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Common Wine Myths Debunked

The world of wine is vast, there is wine in every corner of the planet and there are millions of people drinking it every year. This provides a lot of opportunity for misinformation to start and spread through the existing networks. Here are some key examples of popular wine tropes that aren’t quite the full story.

Cork Break Means the Wine is Bad

Corks can crumble for a variety of reasons, as wine gets older the corks tend to soften. If a more aggressive tool (waiters corkscrew or a rabbit) is used for opening the inside of the cork can often be torn out, leaving behind the rest of it. Even in young wines, cork breaks happen and more often than not the wine is just fine, it just needs a little straining or cork fishing.

A common misattribution of a broken cork is that the wine is “corked”. This term instead is specific to when a cork has been infected with a Trichloroanisole (TCA). TCA is caused by an infection of microbes in the cork reacting with Chlorine. TCA seeps into the wine and causes muted flavors, and off notes like damp cardboard or wet dog.

Red Wine Must be Served at Room Temperature

This is an adage that is often seen in popular media and has found its way into the general discussion around the beverage as a whole. More often than not red wine is best presented between 60-70F. The lighter the body, the lower the temperature should be, and full-bodied reds at a slightly higher temperature. 

Ways for you to achieve the ideal serving temperature is to throw a room temperature bottle into the refrigerator for about half an hour or allow a cellar temperature bottle to sit on the counter for about half an hour prior to serving.

White Wine Must be Ice Cold

White wine is certainly best with a chill on it, but putting the bottle into a bucket of ice can bring the temperature down to the point where the aromatics are muted. There are plenty of factors that affect the way a white wine should be served, lighter-bodied whites should be colder than heavier wines. Another factor of the wine is how aromatic the grape is. For example, Viognier and Chardonnay are roughly the same weight generally speaking, but Viognier is significantly more aromatic and can thus take a bit more chill. 

If the wine is being served in a colder room you may not need any ice whatsoever to keep the wine in the ideal temperature range. But if you are drinking wine outside in the middle of summer you will probably want it ice cold when it is poured so that it warms into the right range while in the glass.

Sediment in Wine Means it has Spoiled

More often than not, when someone sees sediment in a wine they consider this a fatal flaw. There are in fact a variety of reasons as to why there could be sediment in a bottle of wine, none of which indicate anything foul. If the bottle is a young wine, the sediment is most likely tartrate crystals. Tartrate crystals are formed from excess tartaric acid, which is naturally occurring in grapes. The presence of these crystals implies that the wine was not cold conditioned prior to bottling and they precipitated out afterward. If the bottle is old, it is most likely a combination of tannins and color pigments binding together and precipitating out of the wine. This is a natural occurrence for older wines and is expected in red wines older than five or so years. Nothing to worry about, just decant the liquid off of the sediment or pass it through a cheesecloth. Finally, if the bottle is Sparkling, the sediment is probably yeast cells. This implies that the bottle was either made in Methode Ancestral, like a petillant naturel, or it wasn’t disgorged. Either way, the wine is safe to consume, just try not to pour out the sediment with the wine.

Screwcaps Mean the Wine is Low Quality

This becomes more false every year. More and more high-quality producers are moving to screw caps as their enclosure of choice as quality cork becomes harder to come by and prices continue to go up. In addition to supply, screw caps are also more consistent than natural cork and aren’t at risk of cork taint. 

All Wine Gets Better with Age

This is another trope that gets blown out of proportion in the media and causes a general belief that the older the wine the better it is. In fact, most wine is intended and is best when served within a couple of months of it hitting shelves. For a wine to age well it needs to be balanced, and it needs to have a decent structure. Without either of those things, the wine will only become more imbalanced and flabby as it ages.

Single Variety Wines are Better Than Blends

This has actually started to go both ways lately, with people on both sides believing that one is better than the other. There are merits to both sides, but the answer really comes down to the fact that it is all personal preference. Some of the best wines in the world are single varieties like Burgundy and others are blended like Bordeaux. Many of the wines that are sold as single varieties are actually blended in small quantities.

Legs On a Wine Indicate High Quality

A lot can be inferred from the legs or tears of a wine in glass, but the quality isn’t one of them. You can get a hint at how much body there will be by how long it takes for the tears to fall. Both sugar content and alcohol affect the viscosity of the wine. You can also get a hint about what kind of grape was used in blind tasting based on the color, as thin-skinned red grapes like pinot noir don’t stain, whereas thicker-skinned grapes like Petite Sirah and Cabernet do.

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