Published on October 6, 2017 | by Alastair Gilmour


Many a myth ’twixt glass and lip

There’s a lot of nonsense talked about wine, writes Vincent Zeller

The secret of selecting a high quality bottle of wine, regardless of price, is akin to learning a secret society handshake. “That’s the gods’ honest truth,” according to a friend of mine. He firmly believes – and he’s been told by “people in the know” that to judge a good wine, you only need to feel the bottom of the bottle. They probably tapped the side of their nose while they spilled the beans. If the bottle has an indentation as opposed to being flat across, you’ve cracked it, even if you’ve paid £3.99 in a newsagents.

This large dimple is called a punt and the reasons it is there are many and varied – stacking bottles in small spaces, rigidity, easier held when pouring, all have their merits – but nobody really knows. As for judging whether one wine is better than another, it is complete balderdash (sorry Sean).

This highlights one of the common misconceptions about wine. There is a mystery to it which in many ways is promoted by those who make it and those who sell it. Little wonder then that daft ideas abound.

There’s the one about only wines sealed with a cork can age well, therefore they’re more sought-after – and screwcaps are for cheaper wines. Nonsense again. These days, even super-premium wines are using screwcaps and there is no technical reason whatsoever that they won’t age just as well or taste as good as those finished with cork. Anyway virtually every bottle of supermarket wine or those available in pubs is designed to be consumed within 18 months.

Sweet wines are for beginners, not educated palates, goes another old saw. Actually, the opposite has more truth about it. Some of the greatest wines in the world are sweet, almost decadent in their honeyed notes. Sauterne, Ice Wine, Trockenbeerenauslese – the high sugar content dessert wine from Austria and Germany – are immensely flavourful and also quite ageworthy. Generally the more educated palates are the ones they appeal to most.

Finally, the most common wine myth of all – red with meat, white with fish. Admittedly, it’s not a bad guideline but it’s no more than that, a guideline. Generalisations like this encourage laziness and lack of experimentation and risk creating the boredom of matching the same meals with the same drinks ad infinitum. Be a daredevil, push that envelope.

Even perfectionists will stray from the white/fish, red/meat mantra from time to time – and congratulate themselves on their capacity to be creative. For example, people like that have discovered the best wine for a grilled salmon steak is probably red – like a Pinot Noir or a Bardolino – and not white at all. Veal and pork do equally well with red or white wines, depending on how the dish is prepared. And what can be better with barbecued meats and hot dogs than a cold glass of rosé?

The message is clear; don’t get too hung up on wine rules and if you suspect that what you’re being told is a myth, it most probably is. They’re your tastebuds, you can never be wrong.

About the Author

Alastair Gilmour

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