Wine myths that need to die



1. "Real men" only drink full bodied reds

Wine professionals often generalize big, bold styles as "Dad wines". For whatever reason, a large contingent of people who buy the category tend to be men.


I used to delight in intentionally not pouring red wine for these types who'd come into the winery where I was working at the time; until they tried something else, only then would I give them an opportunity to taste the reds they came looking for.


This phenomenon has been proven time and again hearing stories from my Dad, whose many affluent, doctor type bros refuse to drink anything but hyped up, cult wines (think Screaming Eagle, Opus One or Caymus).


Once, when embarking on a trip with his friends, my Dad endeavored me to put together a mixed case of wine - any type, and preferably a mix of high-low - in an effort to "prove" his buddies wrong, with the hopes of coaxing them out of their archaic ways. Most turned their noses at my selections, until my Dad decided to conduct an experiment. He took an empty bottle of Black Hills Nota Bene and filled it with some of the light bodied Spanish Garnacha (see myth 2!) I'd sent him there with. Well, what do you know - it was the best thing they'd ever tasted!


Don't be like those guys. Taste everything, and don't confine yourself to one box. The wine world is technicolor. Don't miss out on something you might love, all because you convinced yourself you hate it.


2. Light bodied means light flavoured

It's easy to cast off Pinot Noir, Gamay, Grignoligno or any light red - their colour can trick your brain into thinking the palate will match its appearance. Don't let your sensory perception fool you!


In recent years, light reds have surged the market for their versatility: Drink them cold! Eat them with a Big Mac! Pair with fish! (see myth number 3)


There's an old adage that speaks to the intensity but lightness of Burgundy: its delicate body can be deceiving. What it may lack in weight, it makes up for in flavour and complexity.


With every style comes every colour in the rainbow: from ephemeral, transcendent pinot noir you can sit with for 8 hours and revel in, to light, juicy Hemingway picnic wine, like smashable Gamays that scream to be tossed in a cool stream, perfect for quenching sunny day imbibing.


3. White wine pairs with fish and red wine pairs with steak

Stereotypes exist for a reason. Generally, they're true. Although this rule can elicit eye rolls from your in-the-know wine friends, has it really ever led you astray?


Science has helped us to understand why these generalizations are so rampant. Wine chemist Francois Chartier explains in his book "Tastebuds and Molecules" why certain wines pair so well with certain flavours. Sauvignon blanc, for example, contains a compound known as methoxy pyrazine lending herbaceous and green aromas, which pair best with similar flavours found in salads full of fresh herbs.


Exceptions always exist. Yet, avoid stepping outside of conventions results in missing out on some pretty incredible experiences.


Some of my favourite pairings that have been accidentally amazing: Chardonnay and beef tartare, Zinfandel with Thai food, or La Crescent with mortadella.


There are so many moving parts in a wine. Hyper focusing on a single dimension like its colour will most likely result in really boring, lacklustre pairings.


The rules are that there aren't any. Trial and error can lead to some fabulous pairings if you're not scared to take risks.


4. All rosé is sweet

It always fascinates me how one style of wine can take hold of an entire market, and perpetuate such an antiquated belief.


Although I don't hear this myth much anymore, when I worked in winery tasting rooms, I would often hear this from boomers who were still nursing 30 year long hangovers from over indulging in white Zinfandel in the late 80s.


Wine can be sweet, off dry, dry or anywhere in between. It can be whatever the winemaker decides they want it to be - whether that's through natural fermentation steering the end style, or an addition of sugar to impart balance, give weight or ferment to a higher ABV.


Assuming an entire category of wine is one note is akin to thinking all music sounds the same.


5. Only red wine can age

Yet another misnomer I hear all the time when I speak to consumers: they're surprised when they taste older white wine.


Occasionally, I feature white wine that has a few years age on it, and without fail I'll get messages asking "what's wrong with it?".


The topic of aging wine remains a controversial one - experts can't really agree which factors preserve a wine's integrity.


The general consensus seems to be acidity, alcohol and tannin, though some argue otherwise, as noted in recent Guild Somm piece identifying far more factors than originally considered.


With the appropriate conditions, any colour of wine can age - if it was destined to do so. Tasting old wine is a privilege few get to experience in their lifetime - it can be transformative. I've always likened tasting old wine to sitting down with a grandparent or elder - though fragile, the stories and wisdom harboured are nothing you'll ever experience from a young wine.

6. All Chardonnay is buttery

See myth 4: yet another belief lingering from an era of poorly made wine.


30-40 years ago, over-oaking was commonplace, conditioning the consumer palate to desire unctuous and woody Chardonnay.


The problem with this style: hiding (bad) fruit with oak is like putting lipstick on a pig.


Over time, many wineries have begun to move away from this approach, favouring neutral oak showcasing purity of fruit over oak essence.


Somehow, the reputation still remains, accounting for a large swath of consumers part of the ABC club: anything but Chardonnay.


You're probably seeing a trend among these myths: generalizations are your enemy.


7. Expensive wine is always better


I know plenty of people with lots of money, but little common sense. When they eat out, often at fine dining establishments, they order the most expensive bottle, assuming the price tag dictates its quality.


While shelling out $30 or more for a bottle of wine should assure you a great bottle, the strategies of pricing wine is complex and myriad.


How old is the winery? Is there a mortgage on the land, or has it been passed down? What sort of labour does the winery depend on, is it farmed out to foreign workers or do they pay living wages to locals? What taxes, levies and fees are they required to pay to local government? Is it an easy drinking table wine, or has it been aged in barrel for two years? Where has it travelled from? How much has the wine been marked up?


While it's unreasonable to assume the average consumer will consider the aforementioned; an easy suggestion I always make is going directly to the source. Build relationships with your local farmers and winemakers, and you might be surprised at the quality you can discover for reasonable prices.


8. Natural wine tastes funky


You can thank the cool kid wine-fluencers for curating the current landscape of natural wine.


What comes to mind when you hear the term natural wine? It's probably something fermented in a cow's bladder that's cloudy, with aromas of barnyard and Kombucha.


We're living in an age of misinformation and anti-knowledge, where any larper can take to the social media stage. Anyone can now masquerade as an expert. Grifters cultivating and exploiting the community are often those with the least knowledge, experience or education, diminishing the value of well made natural wine.


Bad wine is bad wine, whether natural or not. While preference is objective, I can safely bet you don't want your wine to smell of rusty nails or diarrhea.


Natural wine shouldn't be flawed, nor should those traits be sought out. Regardless if the wine is made conventionally or holistically, it still needs to be appealing.


9. Sulfites give you a headache


I was most often asked about sulhpites while working at wineries; when various Karen's wanted to know "how many sulphites were in their wine".


A favourite memory of mine while working the tasting bar at a winery job: A particularly annoying woman came in, demanding to know the exact amount of sulphites in her wine. No amount of coddling worked, resulting in bringing out the winemaker from the cellar. The winemaker said flatly, "There are 7 sulphites in your wine."


Often, the amount is so negligible the quantity reported on the bottle is purely for principle (since they are also naturally occurring). The measurements in which they're declared mean nothing to most: if I told you your wine had 30 parts per million, what would that mean to you?


An average glass of wine has the equivalent of what looks like a few granules of salt - about 100 times less than a basket of french fries or dried fruit.





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