Old Wives’ Tales

Every culture has its selection of myths and nonsense. Wine drinking in particular seems to be full of all this nonsense, myths that can spoil our enjoyment of this fabulous stuff. In response to the questions I have received from my community in previous months, here are a few of the most commonly encountered bits of tosh 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. Anyway your freezer is less messy than an ice bucket. Just don’t forget it is in there, as we have on more than one occasion!

2.) White wine and salt removes red wine stains (if caught quickly enough)

Nope, sadly not.  They just create more 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.  If you believe that then you’ll believe that George Bush was voted most intelligent man alive in 2010. 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 – anything goes baby

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 Motel in Kentucky!

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 ours 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. Be very wary of old bottles at auction, knowing the vintage conditions for that year and the caliber of the winery is crucial. Is old wine better than young wine? Occasionally, mostly not.

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. Wines such as these often go through an adolescent phase after bottling, imagine Kevin the teenager. Then they will seem rough around the edges but the basic quality of the wine will shine through and in time the tannins will soften. But ugly youngsters do not become mature beauties!

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 I am often asked. Well how long is a piece of string? Specialist reference books, and more importantly your own experience and preferences will provide you with some answers.

And last but not least (peddled by the French)

8.) France is the only country in the world that produces wine worth getting excited about

Complete and utter ****!

James Lawrence

James Lawrence is a self confessed wine obsessive, passionate about discovering and promoting the lesser known wines and wine regions of the world. He is a frequent contributor to decanter.com and runs an interactive, community led wine forum, thewineremedy.com In 2004, he went to study in Bilbao, Northern Spain. Luckily for him, the famous wine region of Rioja was just over an hour away by car. He began to spend a great deal of time there, visiting the wineries in Rioja and speaking to local wine makers. Their passion for the subject and their pride in the wines was infectious. He began to realise what an amazing subject wine is and how wide and complex the world of wine could be. Subsequently James moved into wine retail while finishing his degree, and was hooked. James also enjoys food and travel writing - he lives for Italian and Thai cuisine!

1 Comment
  1. Wine is good not only for drinking, but for cleaning, too. White wine can be successfully used on red wine stains. You only have to blot the excess liquid of the red wine and pour white wine on it. Blot again with a clean towel and the stain will be gone. 

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