Aug 17, 2010

Three excellent wine & food podcasts

Most mornings I get my exercise first thing. It's fun, and that hour flies by—thanks to an mp3 player loaded with podcasts geared to my interests. Among those interests, naturally enough, are wine and food. Feeding this habit has required me to sift through dozens of podcast series over the last few years. Some have been downright horrible; most were okay; a small number were very good; and a very few can be counted as great.

Here are two of my favorite wine & food podcast series, as well as another I've just started listening to that promises to become a fave:

The Splendid Table Podcast

Definitely a Great! This was the first pocast I ever got hooked on, maybe 2 years ago, and I continue to enjoy it to the max.

Splendid Table is a fast-moving and entertaining 45-minute podcast of a weekly radio program. The secret behind its success is the host, an ebullient Lynne Rossetto Kasper (surely this always-upbeat woman is a secret grouch!). The program covers a lot of ground, interviewing everyone and anyone in the food & wine biz: cookbook authors, culinary historians, magazine editors, chefs, wine experts, restaurant owners… Without fail, every edition starts off with a lively segment featuring famed USA road travelers and eaters, Jane and Michael Stern, who fill us in on their latest mouth-watering discoveries somewhere in the hinterland. During the last third of the show regular folks call in and ask Lynne cooking questions, and no matter how obscure the query, she always seems to have the answer to hand.

BTW, Lynne is author of The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia Romagna, The Heartland of Northern Italain Food. That book won the 1993 Cookbook of the Year award from the James Beard Foundation. She has also won two other Beard Foundation awards: Best National Radio Show (1998) and Best Radio Food Show (2008).

Visit The Splendid Table website, which is loaded with recipes, or learn how to subscribe to the podcast (it’s free).

Wine for Newbies Podcast

Halfway between Very Good and Great (IMHO), this series is for newbies, sure, but there's also a lot here for much more experienced wine aficionados. This 101-episode series was originally posted between 2005 and March of this year. It’s been a labor of love by Indiana attorney and college professor William L. Wilson. The podcasts average about 10 minutes. I like Wilson’s low-key, folksy style. He explains each topic clearly and simply, occasionally adding a brief personal take to illustrate a point.

The podcasts start off covering the basics: explaining individual varietals and discussing such things as why it’s a good idea to keep a tasting journal. I knew most of what was contained in these early podcasts, but found them to be a good refresher course—and I did discover a few things I didn’t know. As they progress, the podcasts cover increasingly sophisticated topcs: the wines of Portugal, Hungary’s Tokaj, Matching Food & Wine, Blending Wines. One thing I really like is Wilson's consistent demystification of wine. Talking about wine critics, whom he considers useful in many ways, he nonetheless ends up pointing out that the only wine critic who ultimately matters when judging a wine is you. If Robert Parker gives that Cab a 100 score, but you think it's awful? Well, you're right.

The Bottom Line: this is a terrific course for covering essential wine know-how. And it’s free! If you like it, you may want to purchase Wilson's Wine for Newbies iPhone app (it's only $1.99) so that all the info you need, including recommendations, is just a finger-poke away. You can download the podcasts individually here or via iTunes.

BTW, here’s something interesting: while doing a little research on Wilson for this post, I discovered that he, together with two other Indianapolois attorneys, made wine history back in 1997 by filing suit against Indiana to challenge its prohibition on out-of-state wine shipments. The District Court judge ultimately found that Indiana’s prohibition violated the U. S. Constitution. The case was appealed upward but was reversed. Meanwhile lawyers in other states began filing similar suits, with varying results. Ultimately the issue was taken up by the Supreme Court, which, in 2005, held “that states could not lawfully prevent out-of-state wine sellers from shipping to state residents while at the same time allowing in-state sellers to ship wine to those residents.” (Read the whole story at

Napa Valley Wine Radio Podcast 

I’ve just recently subscribed to this series, but so far it's firmly in the Very Good category and may well edge upward. It’s produced by Napa’s Goosecross Cellars—but, hey, don’t worry. No advertising, and they don't discuss themselves much. The podcasts are thoroughly professional, but also lively and interesting. The focus is on all aspects of wine and food, with an emphasis on learning. In fact, Goosecross employs a Wine Educator, Nancy Hawks Miller, who narrates some of the podcasts in a style that's down-to-earth but still possesses plenty of panache.

The series, which began in 2006 and is still going strong, issues a new podcast about once a month. On average they're less than 15 minutes long (some longer, some shorter). Here are a few topics I'm looking forward to: Heritage Turkeys; History of Wine Words; To Oak or Not to Oak; Winemaking 101; Authentic Balsamic Vinegar; Italian Food of the Renaissance.

You can subscribe to the Napa Valley Wine Radio podcast on their website (scroll to the bottom of the page to locate the iTunes button). 

I should add here that I don't know anyone at Goosecross, and I've never even tried their wines (although I'll probably rectify that omission soon). I just like their podcasts, plain and simple.

If you have suggestions for great food and/or wine podcasts, leave a comment. You can also write to me: editor (at) culinarygadabout (dot) com. Enjoy!

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