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Tag Archives: wine education

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

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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

Winecast 22: Jerry Lockspeiser, wine guru

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Jerry LockspeiserJerry Lockspeiser has done many things during his wine career in the United Kingdom — producer, negociant, consultant, salesman, and writer. Through much of it, his focus on been on cheap wine and what Lockspeiser calls the normal wine drinker; those of us who want to buy a bottle to have with dinner and who don’t want to mess with any of wine’s foolishness.

The biggest lesson in wine over the past decade? That consumers discovered “they didn’t need to pay a lot of money for a good drink,” he said. That’s preaching the gospel, no?

Lockspeiser and I talked about:

• The improved quality of cheap wine, and that the improvement was led by the Australians and Californians.

• Why the wine business insists on selling expensive wine and trading up perfectly happy wine drinkers. Hint: It’s about money.

• How winespeak is one of the biggest problems facing consumers, and why the wine business doesn’t understand the problem.

• Some of the best advice I’ve seen for negotiating the Great Wall of Wine at the grocery store (yes, they have it in Britain, too), including tips on pricing.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 16 minutes long and takes up almost 8 megabytes. The sound quality is very good, with only a couple of squeaks and hisses even though Lockspeiser was in London. Skype — the unofficial VoIP provider for the blog — was in exceptionally fine form.

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