Wine Myth Busters
By Jimmy Quaile, Certified Sommelier
The old cliche, “Don’t believe everything you hear” is never more true than in the world of wine. Some of these “facts” have been passed down through so many generations of wine drinkers you’d think there was no doubt about them…and you’d be wrong.
Here are a few long-held myths and their realities.
– All wines get better with age.
Not true. Then again, wine doesn’t get worse either. Lets put it this way, wine changes over time; The fruit deteriorates, the acid calms down, and the tannins, if there are any, get softer. Actually, over 90 percent of wine is best upon release. Only those wines with sufficient tannins are able to age and “get better”. My rule? It is best to drink a wine a year early than a day late!
– Smelling the cork at a restaurant tells you if the wine is bad.
Not true. Cork smells like CORK! You are presented the cork to see if it is “sound”, meaning dried out or broken. A dry, crumbling cork would tell you the wine was not stored properly. And even then, the smell of cork could blow off in a short amount of time. That does not mean that cork doesn’t ruin wine, sometimes it does. That is why some winemakers choose screw cap. But serving you the screw cap in a restaurant would be weird.
– A “bad vintage” means that no wine from that year was good.
Not true. A good producer can make good wine in a bad year….just less of it.
– The “legs” in the glass is an indication of a good wine.
Not true. The lines that fall slowly on the inside of the glass is an indication of alcohol. The thicker and slower the streams – the higher degree of alcohol. The temperature and humidity of the room, the surface of the glass and residual sugar also play a part in the viscosity of the wine. But saying you like the wine’s viscosity doesn’t sound nearly as cool as saying it has nice legs.
– The better wines have a deeper hole in the bottom.
Not true. The hole in the bottom of a wine bottle, called a “punt” is solely the result of glassblowing techniques back in the day. It prevented the bottle from having a sharp corner and made it easier to stand upright. The only reason they have a punt these days is to make buyers think it’s a better wine. In other words, marketing.
– Just opening the bottle lets the wine “breathe”.
Not true. Well, kinda not true. Yes, a wine that is exposed to air changes the components of the wine in the same way a cut apple begins to turn the exposed flesh brown. The unexposed part of the fruit remains unchanged. Simply opening a bottle will have virtually no effect. You would have to decant the wine thereby exposing ALL of the juice to oxygen.
-All Rieslings are sweet.
Nein! This assumption had validity at one point, but modern day styles of Riesling can be dry, semi-sweet, or sweet. Even the German terms used to describe the wine (Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, etc.) are indications of ripeness and not necessarily residual sugar. As in all wines, balance is the key. If sweetness is balanced with acidity the perception of sugar won’t be a factor.
– A screw cap means it’s a cheap wine.
Not true. Yes it’s true that many inexpensive wines use a screw cap, however, there are expensive wines that do also. It’s the winemaker’s choice. Some wineries will use both depending on the varietal. A wine with less age potential, say Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc, may simply require a screw cap, whereas other wines, lets say Bordeaux or Cabernet, may benefit from a little oxygen that the naturally porous cork allows.
-Organic wine does not have Sulfites.
Not true. Sulfites occur naturally in all wines. A wine that is “Certified Organic” means that no additional sulfites were added.
-All Sommeliers are wine snobs.
Not True. We just like good wine. Now that I think about it, that one may be true. Lol
Top 10 Most Mispronounced Wine Names
Cotes Du Rhone – (Coat-du-rohn) No S sound.
Poully-Fuisse – (Pwee-fwee-say) No L sound.
Pinot Gris – (Peeno-GREE). No S sound.
Semillon – (Seh-me-yhon) No L sound.
Meritage – ( Meri-tidge) Like Heritage.
Viognier – (VEE-oh-nyay) No G sound.
Gewürztraminer – (Guh-VERTS-tra-mee-ner) No W sound.
Graves – (Grahv) No S Sound
Meursault – (Merr-so) No T sound.
Tempranillo – (tem-prah-NEE-yoh) No L sound.