Debunking the wine myths

There are a lot of “wine myths” circulating around in the world - and a lot of these myths people believe as if they were Gospel truth! But what if these staunch beliefs are actually negatively impacting the way people store, serve and purchase wines? This article is meant to give you newfound clarity by debunking some old beliefs, and it should help to increase your confidence.


Debunking the wine myths

by Dan Berger

Original article found on the Napa Valley Register, June 2016.

The myths that often are told as immutable truths regarding wine can be hard to abandon. And their persistence is annoying.

Recently, when I suggested here that fine sparkling wine should be stored standing upright, I received a number of phone calls from traditionalists who have always put Champagnes on their side.

“Shouldn’t we always keep the corks moist?” most asked.

I stored all sparkling wines on their side for many years until recently when I was enlightened by a respected sparkling wine maker that doing so ran the risk that the compressed cork could harden so much that it’s resiliency could be lost.

Standing the bubblies up was less risky, he said.

That got me thinking how about all of the myths we have blindly accepted for so long, and I realized I could write an entire book on this subject. Instead, let’s just look in a few of the truisms I have lived by for the last few decades and which now seem obsolete.

“Older red wines are better than younger reds.”

couple-tasting-wine

I love older, properly aged reds, and can’t even imagine how people can drink some wines as young as they do.

Pinot Noir is usually best at age 5, cabernet sauvignon at age 10, and even zinfandel is benefited by a few years of cellaring after release.

But I also realize that age can be an enemy of some wines. Occasionally, I open a mature red to find that its development has actually cut seriously into the wine’s overt fruit, which had been its primary benefit when young.

Such bottles often show even more deterioration as time goes on, and what once was a vibrant and fruity pleasure has since lost some of its pizzazz.

It doesn’t happen much with reliable brands, but when we discover such a bottle, we are often saddened at how much we have lost.

“Every year in California is a vintage year.”

california-wine-seal

It is true that vintages in California are rarely as erratic as they can be in other areas, but to allege that vintages do not really matter is to ignore one of the truths of our lives: vintages differ.

And not always predictably. When wines are released, they can occasionally indicate one thing, but actually deliver something completely different in just a few years.

The 2006 and 2011 vintages in California’s North Coast both were rather reticent when they came on the scene. Some high-powered wine writers said some unkind things about the red wines of those years in particular.

Since then, both vintages have proved to be wonderful, and those who accepted the blanket condemnation of them missed the point entirely.

An even better example, perhaps, is the 1998 vintage for cabernet sauvignon in California. The bad rap it got early on today seems completely unjustified.

“Rosé doesn’t age.”

It may well be true that pink wines are fruitiest and more elegant when they are young, and that maturity can rob such wines of their overt fruit.

But many rosés can be appealing with a little bit of time in the bottle, especially for those who appreciate how they emulate lighter reds.

This all came to mind last week when I had the chance to try a Dry Rosé Wine (that’s the phrase that appears on the back of the bottle) that was completely mystifying until I talked with the winery.

Domain Serene in Dayton, Ore., makes a small quantity of this pink wine every year and does so in a most untraditional manner, with 60 percent-plus pinot noir and some chardonnay (!) for the balance.

And the keyword is balance.

I was unprepared for what this wine would smell and taste like but I am utterly fascinated by it and can only applaud the adventure some nature that winery president Ryan Harris has imbued into this unusual rosé.

For one thing, this is a nonvintage wine since its pinot noir component is from 2015 and its barrel aged chardonnay fraction is from 2014.

The aroma has more of the pinot noir, the mid-palate is a reflection of the white wine, and the aftertaste is dry and most complex.

The oak component is extremely subtle, and the wine simply does not come across as a typical fruity and simple pink.

Indeed, if anything this stylish and fascinating bone dry wine breaks new ground for all rosé lovers, and cannot in any way be compared with traditional pink wine.

The closest parallel I can come up with is vin gris, occasionally found in France and made completely dry.

Demand for this unusual wine is always high, thus its higher price than most pink wines.

Learning about wine is a life-long pursuit. We hope this is the kind of article that will help you advance your understanding, while enhancing your enjoyment of all things wine!

Dan-Berger

NOTE: Dan Berger lives in Sonoma County, where he publishes “Vintage Experiences,” a weekly wine newsletter. Write to him at [email protected].