12 Myths About Wine Busted by a Sommelier
Wine is a difficult scene to break into. Like coffee, spouting of too much information on the subject can make you sound like a snob -- especially if said information is technically false. With that in mind, we called upon Food & Wine Magazine's 2014 "Sommelier of the Year," Patrick Cappiello, to dispel the biggest wine myths out there and clear up any lingering misconceptions -- so you won't sound like a chump at your next twee dinner party.
1. White wine should be served ice coldWrong. In fact, no wine should be served ice cold... or lukewarm for that matter. As Cappiello puts it, you should keep basic chemistry in mind when you drink wine. “The colder a wine, the more restrained and tightened the molecules will be. When it’s warmer, it’ll be more aromatic.” A good temperature for white wine is about 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Red wine should be served at room temperatureOne huge misconception is that red wine cannot be refrigerated under the penalty of lashing. However, Cappiello tells us that serving red wine at room temperature can accelerate the aging process and make it taste unfavorable. So feel free to throw that bad boy in the fridge, no one's gonna get mad.
3. Red wine will give you a horrible headacheIf you think you’re allergic to red wine, there’s a good chance you’re also allergic to not being an idiot. Honestly, the reason your wine is giving you a headache is because you aren’t treating it like every other alcohol. Red wine is the same as any other alcohol and will cause dehydration when consumed, thus making your head hurt if you have too much of it. How do you prevent this? Same as any whiskey or beer: take it in moderation, drink lots of water, and never apologize for partying. Never.
4. You should never pair white wine with steakGood news, everybody! You totally can drink a white wine with your delicious slab of meat. Best wine myth distillation yet! As our sommelier explains, a nice red will always taste incredible with a steak, but that doesn’t mean you should discount a bottle of well-chosen white. Patrick suggests going for a chenin blanc or another full-bodied and fruity white wine to pair with steak. The goal is to find a white that mimics the robust qualities of your typical reds.
5. You should let your wine breathe in the bottleSimply uncorking your bottle to let the wine "breathe" isn't going to do much, as the shape of the bottle doesn't allow much air to enter. If you want to let your wine get that precious oxygen, it’s better to use a decanter.
6. Boxed wine sucksAside from my own personal love for boxed wine, there are myriad reasons to branch out and try wine in a box (or can). Our sommelier friend told us that serving wine from a box is actually pretty common in Europe -- where culture was born -- and there are some incredibly delicious boxed wines you can be drinking without guilt.
7. Cheap wine is even worseYou don’t really need an expert to tell you that an ice-cold glass of Franzia beats that Chateau Margaux any day -- I mean, as long as you’re 23. As a recent Forbes article bluntly put it, “Wine enjoyment is such an objective experience and taste is not exactly an exact science.” Plus, as it stands, a good chunk of wine experts out there don't mind the cheap stuff.
8. Aged wine is always betterIt’s a common misconception that all wine is meant to be aged. As it stands, 90% of wine should be consumed within a year of production, while a staggering 99% should be imbibed within five years of production. True, aging does bring out an array of exotic smells and tastes, but -- in the same vein as drinking expensive and cheap wine -- it all depends on your tastes. Remember that 150-year-old bottle of wine that was recently discovered? Yeah, it tasted horrible.
9. Screw caps are for low-quality winesScrew caps for wine have actually been around since the 1950s and definitely don’t always mean the wine you’re drinking is bad, or cheap. James Foster, the senior winemaker at Cupcake Vineyards, actually prefers screw caps because it “keeps [the bottle] sealed and does not allow oxygen to enter it.” Other wines, on the other hand, benefit from having a cork seal as it allows just enough air to oxidize the tannins.
10. Champagne doesn’t age wellWhoever told you that you have to drink Champagne as soon as you buy the bottle is pulling your leg, and also might be Lucille Bluth. Despite popular belief, it’s actually totally fine to age Champagne. An unopened bottle can benefit from three to fours years of aging at a temperature of around 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
11. French wine > American wineWhile there’s no doubt the French know what they’re doing when it comes to wine, there’s absolutely no reason to assume your bottle of wine is going to suck if it boasts a California label. However, there’s definitely a difference; American wine is typically more fruit-heavy, while wine from France tends to be more austere and tannic.
12. You can use white wine to get out a red wine stainGood God, why would you think this is a good idea? White wine will dilute, then further stain your red wine stain. Just use a fabric cleaner and don’t waste your precious white wine.
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For more information on wine, more specifically how to drink it quickly, follow Jeremy Glass on Twitter @CandyandPizza and never look back.