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Wine aerators, America’s Test Kitchen, and why more people don’t drink wine

America’s Test Kitchen, the cooking show run by the people who do Cook’s Illustrated magazine, does a fine job explaining why recipes work and demonstrating how to successfully make a dish.

The program’s mantra is: “Use quality ingredients, think about what you’re doing, and don’t be confused by shiny objects.” This is especially true when the show reviews products and kitchen gadgets, and host Christopher Kimball is famous for his cheap, Down East approach when it comes to spending money for overpriced olive oil or frou-frou accessories.

Given all this, why did America’s Test Kitchen review wine aerators — and suggest that one can’t enjoy wine unless one spends $50 for an aerator? Chris, $50? $50?

The Wine Curmudgeon’s attitude towards these sorts of things is well documented. If you’re going to buy a gadget, ask yourself if it’s worth buying instead of a similar amount of wine. Most of the time, it’s not, and it’s especially not when it comes to  aerators.

Yes, wine needs to breathe. But most wine — and almost all wine that we drink on a regular basis — doesn’t need anything more than some glass swirling and to sit for a couple of minutes after it’s opened. That’s it.

Even if you don’t believe me, you still don’t need to spend $50 on an aerator. Go to a discount store and buy a glass pitcher. It will cost a couple of bucks. Pour the wine into the glass pitcher. This process, called decanting, will do the same thing as the aerator. And you’ll have $45 left to spend on wine.

The idea that one needs an aerator is yet another example of how the industry makes it difficult for people to drink wine. What would the reaction be if a non-wine drinker saw the Test Kitchen bit? “That’s too complicated.” “I don’t want to spend the money.” “I’ll drink beer or Dr Pepper instead — they’re easier.”

The other thing that has always bothered me about aerators is that their devotees, who are incredibly passionate and send me nasty emails when I write stuff like this, insist aerators are easy to use and are quicker than letting the wine sit in the bottle. I have never found either to be the case. I’m convinced that much of their enthusiasm is from the placebo effect; that is, they paid $50 for the thing, and by God, it’s going to make the wine taste better.

One final note for America’s Test Kitchen: The wine that was used to test the aerator in the clip I saw on TV was Chateau Bonnet Rouge, one of the Wine Curmudgeon’s favorites (there’s also a Bonnet Blanc). It’s a $10 or $12 red Bordeaux blend, and if it needs to be aerated, then I’m going to start giving scores and writing about why California chardonnay needs more oak.

So, Chris, seriously — the next time you do a wine gadget on the show, throw your weight around. Most of them serve the exact same function as those $100 olive oils you don’t like. And if you have any questions, call me.

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