There’s no good reason to hide your boxed wine from company or to feel ashamed about dunking a few ice cubes in your Pinot. And for those of you who still consider these sins unforgivable, it’s time to rethink the “rules” of wine consumption. Here are 11 myths we need to let go of.
MYTH 1: PROFESSIONAL WINE TASTERS KNOW WHAT THEY’RE DOING.
Both consumers and producers of wine are guilty of placing too much faith in the “superior” palates of professional judges. Customers see a golden seal on a bottle as a sign of high quality, when in reality they’re doled out based on junk science and unsubstantiated opinion.
Starting in 2005, a retired oceanography professor and winery owner conducted experiments at various wine competitions over the course of several years in which judges were unwittingly asked to rate the same bottle of wine up to three times. His findings showed that only 10 percent of judges were consistent, and even those who were the first time around didn’t stay that way year-to-year. So instead of buying wine that’s been approved by so-called experts, trust your own opinion—it’s likely just as valid.
MYTH 2: BOXED WINE IS FOR PLEBIANS.
Boxed wine is portable, durable, and cheap, which is why so many wine snobs still turn their noses up at it. But any costs that are saved come from shipping and packaging, not from cuts made to the quality of the wine itself.
Other parts of the world have warmed up to the convenience of boxed wine, with it accounting for 50 percent of the markets in Australia, Sweden, Norway, and Brazil. In the U.S., it accounts for just 18 percent of wine sales, but that number’s predicted to rise as Americans grow out of their antiquated prejudices against cardboard.
MYTH 3: YOU MUST SERVE REDS WITH MEAT AND WHITES WITH FISH.
Even for those of us who stare blankly when confronted with an extensive wine list, it’s common knowledge that something red goes with meat and something white goes with fish. But there’s a wide spectrum of “red somethings” and “white somethings,” and the same holds true for meat and fish.
A fatty, meaty fish like tuna, salmon, or swordfish pairs much better with a medium-bodied red than it would with a lighter white wine. And though some aficionados may shudder at the thought, it’s even possible to pair white wine with a bloody steak as long as you find the right one. A fruity, robust white like chenin blanc is perfectly capable of holding its own against a thick slab of beef.
MYTH 4: ALL WINE GETS BETTER WITH AGE.
If you’ve ever kept an unopened bottle of wine in your pantry for years, waiting for it to increase in quality and value, you might have been wasting your time. A whopping 90 percent of all wine produced in the world is meant to be consumed within a year or two from when it’s made, and many wine enthusiasts actually prefer wine when it’s young and fresh.
MYTH 5: YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF PUTTING ICE IN YOUR WINE.
The fastest way to incur the judgment of every wine snob within a 10-foot radius is to foul your wine glass with ice. It’s an act that’s become associated with poor taste and low class, but there are plenty of occasions when dropping a few ice cubes into your vino would be more than acceptable. Ice can be used to temper wine that’s especially alcoholic, similar to what you would do with a good scotch or bourbon. Chilling your wine also helps to bring out its subtle flavors and nuances (not to mention, makes for better sipping on a sweltering day).
MYTH 6: BOTTLES OF WINE WITH A CORK STOPPER ARE BETTER THAN BOTTLES WITH TWIST-OFF TOPS.
Screw caps have been used on wine bottles since the 1950s, but some people still insist on labeling them as inferior to cork. The reality is that screw-caps have actually been proven to perform better than corks in protecting wine from harmful oxidation.
MYTH 7: THE MORE EXPENSIVE THE WINE, THE BETTER IT TASTES.
When it comes to differentiating expensive wine from the cheap stuff, most people haven’t got a clue. One survey asked hundreds of people to identify the price range of a wine they had just sampled. Surprisingly, the participants were wrong so often that they would have been better off flipping a coin. And a different study showed that people enjoyed what they were told were expensive wines more than cheap wines, even if the actual wines had no price difference.
MYTH 8: SWEET WINES ARE FOR AMATEURS.
Those who prefer their wine sweet are often classified as unsophisticated and pedestrian. In reality, some of the most prized and revered wines in the world land on the sweeter side. Riesling appears on the list of most expensive wines more than once, and French Sauternes and Italian Amarone rank up there with the best wines money can buy. One of the greatest joys in life is relaxing with a glass of dessert wine after a meal, and no one should be bullied into denying themselves that.
MYTH 9: CHAMPAGNE CAN ONLY BE ENJOYED ON SPECIAL OCCASIONS.
In this day and age, it’s a tragedy that something as delicious as champagne is reserved for a few fleeting occasions per year. You don’t need to wait around for an excuse to pop open a bottle of bubbly: It pairs perfectly with vegetables and seafood and is considered one of the more versatile wines for drinking with food. And you don’t have to break the bank to drink like a celebrity—there are plenty of quality sparkling wines that can be purchased in the $10-$20 range.
MTYH 10: WHEN IT COMES TO BOTTLES, SIZE MATTERS.
This myth started decades ago when the Italians and the French used dark, heavy bottles to indicate more serious wines. This practice has since been hijacked by marketers who use it to sell wine that’s less classy than its packaging would suggest. These hefty bottles come with a price tag to match, which is enough to convince some consumers that the wine is high quality. However, the greater price is actually just a sign of inflated shipping costs. Do your wrists and your wallet a favor and opt for something more lightweight.
MYTH 11: BLENDED WINES ARE INFERIOR.
Blended wines, as the name suggests, are made using two different types of grapes. These are usually cheaper, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth drinking. A skilled blender is capable of combining two inexpensive varieties of grapes to develop big flavors. Some winemakers are even able to pass off their blends as authentic varietals (wines made from one variety of grape), fooling even top-class experts.
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