Wine Myths and Facts

There are quite a few myths about wine that although often widely believed, are not true.  Below are some of the more common myths.

Only expensive wine is good

Blind tastings consistently disprove this myth. There is virtually no connection between how much a wine costs and how much people like it. In fact, a study of over 6,000 blind wine tasting comparisons found the correlation between price and overall rating to be insignificant.

The price of wine is not an indication of quality.  It is mainly supply and demand rather than actual quality that determines the price. Demand for a specific wine is influenced by things such as advertising, press coverage, and even association with celebrities. The perception of quality includes tradition, fad, and many other factors. 

For more in depth information see my June 8, 2019 blog entitled “Does Wine Have to be Expensive to be Good?”.

‘Reserve’ wines are superior to other wines

Producers may consider some of their wine to be superior and label it ‘Reserve’ or another term in order to distinguish it from their other wines and to command a higher price.

Blind tastings of regular and ‘reserve’ wines from the same producer and year have failed at being able to distinguish between them.  Of those who correctly identified the ‘reserve’, only about half preferred it over the non-reserve wine.  The reserve labels were generally much more expensive than the non-reserve wines.

Corks are better than screw caps

Long-term research has proven that in fact the opposite is true; screw caps are far superior to corks in protecting wine.

Some experts believe that about one of every ten to twelve corked bottles of wine suffers ‘cork taint’. Cork taint causes the wine to smell like wet newspapers or a damp basement. It is caused by trichloroanisole (TCA) bacterium.

I must admit that my own experience has shown a much lower percentage of tainted wine.  However, I believe the statistic is as high as it is because cork taint is contained within the cork itself.  Thus it is most likely that all of the corks produced from a specific cork tree or section of a tree, will be defective thus potentially ruining many cases of wine all at once.

Some wineries, like Australia’s Peter Lehmann, use screwcaps exclusively, except for wines being exported to the United States. The majority of the world’s notarized wines are bottled with cork, but that has more to do with perception than science.

Only red wine has health benefits

The health benefits associated with moderate wine consumption comes from the alcohol. Some research finds red wine provides greater health benefits. Other research reports that any wine provides benefit. Other studies find that beer is best. Yet other studies indicate that distilled spirits are the most beneficial. However, most research has found that it makes little or no difference. The most beneficial ingredient in alcoholic beverages seems to be the alcohol itself and the health benefits are substantial.

Organic wines have no sulfites

The fact is all wines contain sulfites as they are a natural result of fermentation. Sulfites are also commonly added to prevent oxidation, help preserve and to stabilize the wine. Organic wines have no added sulfites as stated on their labels. 

For additional information see my August 8, 2020 blog “Organic Wine”.

Wine improves with age and aged wine is better than young wine

There’s no reason to age the vast majority of wines. About 90% of wine is produced to be consumed when purchased. Further aging may change the taste, bouquet, and finish of the wine, and not in a good way.

Also, aging with the hope of improving a wine’s defects is impossible. Defective wine will always be defective. Organic wines deteriorate much quicker than other wines as they have no added sulfites to help preserve them.

There is a perfect time to drink any wine worth cellaring.  Most wines, even cellar-worthy ones, are delicious upon release. The better wines will age well for up to a decade. Occasionally some wines will need a decade or more to reach their peak. However, it is always better to drink a wine a year too soon than a day too late.

See “Drink or lay down and how to cellar those you keep” from August 24, 2019 for additional details.

Wine legs are a sign of quality

It’s sometimes said that ‘the thicker the legs, the better the wine’. Wine legs are the “tears” that flow down the inside surface of a wine glass after it has been swirled. Contrary to myth, legs are not an indicator of quality. 

They are created by the alcohol content of the wine and the effects of surface tension, adhesion and evaporation. The alcohol, because it has a lower surface tension, tends to crawl up the glass. At the same time, it evaporates faster than the water in the wine because of its lower boiling point. As more alcohol evaporates, the water concentration increases. The greater surface tension of the water causes the wine to pull together into a teardrop that then runs down the inside of the glass.

Smelling the cork reveals if the wine is bad

Smelling a cork won’t give any information about the quality or condition of the wine. Smelling the wine itself tells whether or not it has spoiled.

Red wine should be served at room temperature and white wine should be served ice-cold

You’ve probably heard the idea that red wine should be served room temperature while white wine should be served ice cold. In reality, though, if the wines are good, you’ll achieve the best results if both red and white wines are served in between ice cold and room temperature. If white wine is served too cold, you won’t be able to taste the nuances in its flavor, and if red wine is served too close to room temperature, it could taste flat. When it doubt, chill your wine but be careful not to make it too cold. 

Red wine should be served at about 18 degrees Celsius whereas white wine should be served at a temperature between 10 and 13 degrees Celsius.

Closing thoughts

Wine myths continue to fool us. They are perceptions, not reality.  However, as is often said, perception is reality.

Sláinte mhaith

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