Drinks

5 Wine Myths That Should be Put to Rest

December  3, 2015

One of the benefits of having a sommelier in your circle of friends is that you can ask all the wine questions that seem silly, strange, or obvious to ask without getting embarrassed. (That, and they usually bring pretty tasty wines to dinner parties.)

But we love getting these questions. Wine professionals enter the field because they are passionate about wine and, quite frankly, can talk about it for hours on end (this fact has been verified by my husband).

So, when a friend begins with, “Can I ask you a question…,” it almost always means that we are about to chat wine. I suspect I know how doctors must feel at a cocktail party...

Photo by James Ransom

Now, the most common questions start with “Is it true that…” With all the mystery, confusion, and ritual surrounding wine, it’s no surprise that wine myths are so prevalent. Navigating this quagmire can require a trusted guide, and if you didn’t have a sommelier in your contact list before, you do now: [email protected] (That’s me, by the way.)

I’ve compiled a short list of some of the most common wine myths out there—those that have a direct impact on the wine and/or your ability to enjoy it at its maximum potential. Plus, once you understand the myths, you can make simple changes to have a more pleasurable drinking experience.

Photo by James Ransom

Myth #1: A great place to store your wine is in the kitchen.

When I walk into a friend’s kitchen and see the wine rack on their counter or above the fridge, my palms begin to get clammy. I try not to offer unsolicited advice, but in this instance I usually can’t help myself.

While there may not be a handier place to store wine than in the kitchen, it is the vinous equivalent of storing tomatoes in the fridge (this doesn’t apply if your wine is stored in a temperature-controlled wine fridge).

The biggest enemies of wine are heat, light and vibration—daily occurrences in any well-used kitchen. If you don’t have a wine fridge, the best place to store wine is in a dark closet away from direct heat or in a basement, if you are lucky enough to have one.

Myth #2: Decanting is only for old, expensive wines.

This is a myth that comes up often, and I always enjoy responding with a quick demo. I’ll grab my blender, throw in a young, red, tannic wine and blend it up for 30 seconds. Then I will have my friend taste the wine from the bottle and then from the blender. The difference is astonishing.

The wine from the blender is softer and smoother. It’s been hyper-decanted, which means that oxygen has been introduced into the wine to soften the tannins and mimic long-term aging. So, while you decant old wines to remove sediment and introduce oxygen, you should definitely try decanting young red wines to help them open up.

Photo by James Ransom

Myth #3: Whites should be served from the fridge and reds from room temperature.

The most important factor of enjoying a glass of wine is temperature. I don’t make that statement that lightly. It is more important than the glass you drink it from or the food you eat it with. Temperature influences how a wine tastes and smells.

Whites straight from the fridge (around 40° F) are too cold and many of the flavors get masked. The ideal temperature is around 50 to 55° F, so your best bet is to take it out of the fridge at least 20 minutes before serving.

Reds from the counter (around 70° F) are too warm, which emphasizes the alcohol in the wine. The ideal temperature is around 60 to 65° F, so if it’s at room temperature, place it in the fridge for about 15 minutes before drinking.

Photo by James Ransom

Myth #4: Expensive wines are better (…says the guy that sells expensive wines).

We equate quality with price. The more expensive an item is, the higher the quality and the better it is. While there is definitely a correlation between price and quality when it comes to wine, the truth of the matter is that there is great value to be found in areas that have less expensive land and labor, along with reduced demand. South America is a prime example. You can find great quality Cabernet Sauvignon in Chile, Malbec in Argentina, and Chardonnay in Uruguay.

More: Find out what high-quality, low-price wines sommeliers drink at home.

Photo by James Ransom

Myth #5: Red wine with meat, white wine with poultry or fish.

Frankly, this myth is a bit dated and I think most people accept that you should just drink what you like. That being said, wine can be a valuable tool to enhance a meal, and a well-matched pairing can be the glue that brings everything together.

There are many different theories and methods on pairing food and wine, but there is one basic rule I employ that has never failed me: If it grows together, it goes together. Basically, if I am eating a cuisine from a specific area, I try to select wine from that area as well. The flavors often work together and you can spend more time enjoying the meal and less time over thinking it.

Do you have a wine question? If it feels too ridiculous to ask, just send me a note or post it in the comments below (of course it goes without saying that you are asking on behalf of a friend).

22 Comments

Constant S. June 22, 2016
ROOM TEMPERATURE: YES, wine should be stored [not in the kitchen] in a dark, draft free place. I got my wines behind my books! What nobody mentions, not even Tamara, is that wines WERE stored at room temperature in a time when there was no central heating, air conditioning or other means of heating warming your place at an even temperature. The room temperature for wine comes from a time when people were gathering around a central place for heating, sweating their faces and feeling ice rolling of their backs. So, the question remains "What temperature is your room?" and, by the way, I can't advice you drinking a Chateau d'Yquem straight from the fridge...
 
Matt H. July 11, 2018
That's not close to being true, at all. The myth that people in the past coiled around a fire place for warmth and anywhere not in proximity was cold is ignorant to how buildings are built and insulated. Food and wine were stored underground before cooling systems were invented. Basements, wine cellars, and ice houses are thermally cooled to the temperature of the earth, which is generally about 55°. You'll note that 55° is the temperature to drink white wine at. ;)
 
sharigale June 22, 2016
What is the best way to decant a bottle of wine?
 
emily December 18, 2015
such a great article! I have two questions, 1) what's the best temperature to serve champagne? (My thought is "ice cold" but not sure) and 2) you mentioned white burgandy in your other post...I'm curious to try one but would love a few food pairing suggestions. Thanks!
 
Kate December 18, 2015
Loved this article! My question is about storing open reds. If you drink only half a bottle, should you store what's left in the refrigerator? How long will it keep?
 
Author Comment
Tamara L. December 18, 2015
Thanks Kate, glad to hear. Yes, re-cork that bottle of red and store it in the fridge. The cold temp. slows the aging process a little bit. I would say try to drink it over the next 3 days. I'm not going to lie - I've pushed it to 5 days but it is never as nice as it was the first day or two.
 
kzmccaff December 18, 2015
Wonderful and informative! Thanks for sharing!!
 
Connie T. December 7, 2015
Over thirty years ago, someone brought me a bottle of leibfraumilch that was infused with woodruff, a kind of herb, I think. It was absolutely amazing, but I was never able to find another bottle of it EVER, and I have looked in wine stores in many states in my travels. Any idea where I can find this delicious concoction?
 
Author Comment
Tamara L. December 8, 2015
Well Connie, I have to say I have not seen that at any of the wine stores I frequent but I'm not ready to give up. Let me do some digging and see what I can find. What state are you located in?
 
Connie T. December 8, 2015
I am in the boonies of northern Maine with a fairly decent, but a small selection of wines is availabe in our local stores. I travel a bit but have never found it. Perhaps an Internet search might dig some up.
 
StephenW December 30, 2015
I think what you're looking for is "May wine" (Maiwein). Several recipes exist online for making your own if you have access to the herb sweet woodruff and at least one US winery (Winzerwald Winery of Indiana) seems to produce it.
 
Connie T. December 30, 2015
Wow, StephenW, I do recall that name (May wine). I shall look up that winery right now! Thank you SO much.
 
Connie T. December 7, 2015
I would also sing the praises of the recently much-aligned rose wine. I do love a blush with my salmon.
 
Ruthan December 7, 2015
My friends and I consume glühwein with a variety of bases religiously throughout the winter -- anything in particular we should try? When we're not fancying them up, we love Malbecs.
 
Author Comment
Tamara L. December 8, 2015
Hi Ruthan, I also loved mulled wine and plan to consumer a significant amount this winter. If you love Malbecs I would suggest trying a Nero D'Avola from Sicily. It also has ripe berry notes and spices. Let me know what you think. Cheers.
 
She December 7, 2015
Thank you for #1! I own a wine storage facility in Edmonds, WA. Everytime I give a little talk on proper wine storage half the group gasps when I tell them the kitchen is the worst place to store wine. It's only $25/mo. to store wine in a commercial facility and well worth the piece of mind. Cheers!
 
Author Comment
Tamara L. December 8, 2015
Wow, $25 a month seems extremely reasonable. Glad to spread the good word.
 
She December 8, 2015
Thank you! I'd like to put an end to the "I store my wine in the..." kitchen, garage, fancy rack in my living room, horror stories. I had a bartender tell me he had a bottle of 100 pt. Quilceda Creek in his kitchen, seriously.
 
Katelinlee December 3, 2015
If more people started serving reds slightly below room temperature, I would be so delighted!
 
Ron M. December 3, 2015
I use the blender method to decant wines occasionally as well, but my understanding of the chemistry behind it is that there are dissolved gasses in the wine that build up during fermentation, and these gasses adversely affect the flavor of the wine. Letting the wine breathe (or blending it) helps those gasses escape. I used to think that there was some sort of "reaction" going on, but I never understood the paradox of letting wine breathe, but not letting it breathe too long (i.e. wine sitting out for a few hours is good, but wine sitting out for a few days is bad). I think that is explained because the degassing (which happens relatively quickly) is good, and the oxidization (which happens more slowly) is bad.<br /><br />Also ... regarding the pairing of red / white wines, I also mostly ignore the traditional advice. However, some foods really do pair better with red / white wines. For example, I find that salmon and red wine really hate each other. If I drink red wine with salmon, I need to cleanse my palate before switching between the wine and the fish.
 
Edward December 3, 2015
Well, while the old tradition of pairing red wine with meat and whites with poultry and fish is not totally cast aside, it is also not given it's due. That is such basic rules or traditions grow up for a reason and often the wider public beyond connoisseurs needs a general guide. Better to say that reds, being somewhat stronger have traditionally been paired with meats that also have stronger tastes while white wines tending to be generally lighter are traditionally and appropriately paired with fish and fowl like chicken, say, (more than stronger gamey birds) because those proteins are correspondingly usually lighter in flavor. Thus, for the non-experts, the rule is a good one and remains sensible, reasonable and not an infringement except to egos that yearn to be different or those whose style is based on iconoclasm rather than well tempered tradition.
 
Matt H. July 11, 2018
Here come the mansplainers… are you also a certified sommelier as is Tamara? If you think white wines are soft, you might not have as good of a palette as you think you do.