10 Wine Myths Busted Because Why Ruin A Beautiful Thing With A Bunch Of Fancy Rules?
Wine is like that super cool kid in school we all want to hang with, but don't fully understand — thanks to the many myths about wine that are out there, anyway. Whenever we're with wine, we seem to be smarter, creative, and more attractive. Wine just gets us. But with that, wine can also be intimidating as all hell. We seem to think there's a set of unwritten rules we all have to follow if we're to properly and respectfully indulge in this drink (while still looking very cool, of course). While it's true that there's a certain art to creating and understanding good wine, this should not come in the way of appreciating it.
Sure, there are certain cheeses that may pair better with a particular wine, and it's neat to recognize all those magical flavors so expertly embedded in the drink. But we shouldn't let all those pretentious naysayers scare us away from just enjoying a nice glass of that vino. And furthermore, don't let that discourage you from widening your own wine knowledge and exploring. It's time to put an end to these silly wine myths. Here are nine "commandments" about wine you should never feel like you have to follow.
1. Thou Shalt Spend More Money On Better Wine
As general consumer logic goes, it makes sense that the more expensive something is, the higher the quality should be. Well — believe it or not (it took me a while to be convinced of this one, actually) — that's not always the case with wine. As Paul Gregutt explained to Wine Enthusiast Magazine, location, image, scores, and celebrity connections are what can raise the price of wine, rather than its actual quality. In fact, a lot of the times, perfectly good quality imported wines tend to over-deliver relative to the price, Gregutt pointed out. So you can totally opt for that ten dollar bottle with all the guilt-free sophistication you please.
2. Thou Shalt Honor Cork Over Screw
Another popularized myth is that screwcapped wine is cheaper and of poorer quality than corked wine. Guess again. James Foster, senior winemaker at Cupcake Vineyards, told Thrillist that he actually prefers screwcaps because they don't allow any oxygen in by keeping the bottle sealed (oxygen will tamper with the flavor) — but it really depends on the wine. As explained on Thrillist, other wines do benefit from the cork because it allows just the right amount of air to oxidize the tannins.
3. Thou Shalt Not Refrigerate Red Wine
It's been drilled into my brain that it is absolute sin to put red wine in the fridge. Well, turns out this is another misconception high time to toss in the trash. Food & Wine's 2014 "Sommelier of the Year," Patrick Cappiello told Thrillist that serving red wine at room temperature can actually accelerate the aging process and make it taste unfavorable. That being said, you should also keep in mind never to serve wine ice cold. Cappiello pointed out that the colder a wine, the more restrained and tightened the molecules (aka your palate will be more numb and the flavors will be dumbed down).
The warmer it is, the more aromatic it'll be, which is probably one of the many reasons this myth was created. But drinking wine too warm can leave the tannins too soft and the alcohol unpleasantly dominant, Tim Vandergrift explained in Winemaker Magazine. Wine is no exception to life's rules of balance.
4. Thou Shalt Not Consume Boxed Wine
Oh the glorious days of college. Turns out boxed wine isn't just for poor college students now — you can take pride in the fact that boxed wine isn't so sinful after all. Thrillist's sommelier consultant, Cappiello, said that serving wine from a box is actually pretty common in Europe. It's just what's going in the box that matters. Check out what Jeffrey Lindenmuth of Epicurious lists as the top five box wines you should try.
5. Honor Thy Aged Wine
The claim that wine is better and of a higher quality when it's aged is totally untrue. It's actually a pretty irrelevant factor because it just depends on the wine. In fact, 95 percent of wine on the shelf right now is ready for drinking, Ross Outon, certified wine specialist said per an AARP article. Wine evolves, as Outon explained, and factors such as acids, sugars, oxygenation, polymerization, and precipitating molecules all interact throughout that evolution. The thing is that all wines have a certain period of time when they're best. Today, most producers bottle their wine so they're just fine when you buy them, continuing to be at their peak for a year up to as many as four years. So blow that dust away and pour yourself a well-deserved glass.
6. Thou Shalt Have Thy Red Wine With Meat And White Wine With Fish
I don't know if it's because of some weird color compatibility, but red wine with a bloody steak and white wine with a light fish is actually not always the way to go. It's a nice guideline to go by for sure, but as Ed McCarthy and Mary Ewing-Mulligan from Wine For Dummies put it, adhering to any sort of generalization pins you down to the boredom of eating the same thing every day. They suggested pairing a grilled salmon steak with a nice Pinot Noir or a Bardolino; and pork or veal can go equally as well with any white or red. As Cappiello suggested to Thrillist, any full-bodied and fruity white wine would also go great with steak. He said the key is to find a white that matches the robust qualities of a red.
7. Thou Shalt Only Consume Wine With Legs
This one may not be as well known, but rumor has it that a surefire way to test the quality of a wine is to look for the wine legs, or as our French friends so romantically call it — tears of the wine. These are the droplets, or streaks of water that you'll find at the edge of the glass when you swirl the wine around. But as wine expert Stacy Slinkard pointed on About Food, the legs have more to do with physics — the wine's surface tension and alcohol content — than perceived quality. Wine is a mixture of alcohol and water. Slinkard explained that since alcohol has a faster evaporation rate and lower surface tension than water, this dynamic pushes the legs up the glass until the surface tension pushes the water into beads. Then gravity strikes and forces the liquid to tear down in those fancy streaks. Still don't really get/believe it? Slinkard suggested covering your next glass of wine to prevent evaporation and take notice of the dramatic decrease in streaks.
8. Thou Shalt Remember That Sparkling Wine Equals Champagne
OK, so there are several misconceptions to be cleared up here, which is why I've lumped them into these 10 Fake Commandments. First off, the difference between champagne and sparkling wine needs to be addressed. As The Wine Company so beautifully simplified it, a sparkling wine should only be called Champagne if it comes from the region of Champagne, France. So all Champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne. Get it? Why that specific area of France? Because it's colder. The equation? Cold temperatures + deep cellars + lack of insulation = fermentations shutting down. But come springtime, the fermentation would continue and since the CO2 had nowhere to go, it just returned to the wine — building up and eventually pushing those corks off the bottles. And hereby was birthed the literal poppin' of champagne.
9. Thou Shalt Remember That White Wine Is For Peasants
Just because you favor the lighter wine and don't particularly take to the intensity of a red, this does not make you a clueless simpleton who shouldn't be invited to sit at the cool kids' table. While it's true that many people I know, myself included, started off with only drinking white wine because it was either sweeter or lighter on the palate, that doesn't make it any less sophisticated than red wine. As Gregutt pointed out to Wine Enthusiast, some of the greatest wines in the world are sweet. And those with educated palates enjoy them just as whole-heartedly as beginners. McCarthy and Ewing-Mulligan (Wine For Dummies) also said many serious wine lovers rediscover the unique virtues of white wines, such as their compatibility with light meals and their easier drinkability, later on.
10. Thou Need Not Decant Thy Wine
Yes — wine needs to breathe in open air so it can release its flavors and aromas, though I'm sure you'll also find your group of skeptics who claim otherwise. Many argue that simply letting the wine breathe in the bottle will do the trick just as well as any fancy little decanter. Well folks, I'm sorry to say that the fancy side wins in this argued myth. According to Celebrations Wine Club, the formal method is to transfer it from the original bottle to the decanter. Why? A few reasons, actually. As experts from the Celebrations Wine Club explain, decanting wine especially pertains to older wines with sediment. By transferring it from the bottle to another container, you're able to carefully separate most of the unpleasant sediments.
Also — have you ever wondered about all that swirling sommelier's tend to love doing so much? Swirling the wine sets its molecules in motion so we can more easily inhale all those flavorful aromas. Decanting a wine does the same thing. Is it absolutely necessary and will it absolutely revolutionize the taste of your wine? Eh probably not, but it sure helps! Plus, decanters are just so damn aesthetically pleasing so why not, you know?
So what if you've studied easy ways to look like a wine expert and you know nothing about wine? Are you going to let a bunch of pretentious, outdated myths stop you from enjoying that bottle? Certainly not at my table. Cheers!
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