The Top 10 Misconceptions About Wine
I did a presentation for a large corporate group last night and had some surprisingly questions/comments that I have compiled below in what I feel are the most common misconceptions about wine. Feel free to add your own or expand on mine!
10. Fruity = Sweet
A lot of time we describe a wine as ‘fruity’ or ‘fruit-forward’ and the immediate response is ‘I don’t like sweet wines.’ Fruity doesn’t necessarily mean sweet. For example, an Australian Shiraz has very fruity flavors of berry and plum which cause a smoother texture in the wine but still has low residual sugar (the stuff that causes the sweetness). In contrast, Sauternes, which is a French dessert wine very high in residual sugar, ranks low on the ‘fruity’ scale. It has more of a crème-Brule taste than any type of fruit.
9. Your White is Too Cold!
Most people drink white wines at what we call ‘refrigerator’ temperature (between 35 and 38 degrees F), whites are drunk ideally at 45 degrees. If a white is too cold it will lose a lot of its flavors and complexity. Actually, when we open a white that isn’t so good we’ll chill it down more so it reduces the flavors we don’t like!
8. Your Red is Too Hot!
In contrast to the white problem, most consume their reds at room temperature which depending where you live and what temp you keep your house can be anywhere between 65 and 80 degrees. Hotter temperatures also reduce the flavors in red wines, and increase the appearance of alcohol. Making your reds seem a lot more potent than they are! Ideal drinking temps for reds is between 60 and 65 degrees.
7. The Sulfites in Red Cause My Headaches
I won’t get started on this, and most readers/customers already know how I feel about this claim. Read here for full disclosure. Just two points. 1. Sulfites are naturally present in ALL wines (red and white). 2. Less than 1% of the world population is allergic to sulfites (about 1 out of every 100,000 people).
6. You Can Use Any Wine for Cooking
Would you use outdated milk in your brownies? How about bad beef in your meatballs? Then why would you use an old bottle of wine to cook with? Don’t ruin your five star dish with a one star bottle of wine. Dishes reflect the ingredients you put into it, if you use poor (or very very cheap) the dish will reflect that selection.
5. You Have to Drink All Whites Young
Most white wines are meant to be enjoyed in their youth, however there are some whites (Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc) made in certain regions that can age and our meant to. Some whites don’t even reach their potential into at least five years in!
4. You Should Decant (Or “Vinturi”) all Wines
In my opinion that white wine Vinturi is one of the worst wine inventions. Not all wines need to be decanted or aerated (using a Vinturi or Soiree). All three devices mimic aging, basically exposing as much oxygen to the wine as possible to smooth out the tannins and enhance the aromas. Wines that are meant to age need this process in their youth. But those New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs and lighter Pinot Noirs don’t need those devices. Unless you just need to use it for show.
3. The More Expensive the Wine, the Better it is
Not necessarily true. The price of a wine is tied to many different things – supply and demand, import/export taxes, cost of material to make the wine and transport it, ‘premium’ fees associated with celebrity winemakers, vineyards and high ratings – quality is just one of those items. However, in general a high quality wine usually has a high demand, uses more premium materials during and post production and is made by an in demand winemaker or from an in demand vineyard. The most important part is that you like it. If it costs you $100 and you are in love with the bottle, it is worth every dime. But if you are one of the lucky few that fell in love with a $20, cheers!
2. Red Wine is made from Red Grapes, White are White
Wine gets its pigmentation from the skins of the grapes. White wines are aged without skins giving a clear (yellow/white) color, reds are aged with the skins on which cause the darker red/garnet color. Rose, actually is typically made with red grapes. The winemakers ferment the wine with the skins for a temporary period of time (anywhere from 2 hours to 2 days) to achieve the color in the wine they want.
1. Winemakers Add Flavors to their Wines
Wine has a pretty simple list of ingredients: grape juice, water, sugar, alcohol. That’s it. The flavors and aromas you experience and hear about in wine are from compounds called esters create the aromas that you experience. A lot of the aroma and flavor also has to do with memories we have associated to specific flavors we’ve experienced. One person may experience plum, while another finds dark cherry. Neither are wrong, they have both just formed different sensory memories around those two descriptions.