Today’s New York Times Food and Dining section features an article on cooking with cheap wine entitled “It Boils Down to This: Cheap Wine Works Fine.” The premise is that the author cooked several dishes multiple times with different levels of wine, ranging from a Sauvignon Blanc that she bills as a “Club Med Pina Colada” to an aged 20 years twany port. Her findings were that in a blind taste test of three Risotto al Barolos, using a 2000 Barolo (most expensive), a 2005 Dolcetto d’Alba (mid-range) and the much maligned “Two Buck Chuck” Cabernet Sauvignon (more like Five Buck Chuck around here….), the Two Buck Chuck made the winning risotto.
Now, I’ve had Two Buck Chuck. It doesn’t rate high on my scale of wine I would want to drink ever again. I also tend to lean towards the school of, if I won’t drink it, why would I want to put it in my food? The contention of the article seems to be that cooking wine is the great equalizer, or even boost for cheap wine. And it seems, in the case of the risotto at least, that the tasters had less than favorable opinions of the dishes made with the more expensive wine (and arguably better tasting, though of the three I’ve only had the Chuck, but I find it hard to imagine that they are worse). In her other taste tests, she seems to have found little or no difference in the dishes made with the cheap wine versus the expensive wines and suggests that the interaction of the food and the wine makes the wine secondary and it’s really the acidity of the wine that’s important, not the flavor.
Her descriptions of the “cheap” wines lead me to believe that these are wines I would consider plonk, and the one named one certainly rates as plonk in my book. So again I make a distinction between “inexpensive” and “cheap,” with “inexpensive” being a good wine at a good price, and “cheap” being that yellowtail “riesling” I encountered recently.
With that said, do you cook with wine you find undrinkable or barely tolerable? Or does it go straight down the drain?
I tend to pour mine straight down the drain, though I may reconsider next time I get bottle I don’t care for and do a little blind tasting of my own. At the same time, I tend to simply cook with what we will drink that night and I certainly don’t want to drink the plonk nor do I want to buy a bottle of it for the sake of the 1/4 cup a given recipe needs.
Food for thought.
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