part of a fall tour that would wear out a rock star.

“The problem,” says Kimball, “is that wine is too complicated. But someone will probably come along and fix that.”

His perspective is worth paying attention to, if only because Kimball is an intelligent and successful food person who says he was always confused by wine. Are you listening, Winestream Media?

“Wine is where cooking was in Julia’s era,” says Kimball, who was friends with Julia Child, the U.S. cooking icon. “It’s a hobby. If you tried to make one of Julia’s recipes, it could hard and complicated. That’s where wine is. It’s confusing and incredibly complex. Beer is simple. Wine isn’t. There are scores and terms and regions to learn. Does the difference between Bordeaux and Burgundy really matter to most people?”

Hmmm. We’ve heard that before, haven’t we?

But Kimball, who finally got a handle on wine by forgetting the complicated stuff and focusing on what he wanted to drink, says wine is on the cusp of where food and cooking was at the end of the 20th century. That’s when the Food Network, a renewed interest in quality ingredients, and more people with more time to cook, made extra virgin olive oil — which almost no store carried when I started working in the newspaper business — a household staple and things like kale and quinoa started showing up in the most unlikely places.

The catch, Kimball says, “is that someone needs to come along and make wine simple in the way wine is simple for the French. You have it with every meal, like bread, and there are only two kinds, good and bad.” But he expects that to happen sooner, rather than later.

The Wine Curmudgeon is working for sooner.

For more on wine and America’s Test Kitchen:
America’s Test Kitchen finally figures out wine
America’s Test Kitchen and wine gadgets

America’s Test Kitchen finally figures out wine

winetrends
America's Test Kitchen finally figures out wine

Chris, do you need a bottle of cheap wine with that chicken?

America’s Test Kitchen, the PBS cooking show, has always pursued the best possible recipe with enthusiasm and skill. This, in a world of food TV that revolves around celebrity chefs who haven’t chopped an onion since culinary school, makes the program worth watching for anyone who enjoys cooking. Plus, bow ties are cool.

The catch, though, like so many other food programs, is that it never really understood wine, figuring more expensive was better because it was more expensive. This always seemed odd for a program that delighted in finding that the cheapest cocoa powder produced the best brownies.

Happily, this is no longer the case. In the new “The America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook,” the program embraces cheap wine with such gusto that the Wine Curmudgeon had to write this post. Consider:

• Slow-Cooker Beef Burgundy: “Don’t spend a lot of money for the wine in this recipe – in our testing, we found that California pinot noir wine in the $6-$20 price range worked just fine.” Mark West pinot noir, anyone?

• Coq qu Vin: “Use any $10 bottle of fruity, medium-bodied red wine, such as pinot noir, Cotes du Rhone, or zinfandel.” How about the Little James Basket Press?

• Sangria: “After trying a variety of red wines, we found that inexpensive wine works best. (Experts told us that the sugar and fruit called for in sangria throw off the balance of any wine used, so why spend a lot on something …?)” Rene Barbier Mediterranean Red, perhaps?

Call this another victory in America’s slow, steady march toward common sense in wine. And the producers figured this out, apparently, without any help from the cheap wine book. Imagine how much better the recipes would be if they had read it – think I should send Christopher Kimball a copy?

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