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Tag Archives: wine education

The wine business has much to answer for

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wine edcuation

Whatever you do, don’t help me make an informed decision about what to buy.

It was bad enough that the woman, standing in the Texas winery tasting room, proclaimed that Texas wine wasn’t any good, and that she suspected the Texas wine she was drinking came from California. What was worse was when she told the tasting room employee that she only drank cabernet sauvignon and malbec, and that she wasn’t going to drink this red blend because she wouldn’t like it.

What struck me, as I watched this scene unfold over Labor Day weekend, was that it was so wine – the woman’s dead certainty she was correct, despite knowing nothing about what she was talking about; the refusal to try something different, because it was different; and the sense that the winery was trying to put something over on her.

And this doesn’t include the other foolishness I’ve seen this fall, like the woman at a Kroger Great Wall of Wine with $50 worth of beef in her cart who was agonizing over $10 cabernet sauvigon and who couldn’t have been more confused if she had been trying to read the Iliad in the original Greek. Or the bartender at a chi chi Dallas wine bar who treated me like I was an idiot because I wanted to talk about Texas wine and cheap wine.

Does that happen with any other consumer good? Only wine, and for that we have the wine business to thank. More, after the jump:

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

Two UNT classes and one very important wine lesson

unt 2014 2
young wine drinkers

You can always trust a man in a hat who talks about cheap wine.

This has not been the best of times for the Wine Curmudgeon, as anyone who has visited the blog over the past three or four months may have noticed. The posts have been a little crankier, my patience has been a little shorter, and the supply of quality cheap wine has seemed ever smaller. As I have written in a post for later this month, “the wine business has a lot to answer for.”

But I’m feeling refreshed and ready to do battle again, thanks to last week’s visit with two classes at the University of North Texas’ hospitality school. The students’ enthusiasm for wine; their willingness to entertain the idea that they can drink what they want without orders from on high; and their joy at learning new things about wine did much to wash away the grime and irritation of the summer and fall.

They reminded me, as I told them about the myths that dominate wine in the U.S. and prevent us from enjoying wine the way we should, that wine is supposed to be fun. One of my favorite things to do at a class or tasting like this is to ask who liked a wine, and then ask who didn’t. Then, I ask someone from each group to explain why — and almost always, the person who didn’t like the wine disliked it for the same reasons that the person who liked it did. That is, someone said it was too sweet, but someone else said it was just sweet enough, or someone said it wasn’t fruity enough and someone else said it was too fruity.

The look of recognition on their faces when we do this is always gratifying, and it was especially gratifying last week. Because when I see that look, I know they’ve figured out that everyone’s palate is different, and that it’s OK to like a wine, or not, based on their palate and no one else’s. I know they’re beginning to understand that that they don’t need reviews or scores written by bunch of old white guys sitting in a New York office. I know they can see that if they drink enough wine with an open mind and pay attention to what they’re drinking, that they can do wine all by themselves.

Which is why I started doing this all those years ago. Because, as Elvis Costello so aptly put it,

I wanna bite the hand that feeds me
I wanna bite that hand so badly
I want to make them wish they’d never seen me.

For more on young wine drinkers and their effect on the wine business:
The future of the wine business
Five things consumers told me during the cheap wine book tours

Photos courtesy of Leta Durrett

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