There are a lot of traditional wisdoms out there... differentiate the truth from the myths. Below we have listed the Top 10 Wine Myths that can affect your wine tasting experience:
10. Serve Red Wine in Room Temperature
This traditional wisdom was true once when room temperature was several degree cooler. Red wine is best served 57-65ºF (14-18°C) depending on grape variety. Cabernet Sauvignon is best served at 65ºF (18°C); whereas a light Chinon could be served at 57ºF (14°C). Refer to Wine Serving Temperature for more details.
9. Red Wine Causes More Headaches than White Wine due to higher sulfites content
Sulfites (sulfur dioxide) can also be found as a preservative in many common daily foods. Contrary to popular beliefs, sulfites do not cause headaches. In fact, our bodies produce 1,000 mg of sulfites each day. However to those with asthmatic issues, sulfites can induce an allergic reaction.
Red wines have less added sulfites than white wines as their grape skins have natural preservative ability. Cheaper, lower-alcohol white wines require more sulfites to prevent oxidation.
As for headache, dehydration is the cause. To avoid a hangove headache, drink in moderation!
8. Organic Wine has no sulfites
Sulfites are produced in the fermentation process so all wines naturally contain sulfites. Many winemakers add additional sulfites to prevent oxidation and to stablislize the wine. Organic wines do not add additional sulfites.
The legal maximum sulfite level for US wine is 350 ppm. Most wines average 125 ppm. An organic wine with natural sulfites averages 10-20 ppm.
7. Red wine has less calories than sweet wine.
It is commonly perceived that sweet wine has more calories than dry (non-sweet) wine. Well, this depends. While true for rich sweet wine like Sauternes, this is false for a semi-sweet spatlese riesling.
Calories come from alcohol as well as sugar content. A typical dry Cabernet Sauvignon from France has 13.5% alcohol which amount to ~160 calories per 6-ounce glass. A equivalent glass of a lightly sweet Moscato or a German Kabinett or a German Spatlese riesling, due to its lower alcohol (6-9% abv) will have slightly lower calories despite its higher sugar content.
Key insight: If you want the lowest calories wine, go for a low alcohol wine that is dry.
6. The thicker the legs, the better the wine.
The wine's legs are the "tears" that flow down on wine glass when you swirl. Contrary to common beliefs, legs are not an indicator of quality. It is a phenomenon caused by the alcohol evaporating at a faster rate and having a lower surface tension than water. The legs get pushed up the glass by the increased surface tension before being pulled down by gravity. Fuller-bodied wines generally have slower dripping legs.
5. Cheese and wine are the perfect pairing partners.
This is one of the biggest myth. Not all cheese goes well with wine! Cheese's heavy texture and taste rid the tongue of its ability to fully enjoy the richness and balance of a good wine. Pair your cheese with your wine to ensure a great tasting experience. Refer to our cheese-wine pairing table.
Key insight: A soft cheese, such as Brie, is your greatest friend when you have a bad wine. It will coat your palate and you won't be able to taste all its elements!
4. Vintage Champagne is better in quality than non-Vintage Champagne (NV).
In general vintage Champagne is more expensive than a non-vintage Champagne, thus the general perception that a vintage Champagne is better than a non-vintage.
Vintage Champagne is made from grapes harvested within a specific year, thus it carries the characteristics of that harvest year. Non-vintage Champagne is made with blended wines from different year. Rather than having a special vintage character, it carries the "house" character so very consistent year after year.
There are excellent NV Champagnes that can rival the best vintage Champagnes -- Jacque Selosse Exquise / Substance / Rose NV; Krug NV, and Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve NV.
3. Wine tastes better with age.
Most whites are made for immediate consumption. As for red, 90%+ of the wines are made for consumption within 5 years of release. Despite popular belief, many wines go from youthful to past prime. In other word, they do not "age gracefully" in the bottle. They go from fresh to stale after several years.
Wines with concentrated fruits, solid acidity, structured tannin can age well. High quality (and pricey) grand cru Bordeaux is one example. Only the finest grapes are used to make the great wine. Depending on vintages and producers, they can age for 10-30 years. These wines account for <10% of the total global production.
Key insight: Everyday white wines should be consumed within one to three years of release for best enjoyment. Everyday red wines should be consumed in the first 1 to 3 years for best enjoyment. Mid-priced reds (US$20+) can be kept 3-5 years after production year. Better reds (US$40+) can last 5-8 years.
2. Buy now. Mature wine costs more.
The price of its wine is affected by the market condition, much more so than by its age. If a wine is not in high demand, its price will not go up much with time. That is why we can find some 1986 Bordeaux for under US$50.
For everyday wine that is produced in bulk quantity, its pricing will not increase much unless the market has depleted the supply. On the other extreme, prices for fine, young, limited production wine like DRC's La Tache can go up 80% in price within a year, driven by demand.
Key insight: When buying wines for cellaring / collection, invest in wines that are high in demand globally (and low in supply). These are the wines that will go up in value.
1. Open the bottle to let it breathe.
Uncorking a bottle of wine and letting it sit for an hour is surely the worst way to treat yourself and your wine. Not only can you not drink the wine for an hour, the aerating method is ineffective. The narrow bottleneck simply prevents air from opening up the wine. Letting the wine breathe in your glass is more effective than letting it sit there.
Key insight: Use a decanter if you want to aerate the wine. Or let it opens up slowly in your glass.
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