In The Wine Know


Unfortunately there are a great number of myths about wine, many which have achieved near fact status, simply because of how often they are repeated. These persistent misconceptions create frustration and confusion for wine drinkers, novice and enthusiast alike. So let’s delve into the murky world of wine fact verses wine fiction.

Sulfites are bad for you. Sulfites are a natural preservative that occur naturally on grapes and therefore in wine. A small percentage of people are allergic to Sulfites and have an asthma-like reaction to them. Contrary to what we tell ourselves after over indulging, Sulfites are not known to cause headaches.

Screw caps are only used on cheap wine. Not anymore. Because of widespread problems with cork taint, a fungi related condition that turns good wines to bad, we are seeing a variety of non-cork closures, including screw caps, being used throughout the wine industry. So, you can’t judge a wine by its closure.

Europe makes the best wine in the world. Until the emergence of the New World wine producing countries like the United States, Australia, Chile, etc., the best wines did come from the Old World (Europe). Now however, excellent wines are produced all over the world and Europe no longer can claim dominance. Ask a European and you may get a different answer.

Wine critics are objective. It’s impossible to be objective about taste. Each person’s is unique and the only taste you have to work with is yours. If you want to look to a critic for wine advice, then you will have to find one whose taste you agree with. It’s like movie critics. You have to know the critic’s taste before you can count on their reviews.

Only experts understand wine. This is a myth spread by people who are impressed by their own expertise. There are a good many people who know more about wine than you or I, but we are the only ones who are expert in the wines we like. The only thing you really need to know about wine is what you like and where to buy it. Everything else is interesting, but ancillary.

Zinfandel is a sweet, pinkish wine. Noooo! Zinfandel is a red-wine grape that can produce dark, dramatic, big red wines. Red Zinfandels go with beef, lamb, game, spicy hot cuisines and pizza. "White" Zinfandel is the result of a winery’s mistake. However that mistake has come to be one of the largest selling wine styles in the U.S.

Wine labeled "Reserve" is the best. “Reserve” is supposed to mean the wine has received special treatment from the wine maker, however the term is unregulated in many countries, including the U.S. Therefore you can’t depend on it being anything other than marketing hype.

Old wine is better than young wine. With a few significant exceptions, wines do not benefit from prolonged aging. A few very special wines benefit greatly from age, but most wines just fade and, as a friend of mine says, taste tired. Most white wines should be drunk within a two or three years, most reds within 10.

A wine’s "legs" indicate quality. Legs or tears as they are also know, are an indication of alcohol content, and have nothing to do with quality. The higher the alcohol content, the more prominent the legs.

Always serve white wine with white meat and red wine with red meat. This is sometimes true, but most of the time is not. What matters most when pairing wine with meat or fish is how it is prepared. While a Chardonnay might go nicely with grilled chicken or veal, it will rendered tasteless by chicken or veal smothered in a Marsala, marinara or cacciatore sauce. These hearty sauces require a red wine, like Chianti, to stand up to them. It’s the preparation, not the color of the meat or fish that’s important.