Wine Myths: Debunked


Wine myths are often unspoken but incredibly pervasive. Their looming presence may prevent wine novices from feeling confident about how they drink. Most would agree that wine experiences are best enjoyed with friends, but myths can hinder otherwise joyous wine drinking occasions. “Sparkling wine MUST be enjoyed in a flute glass, or else!” “Wines sealed with a screw cap are ALWAYS unenjoyable.” Many wine myths have circulated for decades. Legions of potential wine lovers can be turned off by a single falsehood. Quashing wine myths is an ideal way to make wine more inclusionary and accessible to all who wish to participate. Our esteemed cadre of wine writers has exposed the truth about some commonly believed wine myths. Spread the word! 
Soave is crappy. 
In the 1970s, Americans consumed more Soave than Chianti. This Italian wine hails from the Veneto region of Northern Italy, and, for decades, the name carried with it connotations of insipidness and wateriness. Now, it is true: there are many lame Soave  wines. But there are plenty of good ones too, damn good. The crummy stuff tends to be labeled simply Soave, and the grapes are sourced from productive vineyards in the region's fertile plain. But the good stuff comes from Soave Classico appellation, the historic heart of the region, and is labeled as such. Here, where the Romans planted vines some 2,000 years ago, you can find some of the only volcanic basalt soils in Northern Italy. These soils are heaven for the Garganega grape, which produces wines with abundant minerality, bright floral tones and crisp acidity. There are steely and mineral-laden versions and there are rounder, oak-aged versions — plenty of styles and wines to explore. And, perhaps because of the larger appellation's reputation, you can buy really good Soave Classico for about $20. Producers like Inama, Pieropan and Monte Tondo are a good place to start.
Isaac James Baker,  Reading, Writing & Wine

I don’t like this wine.
My favorite myth is one that bothers me to this day. “I don’t like (insert type of wine here).”  In daily form, I hear it something like this: 
“I don’t like rosé.”
“I don’t like champagne.”
“I don’t like pinot grigio.”
I bet you, too, have heard this more than once. It’s important to realize that one or more bad experiences does not always mean that we don’t like that specific grape. More often than not, It's a myth! It’s that we went to a party and were served “either red or white” from very large, very cheap bottles, and to no one's surprise, found the wines lacking in quality and style. Sad but true, that really mediocre wines serve to lower the quality of our experience and personal value to that type of wine.  I sometimes have guests who apologize in an attempt to refuse a wine I’m serving. I will gently say, “Just have a taste and if you don’t love it, I’ll pour you something else.” That encouragement is enough to get them to put the glass to their lips and experience a wine that can put that former (negative) experience firmly in the past, and is usually followed with “Oh, I’d like to have more of this, thank you!”
Jim van Bergen, JvBUnCorked

Those little diamonds mean your wine is contaminated.
I remember first reading about wine diamonds in a technical book about winemaking. Diamonds in my wine? Is that a problem? As I quickly discovered, wine diamonds are a euphemism for tartrates that are formed when potassium (or less likely calcium) and tartaric acid bind together to form crystals. Both are naturally occurring products of wine grapes and potassium bitartrate is commonly known as cream of tartar. Wine diamonds are more likely to form in white wine than red because of the difference in winemaking techniques used to produce them. The problem with wine diamonds is that when wine drinkers find them at the bottom of their wine glass, or on a cork, they think their wine is contaminated. This is a wine myth that needs to be debunked. Wine diamonds are not a contaminant in your wine, they’re perfectly natural. They are little gems that may simply indicate the wine was overchilled and very likely that a hands-off approach was used in making the wine. That’s not so bad. There are a number of techniques winemakers use to assure tartrates do not form after a wine is bottled. Cold stabilization, storing wine at very cold temperatures so that the tartrates form before bottling, is the traditional method. Modern techniques include filtration and the addition of compounds that inhibit crystal formation. All methods have benefits and disadvantages the winemaker must consider. And, even after considerable effort to prevent their formation, the crystals may still form after a wine is bottled. So, remember, wine diamonds are not a contaminant in your wine. When I discover wine diamonds in my glass or on a cork, I celebrate the find! Then I take pictures and post them on social media. Cheers!
Nancy Brazil, Pull That Cork 

That wine needs to be stored at the right temperature.

I have to say that there are a host of Wine Myths out there that need to be debunked, but the one that I spend the most time debunking is the need to keep your wines at a constant 55˚F. Now, as a preface, I am not talking about wine that you are storing as an investment (which as Joe Roberts points out, is usually a terrible idea), nor am I talking about wine that you intend for long-term storage (think first-growth Bordeaux from a great vintage). No, I am talking about the wines that you intend for short to medium-term drinking in the next 5 or even ten years. You do not need to spend several thousand dollars to keep these wines in a constant state of chill. What you need is a cool dark space that is not susceptible to sudden temperature swings. In other words, you do not want it to be 65˚ one day and 85˚ the next. Ideally, the space should also not get above 80˚ either. I have kept my collection of around 1500 bottles in a basement with no additional refrigeration for we'll over a decade and I have had no issues. I live in Philadelphia where summer temps can reach well into the 90˚s but the basement rarely gets above 75˚. So instead of spending that extra cash on a fancy fridge, buy a case or two of Krug and invite me over to share a bottle.
Jeff Kralik, The Drunken Cyclist

More expensive wine is better.
There are no shortage of myths in the wine world that should be buried. One of the most frustrating that I hear often from consumers at tastings that I host is the misconception that wine quality is always directly determined by price. The higher the price the better the wine goes the myth. There are of course many great wines that are expensive but studies and blind tastings consistently disprove the expensive equals better myth.
I look to regions like the Loire Valley (especially Muscadet) and Languedoc in France, Chile, Spain, and South Africa for interesting wines that deliver serious quality and value. One of my favorite value wines that consistently delivers quality above it’s $10 price tag is the Cabernet Sauvignon from Los Vascos winery, located in the Colchagua Valley region of Chile.
Ruby color in the glass, this Cab offers notes of raspberries, licorice and thyme around a plum core with pepper on the edges. Firm tannins and well-balanced, this wine pairs perfectly with a ribeye steak on the grill.
Frank Morgan, Drink What You Like

The more expensive the wine, the better the wine.
Sometimes this is true. But having just visited three regions in California, I can tell you that I had some wines in Paso Robles that would give Napa and Sonoma wines a run for the money – at a fraction of the price. There are so many factors that influence wine pricing that have nothing to do with the wine itself. Wine regions, shelf position, brand and celebrity affiliation can all drive pricing through the roof. The lesser-known regions, grapes, producers and places – often hard to pronounce – can be the undiscovered diamonds in the rough.
Melanie Ofenloch, Dallas Wine Chick

Sweet wine can’t be good.
Mention you like sweet wines and many will look at you with raised eyebrows, waiting for the punchline. Sweet wines are for amateurs, right? On the contrary, some of the best wines in the world are sweet: Hungary's Tokaji,  Austria and Germany's Trockenbeerenauslese, France's Sauternes; the list goes on. These wines are generally very sweet but balanced, show a broad range of flavors, and are amongst the world's most cellar-worthy wines. Sweet wines aren't all about dessert, though -- search out light-to-mid sweet wines and pair them with salty or spicy foods for a more nuanced experience.
Kovas Palubinskas, 50 States Of Wine

Old World wines are superior to New World wines.
Conventional wine wisdom goes like this. Wines from the Old World (think primarily France, Spain and Italy) are superior to New World (think primarily the United States, Australia, and South America) wines. While it’s true that Old World countries have had a couple of thousand years head start on planting the right grapes in the right place, and mastering  growing  and wine making techniques, the New World has caught on relatively quickly. Tremendous strides have been made in quality, diversity and ultimately, sales of New World wines. The most celebrated example of the New World betting the Old World at their own game, of course, is the 1976 Judgment of Paris when California Chardonnay and Cabernet Blends beat the best wines from Burgundy and Bordeaux in a blind tasting with French judges.  And in more recent times, there are numerous examples of that same scenario repeating itself across various Old World vs. New World countries.
The Old World versus New World is a false dichotomy because there is a wealth of examples of New World wines made in the Old World style (less overt fruit, lower alcohol, and higher acidity), and wines originating in Old World countries made in the New World style (riper, more overt fruit flavors, higher alcohol and less acidity) A wine should be judged on its own merits without bias based on place of origin. Let your palate be your guide! 
Martin Redmond, ENOFYLZ Wine Blog

Merlot makes insipid red wines. 
Long before Sideways took a swipe at Merlot and launched Pinot Noir further into the wine stratosphere there were issues. A lot of wineries were making Merlot in a style that didn’t inspire enthusiasm. In fact such a large percentage of Merlot, particularly from the New World, was at best generic and at worst undrinkable. However there have always been excellent examples of Merlot produced in CA and other New World areas. Over the last few years there are more producers in CA (for example) than at any time in recent memory focusing on their Merlot program with renewed vigor. When it’s planted in the right spot and treated appropriate thereafter Merlot can and should be structured, age worthy and loaded with appealing character. Most importantly it should unabashedly be Merlot. To me that‘s a wine that brings to mind and iron fist in a velvet glove. One brand new release from a large, well known California producer is worth seeking out if you want a terrific Napa Merlot. Franciscan Estate 2013 Napa Valley Reserve Merlot ($45): The Reserve Merlot is a brand new release in the Franciscan Portfolio. In addition to Merlot (93%), small amounts of Syrah (6%), and Cabernet Sauvignon (1%) were blended in. All of the fruit came from Oak Knoll. It’s made from a cuvee of select barrels. Red cherry, leather and black pepper are all evident on the nose. When you take the first sip your senses are knocked out by all the continuing red cherry fruit tinged by bits of black cherry. Cinnamon and clove spices are in play as well. The velvety finish shows off dusty dark cocoa, pencil lead and sweet dry cherry flavors. This is an absolutely outstanding Merlot with tremendous structure.  It’s wonderful now but I’d hold it for 3-4 years and drink it in the 5 after that. Either way this is a very serious stab at top shelf Merlot at a very reasonable price. 
Gabe Sasso, Gabe’s View

Napa Valley stereotypes are true.
Ever since I moved to the Napa Valley two and a half years ago, I pay more attention to media references about where I live and the wines we produce. Narratives about the Napa Valley frequently resort to generalizations and stereotypes, often with negative overtones. The media perpetuates the narrow-minded focus that the Napa Valley is comprised of gigantic corporate producers, shiny and ornate tasting rooms, and cabernet sauvignon. The Napa Valley is more than corporations and cabernet. In fact, 78% of the Napa Valley’s producers make fewer than 10,000 cases and 67% produce fewer than 5000 cases. Ninety-five percent of our wineries are family owned and operated. Our microclimates and differing soil types allow for many grape varieties to flourish. Only 40% of our grape production is cabernet sauvignon, while the other 60% includes grape varieties such as cabernet franc, chardonnay, merlot, petite sirah, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc, syrah, zinfandel, and many more. The styles and prices of our wines vary as greatly as the wines produced. One day, one may enjoy traditional method sparkling wines like blanc de blancs, blanc de noirs, and brut rosé at one of our sparkling producers like Domaine Carneros, Domaine Chandon, Mumm, or Schramsberg. The next day, one travels high atop Spring Mountain to a side-by-side tasting of chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, and riesling (yes, riesling!) in the rustic production building at Smith-Madrone. Ehlers Estate produces Bordeaux-style wines from their organic, estate vineyards, including their atypical 100% petit verdot. Madrigal Family Winery, paying homage to Chris Madrigal’s Spanish ancestry, offers estate garnacha and tempranillo. Benessere crafts Italian varietal wines such as aglianico, moscato di canelli, pinot grigio, sagrantino, and sangiovese. Coquerel Wines makes verdelho, tempranillo, and late-harvest sauvignon blanc. I haven’t scratched the surface of the depth and breadth of the Napa Valley’s wine options, as there are approximately 475 physical wineries, not including custom-crush producers. The next time you are considering wines from the Napa Valley, please enjoy our cabernet sauvignon, but explore beyond it. While here, venture away from the beaten path and you’ll discover the real Napa Valley and its diverse wines. (Statistics provided by Napa Valley Vintners and the Napa Valley Register)
Elizabeth Smith, Traveling Wine Chick

Drink only red wine with red meat and white wine with fish.
Myths gain traction for a reason. While savoring a well marbled steak and gorgeous Cabernet Sauvignon, tannins in the wine weave themselves with fatty char from the meat to create a tapestry of deliciousness in your mouth. Similarly, enjoying a Rueda wine with fish creates magic. However, as myths go, this needs to be busted.  At an event with the team from Wagner Family Wines team, they described a swoon worthy pairing of grilled sea bass with one of their delicious reds.  Heresy?  No. Sea Bass is often described as a “meaty” fish and grilling is a cooking method that adds body to a dish. This was a great example of matching overall body of food to wine. Matching overall body ends up being more important than matching color. Wine pairing is like a Rubik’s Cube puzzle to line up sweetness, acidity, alcohol, oak and tannins to complement food elements. If all the sides are balanced and you can also get flavors to match (or contrast) with equal persistency between wine and food flavors, you won’t need to lean on myths to create your own legendary food and wine pairings. So think about texture and flavors more than whether the color of the meat matches the color of the wine.
Liza Swift, Brix Chicks

The wine world is getting less diverse.
Many wine myths out there are not true. But the one that I would like to tackle is a little bit more unorthodox - the myth that there is less diversity in the wine world than say fifty years ago. Many wine lovers are concerned that very popular grape varieties such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are dominating the world to the detriment of extinction of local varieties. This is only partly true. Yes, many regions around the world are devoting more and more vineyards to grape varieties that are not native to the region, but that does not mean that we have completely lost diversity. How do I know we do not have an extreme lack of diversity of grape varieties? The book, Native Wine Grapes of Italy, by Ian D’Agata, opened my eyes to the fact that the problem is not the lack of grape varieties but the lack of knowledge that they exist. I cannot do the book justice in this one short post, but let me just say that at the time his book was written, there were 461 official Italian grape varieties registered and D’Agata has said there could easily be around 1000 currently existing in Italy. How did this happen? The book goes into great detail, but the basics are due to misidentification and growers being not completely sure what they are growing. This created a myth that there is a lot less diversity than actually present. A great example is a grape variety called Malvasia. There are actually 17 different cultivars within the group of Malvasia: one called Malvasia Bianca Lunga, another Malvasia del Lazio (you guessed it, it can be found in Lazio), another named Malvasia di Candia Aromatica, and so on and so on. Some of them are very different from each other. Most wine drinkers who are familiar with Malvasia will know it as a restrained white wine not showing any intense aromas or flavors. Not true with Malvasia di Candia Aromatica - it is, as you can also guess, very aromatic. Recently I tasted the 2015 Castello di Luzzano ‘Tasto di Seta’ 100% Malvasia di Candia Aromatica and it was delicious with an explosion of floral notes - like no other Malvasia wine I have had before this one. It is important that this myth is debunked so we don’t unknowingly lose the great diversity of grape varieties that currently exist, yet may not survive if we do not know about them and seek them out.
Cathrine Todd, Dame Wine

Real men don’t drink pink wine.
I’ll talk about a few wine myths associated with rosé, since the heat is on and rosé has totally become synonymous with summer. The good news is there is far less stigma surrounding these pink-hued wines than there was just five years ago. Unfortunately, rosé is still now and again viewed as a cheap, sweet, lackluster wine. Besides a lack of wine education, this possibly has a lot to do with White Zinfandel. I’m not knocking White Zin since it is usually many people's introduction to the wonderful world of wine and the reason there are many old vine Zinfandel vineyards in California. While sweet, cheap, and lackluster may hold true for some pink juice, there are a countless number of attractively refreshing, drier examples that not only taste good but are versatile and offer endless food pairing possibilities – particularly with light summer fare. Another myth you will hear is, “Real men don’t drink pink wine.” Are you serious? Let truth be told, I think bros sip way more pink juice than the ladies. Someone must be looking at old data. Lastly, you may hear that wines like rosé are nothing more than warm weather porch-pounders. This is nonsense. While the pink juice does shine and satisfy during the summer months, I keep them in my wine rotation year-round. In addition to the traditional Pinot Noir and Riesling, I can tell you from experience that rosé will perform admirably on your Thanksgiving table. Now, I do realize that some of you have tried to think pink & drink pink but it wasn’t for you. And that’s okay; at least you tried, right? However, if you have made your mind up after only trying one or two examples, then I ask you to “rethink pink” and give pink wine a second chance. Find a wonderfully crisp, drier style rosé and give it an opportunity to win you over this summer. And please let us know what you find and like. Cheers! 
Dezel Quillen, My Vine Spot

Old World and New World styles are totally different.
There are many wine myths out there. Most come from misconceptions and misinformation. One myth I am particularly drawn to is the idea of “old world wine” and “new world wine.” The separation of these “worlds” is simple: old world represents countries and regions before 1492; new world is all who came after 1492. Seems clear enough; however, the wine myth is these two “worlds” craft wines in different styles. This may have once been true, but in the 21st century this myth is now bunk. In the US, South America, South Africa, and more many wines are produced with the philosophy of balance and “less is more” in winemaking styles. Some would easily pass as Burgundy, Bordeaux, and even Alsace. Conversely, I have experienced wines from France, Italy, and Spain that fooled a group of 100 plus sommeliers into thinking they were “new world” wines. Are there style differences? Yes, but these styles have more to do with wine making philosophy than with geographical location. Balanced wines are good wines regardless of what “world” produced them.
Michelle Williams, Rockin Red Blog

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