Every culture has its selection of myths and nonsense. Wine drinking lore is no exception, possessing its fair share of old wives tales; myths that can spoil our enjoyment of this fabulous stuff. Here are a few of the most commonly encountered bits of 'old nonsense' about wine.
1. Don't use the freezer to chill wine
My favourite wine myth. It is absolutely harmless to the wine to use a freezer if you are in a hurry; I do it all the time. Just more cold air circulating around than in a fridge, that's all.
2. White wine and salt removes red wine stains (if caught quickly enough)
Not in my experience, however, they do create plenty of mess. Put the stained item in the washing machine, add some vanish and pray.
3. A teaspoon suspended in a bottle of partly consumed sparkling wine will help retain the fizz
I have a confession to make, I used to do this when I was younger. Trust me, it does not work! To work it would have to defy the basic laws of gas pressure. Only cold slows down the release of CO2 gas, or a cork stopper. Nothing else.
4. Wine is just a matter of opinion - a completely subjective topic
This is the hardest contention to argue against. Of course, wine is a subjective thing and there are plenty of different opinions and plenty of room for them. But, like anything, there are standards and objective criteria too. No one would argue that a 5 star luxury hotel in the Bahamas offers the same experience as a Milton Keynes Travel Lodge!
5. Old Wine is better than young wine
A most costly myth for wine buyers. At auctions, the sellers peddle this as a way of achieving high prices for their old bottles of Bordeaux. Often buyers at auction think that the older a Bordeaux wine, the better! Recently a friend of mine brought several bottles of Burgundy and Bordeaux from the early 1980's. All but one of the Burgundies were faulty and oxidised, the reds were stale and undrinkable. Most wine is ready to drink the day it hits the shelves.
6. Great red wines don't taste good when they are young
At tastings you will often hear the organiser explain away the awfulness of a wine by the fact that it's too young. Well it is true that tannic wines can seem very harsh in their youth and it takes quite a few years for this austerity to soften. But, if a wine is likely to be good when it is old - no guarantee, mind you - it will taste impressive when young. This is especially clear when tasting young Bordeaux wines, although the tannic structure may be harsh, all the component parts should be in well balanced proportions for the style of wine.
7. There is always a right age to drink fine wine
This especially applies to fine Bordeaux wines, where buyers will often be told to drink this particular wine in exactly 10-15 years time, etc. The truth is that it's almost impossible to say exactly when a wine will reach its peak drinking age. Some fine wines are adolescent longer than others. When is the best time to drink this wine we are often asked. Well how long is a piece of string? Your own experience and preferences should clue you in.
8. New World wine is always better value than Old World wine
Wine professionals classically distinguish between the New World producing countries of say Chile, South Africa and the Old World countries of France, Spain, etc. A common mis-conception is that Chile equals value, France equals disappointing rip-off. Not true, regions like the Languedoc in France offer great value, I recently enjoyed a delicious French Viognier that was £6.99 from the Co-op. Besides, New World regions can churn out dross, like any wine producing region.
9. Always serve your reds at room temperate
The temperature at which a wine is served makes a big difference to your drinking pleasure, that much is certain. While white wines at room temperature (18-20c) always taste insipid, a slightly chilled red wine can be very pleasant, especially in this lovely hot weather. Serving wines cooler makes them more refreshing to drink, Pinot Noir and Gamay are two grapes that can benefit from being chilled, to say 12-14 degrees.
And last but not least (often peddled by the French)
10. France is the only country in the world that produces wine worth getting excited about
Complete and utter nonsense!