There are a number of beliefs in wine that are untrue and misleading. (Many of them seem to come from or be spread by so-called ‘wine experts’ themselves)
Here are some of my favorites that have popped up over my 25 years ‘in wine’ (part one):
- “To correctly age wine you need to turn the bottles”. False!
During the making of champagne the second fermentation in the bottle gives a sediment which with the turning and tilting of the bottles over time ends up in the neck of the bottle and easy to quickly discard. During ageing wine bottles need to be lying down so that the corks do not dry out and be kept at a constant temperature (15 to 17°C), ideally with little or no light.
2. “The legs of a wine are an indication of quality.” False!
The thickness of the legs (also called tears, windows) indicates the alcohol level in the wine, nothing else.
3. “Blended wines are inferior to varietal wines (those made from a single grape variety).” False!
Some of the best wines in the world are blended, all wines from Bordeaux and Champagne for example. In these cooler climates wine is made from at least three different of grape varieties that flower and are harvested at different times to spread the risk of climatic problems. At a chosen point during the ageing a complex selection is made and these separate wines are mixed together. The resulting wine is worth more than the sum of its parts (Descartes).
4. “The aromas in wines from fruits, flowers, herbs must come from flavours that have been added to wine”. False! Grapes are made up of the same molecules that can be found in flowers and fruits. These flavours occur naturally in the wine. The ‘bloom’ or white dust on the grape skin that holds the yeasts can absorb flavours in the grape’senvironment such as mint or eucalyptus.
Aromas such as vanilla, coffee and chocolate come from the ageing in oak barrel. Leather and truffle aromas that develop in old wines come from the ageing process, the slow gradual exposure to the air in the bottle.
5. “Merlot only makes fruity juicy wines.” False! Merlot has had a lot of undeserved bad press recently. It can produce big volumes of inoffensive juicy red wine. In the right ‘terroir’ environment it can produce some of the best and most expensive wines in the world. Merlot needs to be ‘treated mean’ in order to produce its best. A cool climate, severe pruning and a soil that restricts the flow of water to the vine produces concentrated, silky opulent Merlot. Château Cheval Blanc is predominantly Merlot. Petrus is almost 100% Merlot and is one of the world’s most expensive wines, in the thousands rather than the 100s.