Top 10 Most Misunderstod Wine Myths

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Urban legends and myths continue to dupe us. Until the Paris tasting in 1976, the myth that France was the only Country that could produce high quality wine lived on in oenophiles minds. Even though you may laugh at the myths below some people are still fooled by them. Let’s try to set the record straight. Here are the top 10 myths about wine.

10. Fruit used to describe wine went into making it.

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Unless you are buying a wine made from a fruit other than grapes, it is made from the grape varietal on the label, and not from fruit used to describe it (e.g., black cherry, strawberry, kiwi). It’s comparable to artificial flavors, i.e. they taste similar to whatever is being copied but do not contain the actual ingredient. So when you see, “hints of raspberry, cherry, and vanilla” on the label, the producer is simply describing how the wine tastes similar to these components, they weren’t actually used in the production of the wine. Photo by DeusXFlorida

9. You need a different wine glass for different types of wines.

Wine Glasses

Again, this is a myth that was debunked a long time ago. You do need a tulip shaped glass or a glass that tappers towards the top to concentrate the aroma toward your nose, but, different shapes to place wine on your tongue in different areas or to aerate the wine faster aren’t necessary. Get yourself a nice set of stemware (Riedel Ouverture Red Wine, Zinfandel or these Riedel O Stemless) and save the space in your cupboard. Photo by Xipe Totec39

8.You can’t age wines sealed with an alternative closure

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In fact, the data shows that screw caps, or twist-offs as they are sometimes called, are more consistent at sealing wine than cork. One study, cited in the March 31, 2005 issue of Wine Spectator on pages 59-60, found that screw caps allowed .001 cc’s of oxygen per day on average, versus corks that allowed anywhere from to .1 to .001 cc’s of air to enter a wine bottle. In fact, 7 of the 35 bottles sealed with cork allowed .1 cc’s! That means twist-offs are more consistent and let in less oxygen over time, which would result in longer bottle aging. The cork industry would like to have you believe otherwise, but don’t buy it, screw caps are here to stay and you won’t have a problem letting these wines age. Photo by Keith Chu

7. Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Sherry, and Port are grape varieties.

2002 Bordeaux Rouge

Thanks to a confusing labeling system from the old world this is a common mistake wine consumers make. Cities in France, Spain, Italy, and Portugal, among others, restrict production of grape varieties in their area. For a winery to receive legal approval and label their wine, it must be made in the manner mandated by the organization that oversees production there. That means Champagne is not a variety of wine, but the place where some sparkling wine is made. Want to make a non-sparkling wine in the Champagne region from say, Cabernet Sauvignon, and write that on the label? You can’t. Same with Bordeaux, which is a blend of different red varietal grapes, Burgundy, which is primarily made from Pinot Noir, and Port, which is made from various red and white grape varieties. More information can be found here [Wikipedia]. by aran but whothehellgivesadamn

6. Pair white wine with fish or chicken and red wine with red meat

Wine Selection

Although this is the most common answer to ‘what wine should I pair with what food,’ it is incorrect. The better way to pair food and wine is by anylizing the flavors of the food and the flavors of the wine. For example, if you are grilling fish and decide to season it with a little salt, lemon, and butter, a nice Sauvignon Blanc with citrus notes or a Chardonnay with buttery flavors would work great. If, however, it’s salmon that will be smothered in a blackberry sauce, you would be better suited in choosing a fruity red wine like a Pinot Noir, Merlot, or even a Syrah. The best thing to do is read the description of the wine from the label or a review on a blog and then pair like with like. It’s also helpful to understand that wines with firm tannins work better with salty dishes, or that acidic wines need a dish with a bit of acid, or how spicy food works better with wines with some residual sugar and not a high alcohol level. Just remember there are no hard and fast rules to this. Dr.Vino has been playing with impossible pairings for some time so search out advice if you get stumped, it’s available. Photo by Shannon At Zeer

5. Wine lovers are snobs

Not a wine snob

Only people that live in Napa or Bordeaux are….no, I kid. Actually, most serious wine lovers are students of it and are quite down to earth. It’s the people that mask their ignorance with arrogance you have to watch out for. True wine lovers are passionate about continuing their wine education, and are willing to share their knowledge and a glass with anyone interested. Photo by Eda Cherry

4. You can discern wine quality by looking at the legs.

wine legs

You swirl your glass, set it down and notice that a thin, clear layer has stuck to the inside of the glass, and begins to drip down. Sometimes referred to as tears, this is simply a small amount of alcohol and water that adheres to the surface of the glass and as the alcohol evaporates water is left dripping it’s way back in. Why? Water is a primary component in wine, and alcohol evaporates much quicker, so when left on the glass, the alcohol evaporates and the surface tension of the water increases forming drops that gravity takes control of. This is not a measure of the viscosity or the quality of the wine so don’t worry about it. Further reading on this phenomena can be found here [kitchensavy.com] and on Wikipedia. Photo by dkjd

3. Drink Red Wine At Room Temperature, White Wine Chilled

White wine in fridge

Although this idea isn’t necessarily wrong, it’s interpretation almost always is. Many see this as letting a red wine sit out on the counter so it can come to the current room temperature, and opening white wine right out of the fridge. The real idea behind room temperature for red wine was getting it to around 60 degrees Fahrenheit, the typical temperature of a “room” when this saying was popularized. Many professionals agree, the best way to enjoy wine if you don’t have the luxury of a temperature controlled storage device, is to put your red wines in the fridge for about 5 – 15 minutes before consuming, white wines about 20 – 30 minutes. If you store your wine in the fridge, take the whites out for at least 15 minutes before serving, reds at least 30. Again, it isn’t an exact science, but typically you’re looking for around 60 degrees Fahrenheit on a red, a little below that for a white, and a bit colder for anything that sparkles. Some argue that nuances aren’t observed in white wines that are too cold, which is true. I find that if you chill your wines, over the course of the evening they will warm up and you can observe the development through the night. Professor Bainbridge expands on the subject a bit at the bottom of this op-ed The Red Wines of Summer. Photo by aasmundbo

2. All wines get better with age.

Old Wines

Actually, a very small number of wines have the proper structure to hold up to aging. Most wines are made with the intention that they will be opened within a few years. The small amount of trophy wines that garner the majority of the press are the ones that have been built for longer aging, and most people don’t even buy these wines. So if you’ve been saving that white Zinfandel from 10 years ago because you think it’s getting better, might want to cut your losses now. (Can you say Re-gift?) Photo by elinar

1. Smelling the cork in a restaurant will tell you if the wine is bad.

Sniffing the cork

Cork’s smell like….well, cork, and won’t give you an indication of the quality of the wine. It’s the wine that you want to smell, the cork is only offered to you for a quick examination. So what should you be looking for when the waiter hands you the cork? If you’re buying an expensive bottle the biggest thing you want to avoid is fraud, and if you’re at a reputable restaurant, they’re going to be buying from reputable sources, but again, this is just a precaution. Does the winery’s name, logo, or other branding information appear on the cork? Has the cork been damaged, compromised, allowed seepage in any way? If it is a more expensive bottle, does the year stamped on the cork match the vintage of the wine? Photo by solcookie

Written by Jathan MacKenzie, WINExpression

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26 Comments

  1. Great list! I received a moldy cork a couple of times and immediately had the wine taken away. Sure enough, moldy cork = yukky wine.

    Also, I've lived in very warm places where red wine goes over quickly. My trick has been to refrigerate an opened bottle of red wine and bring it back to room temperature before serving. Sacrilege, I know, but it works in the tropics & subtropics.

  2. Hi Maitri,

    Thanks for the compliment. You're right, if the cork is totally bad the wine will be too, since that is the weak point of the bottle. Other than that, the cork isn't telling you anything about the wine, so there is no need to smell it.

    Also, you did a good thing putting the wine in the fridge, the myth is that it needs to be at room temperature, which is obviously wrong. Sounds like in the area you live you would benefit from keeping your bottle on ice.

  3. Hi there!

    I take exception to #1…

    I make Pinot Noir in the Russian River, and you can absolutely diagnose a "corked" bottle by smelling the cork (actually the long side) … it's not moldy, but the off smell is def there..

    It may be that us folks ITB, can do this easier than most, but I'm not only one who can do this, and it's a normal part of opening a new bottle up here.

    About 1% of bottles have this issue.

  4. Hi Eric,

    Thanks for the comment. I guess this is still somewhat a debated topic. You're right, a completely tainted bottle will show up in the cork first, and that is good as you pointed out 1% of the time. But, the more corks I smelled, the more I learned that sometimes what I thought it was a bad smell/bottle, when smelling the wine I found that the cork lied and the bottle was actually fine. If TCA or VA or Brett are present the cork won't always tell you, so I feel it's always in your best interest to smell the wine.

  5. Cabernet Drinker on

    This article was enjoyable and debunked the wine legs myth for me. Also thank you for bringing up the aging wine issue, that can't be said enough.

  6. Outstanding list, I don't know how many times I've heard that legs on the glass after swirling it indicate quality FROM THE WINEMAKERS THEMSELVES. Now I can finally be the one who acts snooty!

    Thanks again for this great post,

    Brian

  7. Cabernet Drinker,

    Thanks for your comment. It's our duty to educate others once we've learned.

    brzie,

    Oh, and there are more, this is just the tip of the bottle!

  8. I thought that aging doesn't mean that wine "keeps", it means that wine changes. So if a twist-off doesn't let in much air, the aging process slows to the point where there's little change over time. Less reduction of tanins, etc.

  9. Hi Greg,

    Thanks for the great comment. You're absolutely correct about air aging wine. I think it remains to be seen how twist offs handle the process.

    It's important to remember though that air and oxidization can be the enemy of wine. Since corks (especially less expensive ones) varry in sealing ability, consistency in aging seems to lack. Perhaps you've experienced this yourself when opening two bottles of the same wine and finding variation.

    Since twist offs have proven to be consistent while still allowing trace amounts of air in, we may find these to be the best for long term storage of fine wine yet. Or maybe something else will strike the perfect balance. My advice is always to test things out for yourself. The cork industry is trying to protect their monopoly, so just be cautious when reading anti-alternative closure propaganda.

  10. All wines don't get better with age is very true with fruit wine. Especially after 5 year or more lose some if not most of their original fruity flavor. The acids in different fruit break down over time making the flavor of the wine change and may not taste as fruity it once did. Even this is debated because all fruit wines age differently. I know from making peach wine not aging long can make it smell a little like a fart if the malic acid is not aloud to turn some to Lactic acid lol. I hope I got my chemistry right in saying that I just make the stuff not a wine chemist by any means.

  11. Hi Martin,

    Great comment. It's nice to have input from someone who has experienced this firsthand. It seems that most American wine drinkers prefer big up front fruit flavors and consume their wines within the first few years.

    But oh how lovely an aged wine can be….

    I wonder if the same is true of peach wine?

  12. Maybe a good myth would be that the more expensive the wine the better it is. On the show wine with Andrea Zimmer she is always stating you can get a good bottle of wine for just over 15 dollars and sometimes the wine is a lot better than the more expensive bottles. You think this is true. Just a funny note dose anyone think she is a little drunk on her shows because she always has a really funny grin and her cheeks are always very red lol.

  13. Learning about wine definitely supports that old say that goes something like… "The more you know, the more you realize how much you do not know."

  14. Martin,

    You're right, that would be a great addition to the list. In fact I've heard it said that even the most expensive wines to make don't cost more than $20 to produce, so you're really just paying for the brand name, just like any other high priced item.

    Steve,

    Thanks for the comment. So true.

  15. Actually, #4 explanation is wrong. The “legs” or, as we call them here in Italy, “archs” that you see is mostly glycerol (propan-1,2,3-triol) that, because of its viscosity, goes back to the bottom of the glass later than the other components; plus, it adheres to the glass surface more than the other components because of stronger molecular interactions that it forms with the glass.
    To make snow fall slower in snow globes, they put glycerol!
    Wine has got glycerol too but don’t worry, it’s harmless and comes from natural reactions during fermentation, we don’t add it.

    Long story short:

    * You can’t determine the overall quality of the wine by ONLY looking at the “archs”, but you can predict its SOFTNESS (viscosity), that will be verified later by tasting the wine. *

    By the way, thanks for busting the other myths 😉

  16. Hi Giovanni,

    Thanks for your thoughts. Physicist James Thompson identified the cause of this effect in 1855, now known as the Marangoni effect: The mass transfer of fliuds on an interface due to differing surface tension. Glycerol, as well as over 1000 other components are found in wine. However, the primary component responsible for the Marangoni effect in this case is between the ethanol (C2H5OH) and water (H2O).

    Here is an article you might find interesting on the subject: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marangoni_effect

  17. The higher the cost and the cutest label does not always mean the best wine. As one person told me it is all in ones taste buds. Castoro Winery in Templeton CA is a great winery to enjoy tasting reds especially…..great blends they have there.

  18. Hi Chuck,

    Thanks for the plug, I too am a fan of Castoro.

    The best thing a person can do to learn what they like is to taste a lot, regardless of package, closure, label, price, popularity, etc.

  19. I have taken to wine drinking in recent years and i must say i’m thoroughly enjoying it.This article actually has quite a simplistic approach to it.Very unlike wine tastings and tasters.;-)

  20. Gr8 article…have to agree i was almost under all 10 myths…MYTHBUSTERS!!!…though i feel you got nine out of ten right…#5 WINE LOVERS AS SNOB still feels right…isn’it?

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