1) Wine goes bad and starts turning into vinegar about a day after popping the cork.
FALSE: A freshly opened bottle can last more than three days, and typically the wine gets better as time goes by.
Independent Studies by the Wine Institute have shown that wine drinkers actually prefer a wine the longer it has been opened (those studied preferred 3 days old to 2 days old, and 2 days old to 1 day old etc.).
To my mind this is the most insidious myth, so I put it first. It’s insidious because it causes people to either not drink a wine because they fear they won’t be able to finish the bottle in one night or, even worse, to neglect or throw out perfectly good wine because they think it has gone bad.
2) Uncorking a bottle for a few hours before drinking to “let it breathe” will improve and soften the wine.
FALSE: This one is a little controversial, but tests show that simply uncorking a bottle of wine doesn’t do much to let a wine open up due to the small surface area of the wine exposed to air. One good analogy I’ve heard: Expecting a wine to breathe by popping the cork is like expecting a weary traveler to feel refreshed from a long plane ride by simply opening the cockpit door.
To really let the wine breathe you need to decant it and let it stretch its legs. And speaking of legs…
3) Wine “legs” or “tears” indicate high quality in wine.
FALSE: “Legs” are the viscous clear streams of fluid that run down the inside of a glass after the wine has been swirled. In general more pronounced legs do indicate a greater amount of alcohol in the wine, but legs or tears indicate nothing about the quality of the wine.
Fredric Koeppel explains it well:
“It would require several paragraphs to explain this phenomenon fully, but the short version is this: The contention between the surface tension of the wine and the interfacial tension that acts between the wine and the inner surface of the glass draws the liquid up the inside of the glass to the point where, exposed to air, the alcohol evaporates, the surface tension of the remaining water intensifies, and the water forms a drop that clings to the glass and slowly slides back down.”
4) Smelling the cork can tell you something about a wine’s quality.
FALSE: Smelling the cork won’t tell you anything about the quality of the wine. The waiter or sommelier at a restaurant will hand you the cork so you can check to see if there is mold or if the cork is broken, but smelling it won’t tell you if the wine is corked or not. For that you need to smell the wine itself.
Also, for you CSI types ordering the older, more expensive wines, the cork should have the vintage date on it and it should match the vintage printed on the label. If it’s different, you can ask for a new bottle since the one you’ve been given has been doctored!
5) You need a different wine glass for different types of wine (Burgundy, Bourdeaux etc.).
FALSE: Slews of tests have shown that a standard ISO wine glass allows you to pick up the bouquet of both red and white wines as well or better than specialty glasses.
In general, as long as the glass is taller than it is wide, whatever you choose to serve your wine in will be fine.
6) “Old Vine” and “Reserve” have specific meanings that guarantee quality.
FALSE: The terms “Old Vine” and “Reserve” have no legal or generally agreed upon meaning. An “old vine” to me might be 120 years old, but to another winery wanting to market its wines as “old vine” 35 years could just as easily suffice. Likewise “reserve” can mean the best 4 barrels of production in one context, or a couple million cases a year in another. While the terms give some information about the wine in the bottle, it’s best not to assign too much weight to them.
7) Dom Perignon invented Champagne.
FALSE: Our favorite monk is famous not for inventing Champagne, but for devising the mushroom cork and metal closure that allowed vintners to keep the bubbles in the bottle. The pressure in a bottle of Champagne is about 90 pounds per square inch, which is roughly 3 times the recommended pressure for filling automobile tires. Because of this, at the time Perignon invented the closure, people were having a difficult time keeping the corks on their bottles.
8) The first winery in Napa was Mondavi.
FALSE: Charles Krug Winery was the first, founded in 1861. Mondavi was the first to open a winery in Napa after prohibition ended however, and has since bought Charles Krug.
9) The first winery in California was in Napa.
FALSE: The first winery in California was Buena Vista Winery, established in 1857 in Sonoma County.
10) The first winery in the US was in California.
FALSE: Not even close! The very first commercial winery was established in 1823, and was located in Missouri. Interestingly the very first AVA recognized by the BATF was in Missouri as well: Augusta.
Bonus link: More wine myths at Grape Radio.
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