Wine – there’s a lot of misinformation out there about serving and drinking it. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learnt along the way.
1. Taking a cork out of a bottle allows wine to breathe
It doesn’t do anything at all. The neck of a bottle is too narrow to allow air to reach more than a tiny bit of the wine. If you need to aerate a young red, decant it. Sometimes, if it’s just the two of us, I’ll simply pour some into our glasses 10 minutes before drinking and swirl the wine around a bit.
2. All red wine needs decanting
No it doesn’t. Generally, it’s only needed for older wines which have developed a sediment (although care needs to be taken with really old wines) and young wines which need to calm down a bit. Here’s some good advice from New York magazine.
3. Grand Vin means you are buying the best Bordeaux
You may be – but not because it says ‘Grand Vin’. This is not an official title bestowed by the authorities on a great wine. It is simply the name a particular chateau bestows on what it believes is its best wine. Terms like Grand Cru and Premier Cru are better indications of quality .
4. The word ‘bin’ signifies quality
It’s the name given to an area in a wine cellar where a wine is stored, but it’s now primarily used for branding by Australian winemakers. A bin end sale simply means it’s the end of a certain range of wine, be it a particular vintage or one that the seller doesn’t intend to stock in the future.
5. Red wine doesn’t go with fish
Yes it does – depending on the fish and the red of course. A tannic wine with an oily fish like salmon would be a pretty nasty experience. But it is lovely with a fruity, low tannin grape like Gamay or Merlot. A light or medium Pinot Noir can go nicely with many fish including cod and tuna. Check out Nat Decants for some great food and wine pairing guidance.
6. Red wine should always be served with cheese
Not necessarily. A vigorous, muscular Cabernet with a salty cheese like Roquefort can taste unpleasant. But a dessert wine such as a Tokaji or a Sauternes makes it a totally different experience, where the sweetness of the wine complements the salty food rather than clashes with it. And soft goats cheese is wonderful with Sauvignon Blanc.
7. All Chardonnays are big oaky numbers
Pity the poor Chardonnay. Forever tarnished in many people’s minds as a New World blockbuster that can punch your lights out from ten paces. We’ve all heard someone saying: “I like Chablis, but I hate Chardonnay…”, blaming the type of grape for how the wine was made. Depending on where it is grown and the winemaking technique, it can range from light green fruit flavours to lush tropical tastes. Oaking is optional.
8. Chardonnay is everywhere so it must be the most widely planted grape in the world
It’s actually Airén, in terms of the amount of land taken up by the grape, and almost all of it is grown in Spain.
9. All Germans wine tastes like Blue Nun
You really would have thought that had gone away now. But no. Few of my friends would willingly touch a German wine because they think it will all taste like an over-sweet fruit bomb. Sadly, I don’t think the German wine industry has done much to dispel that myth beyond oenophiles. Maybe it feels it doesn’t need to. But get to know your Rielsing Kabinett and Spätlese trockens and you could be in for a dry but aromatic treat. And Germany also produces some nice Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder). Read wine writer Jamie Goode’s features on German wines to learn more.
10. Drinking wine makes you fat
OK, this is a bit of a cheat, because if you drink lots of it and don’t exercise it off, of course it can, especially those with high alcohol levels (ABV’s). But it doesn’t automatically make you fat. If you enjoy wine, build it into your daily calorie allowance, exercise more and trade off some fatty food against a glass of wine or two. Duh!