Wine Myths & Wine Realities Part 2

Part 1 of this blog appeared on June 25th

We continue with five more wine myths and wine realities –

Sweet wines are for beginners.

Well, there are sweet wines and sweet wines. You will often hear people say that they only drink dry wines, by which they are implying that sweet wines are not worth the attention of serious wine lovers. How wrong they are! When you consider the great sweet wines of Sauternes and its surrounding areas, the great beerenauslesen and trockenbeerenauslesen and
 of Germany, the tokays of Hungary, and the superior dessert wines of Australia and South Africa amongst other regions, it becomes readily apparent that these sweet wines hold a very special place in the hearts of the wine world.
Indeed some of these wines were once so expensive that only kings and emperors, prominent statesmen, the higher sweet wineechelon of the clergy, and the extremely wealthy could afford to keep them in their cellars. And even amongst the glut of inexpensive run-of-the-mill sweet wines that are currently available, a good, simple Italian Moscato or a well-balanced Riesling can be delightful.

Red wines should be served at room temperature and white wine should be chilled.

There is a grain of truth in this one. Most red wine should be served at room temperature. But that’s French room temperature (before central heating and climate change), not Florida room temperature. And most white wine should be chilled. But not left in the refrigerator so long and then served so cold that the flavors and aromas are thoroughly stifled. In general we serve our reds too warm and our whites too cold. If you can store your reds at about 60-65 degrees F and then pour them they will be just right. If you are unable to do this, the old 15 minute rule is handy to remember – put red wines in the fridge 15 minutes before serving and take white wines out of the fridge 15 minutes before serving. Simple.

glasses with champagneChampagne and other sparkling wines should be served in a flute glass.

This is a reaction against the old saucer or coupe glass which tended to dissipate the bubbles too quickly. While it is true that the tall, narrow Champagne flute retains the effervescence of the wine, it is also very difficult to get your nose into and enjoy the aromas thereof. Actually, many experts now agree that a smaller style wine glass, a chardonnay glass say, is perfect for the fuller appreciation of sparkling wine.

Varietal wines are best.

Again we come up against the subjective valuation of ‘best.’ The reality is that there are great varietal wines (wines made from a single grape variety) and there are great blended wines. Keep in mind too that varietal wines do not necessarily contain 100% of the named varietal. Many wine areas allow a small percentage of other grapes in a single varietal wine. This is not done to con the consumer but to allow the winemaker a greater expression in her or his craft. Some grape varieties blend well together – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc for instance. Others not so much – Pinot Noir is a good example (though some California Pinot Noir producers and South African Pinotage lovers may disagree). If you look at two of the greatest wine areas in the world you will find that one – Bordeaux – encourages blending, while the other – Burgundy – rejects it. With the amount of esteem that these two regions quite rightly earn, who dares say that one way is best and the other inferior?

Opening a bottle of wineCork is best.

The arguments over wine enclosures still rage back and forth. The important thing for the consumer to remember is that the twist-off Stelvin screwcap is not a cheaper method of sealing a bottle (indeed it is more expensive than cork), nor is it relegated only to inexpensive wines. With the Stelvin screwcap the wine will be served exactly as the winemaker bottled it, and cork taint will be eliminated. A good natural cork on the other hand allows minute amounts of oxygen to interact with the wine which can accommodate proper aging and fuller enjoyment. Knowing this, the choice is yours.

These are a few of the wine myths that have developed over the years. Perhaps the greatest myth is that we need to agree with some supposed wine expert about the merits or demerits of a certain wine. While knowledge and experience can only enhance our appreciation of wine, we should always remember that enjoyment is the prime prerequisite, and that our own feelings and judgements should be the ones that lead us on. Cheers!

Bill Stobbs, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits wine and spirits supervisor

Follow me on Twitter @abcwinebills

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