Old Wivesí Tales

Old Wivesí Tales

21st Nov 2010

A collection of classic wine myths

Every culture has its selection of myths and nonsense. Parents like to use these old wivesí tales to get their children to bed early, eat green vegetables (see in the dark) or not watch too much television (square  eyes).  A particularly snobby relative of our founder James once told him that, ďif you donít marry into the appropriate postcode, your life will only last 7 years and 2 days and your children will be born as Siamese twins.Ē  She said this with complete conviction; although she was certified the week after bless her.

Wine drinking lore seems to be full of all this nonsense, myths that can spoil our enjoyment of this fabulous stuff. In response to the questions we have received from the community in previous weeks, here are a few of the most commonly encountered bits of tosh about wine.

1.)  Donít use the freezer to chill wine

Our favourite wine myth. It is absolutely harmless to the wine to use a freezer if you are in a hurry; we do it all the time.  Just more cold air circulating around than in a fridge. Anyway your freezer is less messy than an ice bucket. Just donít forget it is in there, as we have on more than one occasion!

2.) White wine and salt removes red wine stains (if caught quickly enough)

Nope, sadly not.  They just create more mess.  Put the stained item in the washing machine, add some vanish and pray.

3.) A teaspoon suspended in a bottle of partly consumed sparkling wine will help retain the fizz

We have a confession to make, our founder James used to do this when he was younger.  Trust us, it does not work.  If you believe that then youíll believe that Anne Widdecombe was voted sexiest woman alive in 2009. To work it would have to defy the basic laws of gas pressure. Only cold slows down the release of CO2 gas, or a cork stopper. Nothing else.

4.) Wine is just a matter of opinion Ė anything goes baby

This is the hardest contention to argue against. Of course, wine is a subjective thing and there are plenty of different opinions and plenty of room for them. But, like anything, there are standards and objective criteria too. No one would argue that a 5 star luxury hotel in the Bahamas offers the same experience as a Milton Keynes Travel Lodge!

5.) Old Wine is better than young wine

A most costly myth for wine buyers. At auctions, the sellers peddle this as a way of achieving high prices for their old bottles of Bordeaux. Often buyers at auction think that the older a Bordeaux wine, the better!  Recently a friend of ours brought several bottles of Burgundy and Bordeaux from the early 1980's. All but one of the Burgundies were faulty and oxidised, the reds were stale and undrinkable. Be very wary of old bottles at auction, knowing the vintage conditions for that year and the caliber of the winery is crucial. Is old wine better than young wine? Occasionally, mostly not.

6.) Great red wines don't taste good when they are young

At tastings you will often hear the organiser explain away the awfulness of a wine by the fact that itís too young. Well it is true that tannic wines can seem very harsh in their youth and it takes quite a few years for this austerity to soften. But, if a wine is likely to be good when it is old Ė no guarantee, mind you Ė it will taste impressive when young.  This is especially clear when tasting young Bordeaux wines, although the tannic structure may be harsh, all the component parts should be in well balanced proportions for the style of wine. Wines such as these often go through an adolescent phase after bottling, imagine Kevin the teenager. Then they will seem rough around the edges but the basic quality of the wine will shine through and in time the tannins will soften. But ugly youngsters do not become mature beauties!

7.) There is always a right age to drink fine wine

This especially applies to fine Bordeaux wines, where buyers will often be told to drink this particular wine in exactly 10-15 years time etc.  The truth is that itís almost impossible to say exactly when a wine will reach its peak drinking age.  Some fine wines are adolescent longer than others. When is the best time to drink this wine we are often asked. Well how long is a piece of string? Specialist reference books, and more importantly your own experience and preferences will provide you with some answers.

And last but not least (peddled by the French)

8.) France is the only country in the world that produces wine worth getting excited about

Complete and utter boll*cks!

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