Urban Wine Myths Exposed

We believe there is no such thing as a stupid question, especially when it comes to understanding more about wine. Having said that, there are a number of (sometimes dubious) urban myths that we hear again and again. It’s time to set the record straight.

All wines are better when they are older, right?
Wrong, all wines have a life span and, in fact, the majority are designed to be consumed in a relatively short space of time. There are only a small percentage of wines that are actually intended to survive into old age. Generally speaking, these cellarable wines are of a very high pedigree and therefore usually have a price to match. The very best of this category are also the kind of wines that are traded as a commodity, almost like stocks and shares.

All the bubbles in champagne are added by carbonation like a soft drink.
No. Actually, the bubbles are a result of natural reactions caused by the fermentation process, i.e. when added yeast causes the natural sugars in the grape juice to convert to alcohol.

The aromas of a wine, e.g. strawberry, pineapple, apple, vanilla, etc, are added synthetically by the winemaker.
Wrong again. In fact, wine naturally contains compounds that are very similar to other fruits and vegetables, which are created by the environment the grapes grow in. These compounds are released during fermentation, therefore producing distinct aromas and flavours.

Does sparkling wine make you drunk more quickly than still wine?
Sure does! Studies have concluded that drinking sparkling wine of the same alcohol level as a still wine will create a significantly higher blood alcohol level after a shorter period of time due to the CO2 (carbon dioxide) accelerating the speed of the alcohol’s journey through the body.

All riesling is sweet.
Nope. If you don’t enjoy sweet wine and you have cancelled riesling from your party guest list due to this misconception, it’s time to think again. Beautiful dry riesling is abundant, and Australia is one of the biggest producers. Rieslings from the Clare and Eden Valleys, along with French riesling from Alsace, are usually a safe bet. Check the label carefully, because it will be clearly noted if the wine has a sweet or dry leaning.

High quality wines always have a cork closure, whereas screwcaps are generally used for cheap or lower quality wines.
Wrong again! Wine closures are a never-ending debate, and you will often find experts have strong preferences one way or another. Of course, cork provides a much more entertaining experience at the table, but if the wine isn’t stored correctly or the quality of the cork is inferior, the wine can be ruined. Screwcap – otherwise known as stelvin – doesn’t allow air to circulate in the wine in the way that cork can, which makes its use as a closure for long-term storage still an unknown. Each producer selects their closure based on what they believe will work best for their wine but, for now – when a wine is destined for cellaring – cork is still king.

If you would like to learn more, check out PAIRED: Champagne & Sparkling Wines – The food and wine matching recipe book for everyone by David Stevens-Castro and Fran Flynn. The book is available from good bookstores nationwide, www.paired-media.com (pre-Christmas offer, online coupon code ‘freepost’) and internationally on amazon.com.

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