Wine is one of those things that can seem daunting to people who are not
familiar with it. People who are just starting to gain an interest in wine are
typically under the impression that the "scene" is a closed off group of highly
affluent people who are not willing to discuss how to gain access to what they
know. While every group has people like this in it, winemakers are known to love
discussing their craft with others. Wine itself isn't as difficult as many
people make it out to be. In fact, wine people can be very open and friendly.
The more people talking about and making wine, the more selection the community
will have. One of the problems with wine culture is that there is a lot of
misinformation floating around. These myths give people the wrong impression of
wines. They also can make someone feel foolish for believing them and getting
corrected. Wine doesn't have to be something that keeps you at bay. Remember,
it's drinking, and the craft of making wine isn't that far off from brewing
beer. The same sorts of people are attracted to both. Below are fifteen of the
most common myths about wine and the realities around them.
Myth 15) Aerators Decant Wine Best
Wines are notoriously complex, but decanting them doesn’t have to be. Aerating
wine, also known as allowing it to “breathe,” reveals a wine’s full breadth of
flavor and fragrance as it interacts with the air. This process is essential to
truly let the wine realize its own, unique identity and pass over the palate as
a distinct tasting experience. Specialized aerators are available on the market
at varying prices, but they are not necessary or even the most effective way to
decant a wine. All
that’s required to allow a wine to reach its fullest potential for taste and
fragrance is a simple, glass decanter. In a pinch, a wine glass will work just
as well. With products out on the market these days catering to all levels of
interest in wine, it’s often the simplest methods that are the most effective.
Waiter Pouring Red Wine From a Decanter
Another important factor to consider is whether or not your wine requires
decanting at all. Only 15-20% of red wines
should be decanted in the first place. Many can be served directly from the
bottle into your glass, and the full body and flavor of the wine will be
immediately evident. In some cases, decanting for too long can lead to lost
If you’re looking for advice on the best way to serve a particular wine, seek
advice from the winery. The experts can tell you whether or not to decant, and
if so, for how long. Watch out for anyone that advises you to use an aerator!
Myth 14) Wine Needs to be Room Temp
Wine is all about chemistry and balance. Temperature dramatically effects
which flavors and aromas emerge when a wine is served. Ranging from red to
white, all wines have a particular temperature range at which they’re best
served, with reds being at the warmer end and whites best served chilled.
A good recommended trick is using the “15-minute
rule.” Fifteen minutes before serving wine, take the white that's already been
chilled out of the refrigerator, and place the red in the fridge for fifteen
minutes before serving. This creates a modicum of balance when preparing to
uncork and serve. As always, if wines are not planned on being served, they
should be stored sideways in a dark, dry place without dramatic temperature
Wine Ready for Serving with Thermometer
White wine and champagne should be served
around 9 decrees Celsius, with about 1 degree of variation given. The common
temperature setting of 4 degrees Celsius is too cold according to most wine experts. Red wines always require a little chilling before they are served,
though they do not require as much as whites. Reds are best served at 14 to 18
degrees Celsius depending on the region that the wine is from.
Myth 13) Wine Always Gets Better With Age
All wines are not created equally, that much should be obvious by now.
Depending on how long wine is aged, different flavor profiles will begin to make
themselves obvious. However, just because new flavors are becoming apparent
doesn't mean that they are all going to be flavors that you enjoy. One of the
best ways to determine what wines are best for your palate is to try as much of
it as possible. The more you know about what you like, the better prepared you
will be to make an educated selection on what wines to buy.
Some Questionable Looking Wine
The more familiar you are with different ages, tastes and aromas, the better
honed your skills of detection will be at determining whether a wine is at its
prime. There are also tried and true methods to accurately judge the condition
of a wine upon uncorking. Leaving wines aged at least five
years uncovered for a night will result in several possible outcomes. Better
taste means it can continue to age at least 3-5 more years. If it has a different but decent
taste it means it
has at least a few years left. If the taste immediately starts to decline, it’s all grown up and time
to finish off the bottle.
Myth 12) You Can Tell Quality by the Cork’s Smell
You're more than welcome to sniff the cork of wine bottles. It's commonly
done on television shows and mentioned in stories. However, this will not give
you any insight into how the wine will actually taste. The smell of the wine is
part of the experience, however the cork itself isn't doing anything special to
hold in or accentuate the aroma. Some people tend to keep corks around, but
that's a personal preference. You can actually buy your own wine stoppers at
local supermarkets so you don't have to continue to fiddle with a cork. In some
circles, it's actually a faux pas to sniff the cork.
The best way to judge a wine is by tasting it. The cork’s function is to seal
the wine, and the only information it can give is what’s written on top of it.
It's important to keep your cork from falling into the wine as a cork can do
more to spoil your wine than tell you about it.
Man and Woman Properly Tasting a Glass of Red Wine
When a cork ruins a bottle of wine, it’s due to a type of bacteria that
infects the wine. There’s no way to know by smelling or examining the cork
whether or not a bottle of wine is ruined, even though it’s technically spoiled
from the cork’s bacteria. An easy way to determine whether or not a bottle of
wine is in good condition is to smell the wine itself. An infected wine will smell of wet newspaper or damp
basement, musty and unpleasing.
Myth 11) Red Wine Comes From Red Grapes
Red grapes, such as verdot grapes, are used to make wine. Yes it's true. However,
not all red wines have red grapes in them. The coloration that you see in
bottles of red wine actually comes from the fermentation process, not the color
of the grapes themselves. The pigment
“anthocyanin” in red grapes creates the hue of the wine as the grape skins mix
with juices, resulting in the recognizable, rich burgundy color. Named wines –
wines that are named after the grapes in them – are therefore not a good way to
tell what color the wine itself will be. If wine only took its color from grapes
it would be more purplish, like grape juice, than what you would commonly see as a
deep red wine.
Contrast of Original Grapes to Hue of Finished Wine
The reason for this is that red wine does not come from grape juice. The
fermentation process actually uses the grapes itself, skin included, to create
wine. Therefore, it's actually impossible to tell the coloration of the grapes
that have been used in the wine simply by the color. Although red wine does come
from red grapes, a common myth is that red wine is derived from grape juice. Red
wine derives its pigment from the fermentation process.
Myth 10) Merlot is Always Soft
Stereotypes about certain types of wine result in the unfortunate result of wine
drinkers missing out on the certain nuances of specific wines. If you try one type of wine and do
not find it to your liking, that does not mean that you should avoid all similar
types of wine in the future. People tend to get caught up in the sort of wine
that they disliked and won't take the risk with another version of it in the
future. This causes people to miss out. Instead, be aware that not all types of
wines are the same. The process that different wineries use is slightly
different, so even wines that have the same "type" can be vastly different.
Merlot Grapes on the Vine
That Merlot is always soft, for example, is one such myth that is rendered
completely inaccurate since the winemaking process results in many variations in
taste and body. Stereotypes are there for a reason, but each year these traditional associations and expectations
become increasingly untrue. For example, vinification – the process of
fermentation – plays a substantial role in how a wine presents. As with all
wines, of course, personal taste is also a huge factor in how a wine is
Myth 9) You Need a Wine Cellar
Some collectors and wine connoisseurs boast impressive, custom-made wine
cellars. However, although beautiful, these are more for show than any practical
purpose. Wine is delicate and though it requires particular conditions for
storage, achieving those conditions is actually very simple. You don’t need an
entire wine cellar to safeguard your wine, whether you have a significant
collection of rare vintages or just a month’s worth of middle of the road wines
for parties and gatherings.
The most basic and essential components of choosing a place to store your
wine is a space free of light, dramatic
temperature fluctuations and vibration. Bottles should be stored on their sides,
either in a rack or a box, to maintain their integrity. Wine racks that stand
upright, or even attach to the wall, are relatively inexpensive to purchase and
are a useful investment if you plan to store wine. These can be installed easily
in a closet or other common secure, storage space.
An Elaborate, Expensive Wine Cellar
Humidity is another aspect of environmental control that can affect the
longevity of your wine collection. Wine cellars are often underground because
the changes in humidity are less apparent than they are aboveground. This is
also why it's not a good idea to keep your collection over your stove or kitchen
sink, no matter what some catalogs might show you.
Another important consideration to take into account is whether or not the
wine should be aged. Some wines don’t benefit from aging at all, while others
can age for a decade and the taste will be improved and developed. Plan your
storage based on the needs of your wine collection. Wine should not be disturbed
until ready for consumption. If a closet and rack will do, there’s no reason
for an extensive, expensive cellar. It is only advisable to consider more permanent,
long-term storage if you plan on aging your wine collection substantially, and
you require more controlled space and conditions.
Potassium Sorbate Kills Yeast
If you’d like to try your own hand at winemaking, there are a few essential tips
to know and myths to be aware of. In consumer wine kits, there is
usually a substance included called Potassium Sorbate which is used to stabilize your wine.
Sorbate prevents it spoiling from bacteria and yeast. However, Sorbate is
actually only capable of preventing yeast reproduction. The only process that
kills yeast is Pasteurization. There are other
organisms such as lactic acid bacteria, that can ruin wine.
Wine Being Produced in the Traditional Way
Sorbate does do the job of eliminating most of the live yeast when combined
with other substances, but it doesn’t kill 100% of the yeast. Due to the fact
that it can’t breed back to culture strength, the wine remains generally stable and undesirable results like sediment will
The best way to make your own wine is to follow the instructions on consumer
winemaking kits carefully. It also can’t hurt to do some online research and
understand the chemical processes that are taking place as the wine is made.
Wine is a fine balance of chemistry and process, and knowing the components
involved will contribute to your understanding of how wine arrives at its final
form. Obviously, the best test is the first taste.
Myth 7) Tears Show Quality
legs” are the lines of liquid that drip down the inside of your glass after
taking a sip or giving it a swirl. Contrary to popular belief, the color,
texture or viscosity of these “legs” have nothing to do with the quality of the
wine you’re drinking. Wine legs are actually caused by ethanol alcohol in a
liquid solution. While they provide a romantic aesthetic while wine
drinking, the quality of a wine is based on personal preference, serving
conditions and preparation.
Although the myth that wine legs can be used as a measure of quality is
false, there is a complex, scientific reason behind why wine legs occur. The flow of the lines of liquid is caused by a
phenomenon referred to as the “Marangoni effect,” which has to do with mass,
surface tension and how particular components are mixed. At the very least, you
can get a sense of how smooth or heavy the wine will be when you drink it.
Richer wines often have more distinct legs, while lighter wines are more watery.
However, neither is indicative of quality.
Wine is a complex science – whether speaking anecdotally or literally – with
subtle variations in the way it behaves as a substance. Most of the time,
though, supposed indicators of how to judge a wine by a measure that isn’t taste
is incorrect. Experiencing a wine is a singular, personal experience that
requires an open mind and receptive palate. Rather than seeing, tasting is
believing in this case.
Myth 6) Botrytis or Grape Rot is Bad
Some things are better with a little mold on them. One of the most common
pairings for black tie events is wine and cheese. Remember that fermentation
kills dangerous bacteria and therefore anything that the mold could do to you is
killed while the grape is being processed into wine. Therefore, even moldy
grapes can add a delightful, surprising charm to wine. Botrytis, or grape rot,
is what happens when a crop of grapes suffer from fungal growths – not exactly
what you’d want to be drinking from your glass!
Botryised Chenin Grapes in Savennieres, France
However, a winemaker based in California was shocked to find,
after being convinced to put the a crop of grapes with the worst botrytis she’d
ever seen through the press, that the wine in her press yielded a delicious,
sweet flavor. That case of grape rot that took place during a late summer
harvest in the Napa Valley. Some winemakers refer to botrytis as a “secret
ingredient.” It's just another example of fungus being beneficial when you would least expect it.
Myth 5) Expensive Wine is the Best Wine
of what the price tag says, quality does not always come in a number. Wines can
be mercurial depending on how they’re presented – temperature, length of
decanting, chilled or room temperature – not to mention the preferences and
palate of the taster. It stands to reason however that the best commodities are
the most expensive. This is not always the case with wine. A bottle marked at
$100 may very well taste just as good to one person as a $20 does, or even vice
versa! Wines are often difficult to tell apart when unlabeled, even for experts. A wine is
only as good as its taster, and personal preference plays a huge role in
determining the value of a wine, regardless of the label. The best piece of
advice is to try as many wines as possible, and refine your palate. You won’t have
to ask which is the better bottle after some time, regardless of the price tag.
The real-life story on which the movie "Bottle Shock" was based proved this, as
American wines went up against French wines in the 1970s. Even the great oenophiles of Europe couldn't tell that their favorite wine in the competition
was actually American in origin—something that shocked the world.
Myth 4) Varietal Wines are a Good
Way to Tell Quality
Varietal wines are made from only a single variety of grape. The popularity
of using these wines to determine quality is solely based on the fact that,
unlike wines that are branded by name, the origins of varietal wines are much
more clearly fixed. The focus on enjoying varietal wines should be on understanding what a particular type of grape is
capable of yielding in a wine, since varietal wines express tastes particular to
the grape from which they’re made.
Red Wine Grape Clusters - Varietal Wine Would Only Use One
Type of Grape
Assuming the quality of a varietal wine will
be higher than a wine identified by brand is not an accurate gauge of quality,
but simply a different approach to wine making.
Myth 3) Champagne
Doesn’t Age Well
This myth is actually quite false as champagne does in fact age well. This is
because champagne is highly acidic. These acids combine with the carbonation and
act as a manner of preservative. This
will preserve the champagne till a chemical process that is called disgorgement.
Disgorgement is a step in wine making, basically where the wine or champagne is
resting on dead yeast cells. This takes somewhere around fifteen months before
it has completed. However, some higher quality champagnes can take up to 3 years
to reach this point in fermentation.
Dom Perignon Statue Epernay - Champagne Region, France
Once the end of the disgorgement process is reached, a champagne will age
similarly to a white wine. The carbonation and acid can add years of life to
your champagne that regular wines do not have. This means that logically,
champagne tends to age better than similar quality wines. However, it would not
be wise to grab a bottle of Moet and Chandon from the company's original vintage
in 1743, and expect it to taste up to your standards.
Myth 2) Wine Can Make You Blind
have historically been warnings about bad ingredients that have dangerous,
detrimental effects on the human body. One of the most common threats against
the body is something that can make you go blind. Mixing the wrong ingredients,
for example, are said to have this frightening and sometimes permanent side
effect. The biggest fears often arise from
consumer-produced wine that is made with moonshine or other types of alcohol.
Because moonshine is something that is known to be extremely strong, one of the
threats to over indulgence tends to be "you'll go blind." That is
because some illegal alcohols, at least the first bit of product off of a
moonshine cook, contains methanol alcohol. Just so everyone is clear, people can
only drink ethanol alcohol. Any other form of it, including isopropanol (rubbing
alcohol), can cause blindness or death in extreme cases of poisoning.
However, if you stop to think about it, many things that you engage in have
carried the threat of going blind. These threats rarely hold any water. In fact,
wine and alcohol have been used in medicinal practices for centuries. Due to its
chemical make-up, wine isn’t susceptible to the same harmful bacteria and other
undesirables as tap water. If you ever have a problem with your water, it may be
time to uncork.
Myth 1) Professional Wine Making is full of Glamour
There are in this world, many professions seem like they are full of majesty and
glamour from the outside. In reality, these professions tend to leave the
professional covered in all manners of goop and grime. Like an engineer at a
plant, wine makers are typically covered in foul smelling sorts of goop and
ooze. Wines are made by squashing and fermenting grapes. This process is
actually a chemical breakdown process. All chemical breakdowns create what is
called "by products" that have to be cleaned and disposed of. This is only part of the mess that one can get into when they
are making wines.
There is also the issue of trying to sell and market your wines. Typically
this means that you are going to have to work hard and long hours. It's
difficult to get a product out there, even when you love it. The work can be
unrewarding for a long time and very rarely do winemakers ever come out making
Wines and wine making is not the gilded cage of perfection that many people
think it is. Though many people do not make the connection it is very similar in
process to making beer. It's time consuming, expensive, and requires a lot of
faith that the end product will turn out as you hope. But it can be extremely
rewarding to learn about wines, whether you want to make them yourself or simply
enjoy a decent bottle with some friends over dinner. Many of the high brow
ideals on the "right" way to handle wines are simply wrong. In the end, what is
important is that you find a wine that you enjoy.
expert sommeliers at LaMag.com
a winemaker based in California on 7x7.com