Everyday wine myths busted by the most respected wine critic in the world, Jancis Robinson.
1. The more expensive the bottle, the better the wine
Best-value bottles retail between £8 and £20. Below £8 there’s usually too little left after fixed costs and taxes to pay for the wine, so poor quality is likely. Above £20 and you risk paying for ego, ‘positioning’ and the vagaries of the fine wine market.
2. The heavier the bottle, the better the wine
Wine producers, particularly in Spanish-speaking countries for some reason, have used thick glass as a marketing tool, but it is very wasteful of the world’s resources and most top wine producers are more sensible.
3. Old World wines will always be better than New World wines
There is good and bad everywhere.
4. You must drink red wine with meat and white wine with fish
There are one or two tricks you can play when thinking about food to match a particular wine:
Aromatic, full whites such as Riesling and Gewürztraminer, even pretty fruity ones, can be lovely with spicy foods, especially those with a Thai accent.
If you want to continue to drink wine with something sweet, do make sure the wine is even sweeter than the food – otherwise the wine will taste horribly tart and thin.
5. Really good wines come in a bottle with an indentation (‘punt’) in the base
Punts are often there for marketing reasons.
6. Red wine is stronger than white
Many reds today are only 12% or less.
7. All wine improves with age
This applies to probably less than 10% of all the wine made today. It is only the grandest, most expensive wines – particularly those from France and Italy – that are specifically designed to be stored for many years or even decades after they are put on the market.
8. You’re given a taste of the wine you’ve ordered in a restaurant to see whether you like it or not
One of the last remaining rituals of restaurant service is the pouring of small sample. I bet the great majority of those who do the trying (and indeed of those who do the pouring) aren’t too sure of the point of it, which is for the person who has ordered the wine to check the temperature and whether it has a fatal flaw.
9. Pink wine and sweet wines are for women
10. All wine is improved by ‘breathing’ between opening and pouring
Like many wine scientists, I am sceptical that much can happen to the contents of a bottle of wine via the small surface area in a bottleneck, but it is certainly true that exposure to air can have a massive effect on a wine. Too much aeration of a really old, frail wine can destroy it. On the other hand, judicious aeration of a young wine can mimic the ageing process to a certain extent.
This is an extract from The 24-Hour Wine Expert by Jancis Robinson, published by Penguin, RRP £4.99.