January 26, 2015
Demystifying Wine Myths
The world of wine is one overfilled with opinions; and some of these viewpoints are so persuasive, or so deeply rooted, that, despite their falsehood, they become seen as facts. So we’ve called in two of the country’s top sommeliers, Victoria Kulinich (sommelier at The Restaurant at Meadowood) and Andy Chabot (Blackberry Farm's wine director) to help us find the truth about five of the most common misconceptions about wine. Take a look:
Myth #1: Wine is the most marked-up item on restaurant menus, and unjustly so.
Truth: In reality, everything at a restaurant is marked up—a restaurant is still a business that has to make a profit, after all, explains Chabot, noting that food, soda, coffee and tea are typically more marked up than wine. That $3 soda you just bought only cost the restaurant a few cents, whereas wine is usually only marked up 2 to 3 times. “People notice the markup between retail cost and restaurant cost, but just because wine can be expensive doesn’t mean it’s overpriced.” Adds Kulinich, “[Just like food, wine requires] the service, the staff to do it and the place to store it safely.”
Myth #2: The more expensive the bottle, the better the wine.
Truth: “Most expensive wines are not the best—they’re the rarest, the most sought-after and they got the highest ratings from one person with just one palette, but they’re not the best,” says Chabot. Kulinich agrees: “Price and quality are not always hand in hand when it comes to wine—there are great wines to be had that will not break the bank; more and more of them each year, actually. Maybe they do not have the pedigree (yet), and maybe their facilities are not top-of-the-line, but the soul and quality are there.” Not sure what to order? Ask the sommelier to recommend the best wine they’d drink under a certain price point, says Chabot.
Myth #3: Wines sealed with a screwcap are worse than wines sealed with a cork.
Truth: “There are now more high-end wines getting the screwcap treatment than ever before,” says Kulinich, who adds that the controversy comes from how the wine ages under the screwcap. Chabot explains, “My experience has been that wines with a screwcap perform very similarly in the first couple years of a wine’s life, but once a wine starts to age and you want it to show some age, a cork is better. Put simply, screwcaps are almost too good of a closure because they don’t allow any oxygen in.”
Myth #4: All Rosé and Riesling are extremely sweet wines.
Truth: “Though few can be sweet, not all are,” says Kulinich. “Rosé has been getting drier and drier the farther away in time we got from our infamous White Zinfandel. The majority today is floral, fresh and dry. Riesling too—when it comes to what has been flooding the market recently, it’s all about the dry, dry, dry. Sweet Riesling might just become an endangered species.” Chabot seconds that notion, “It’s just so disappointing—Riesling is probably most sommeliers’ favorite grape, and most are dry, just like good Rosés are dry. The problem is, large marketing campaigns support really crappy products that convince the world these wines are all sweet. We need a big, unified push to change that perception—if consumers realize these wines aren’t cloying, they’ll start asking for it, which will make retailers actually start selling them.” Unsure whether the bottle you’re holding is sweet or dry? Chabot, who recommends Kung Fu Girl Riesling ($12), says to look for French Rosé (which is almost always dry) and to look at the alcohol content. “If it’s 12 percent or higher, than its dry, but 7 percent or lower and you’re in sweet country.”
Myth #5: All wines taste better with age, so the older the vintage, the better the wine.
Truth: “Absolutely no—just as many wines need to be poured and enjoyed in their bright youth,” affirms Kulinich. “Different wines have varied goals in life.” Of course, wines change with age, but that doesn’t mean they’re better, adds Chabot. “Wines are fruitier, juicier and more jammy when they’re young, and they soften as they age; reds become earthier and whites have more caramel or toasted notes.” But the thing is: it’s all about your taste preference. If you prefer earthier wines, aged wines might taste better to you; if not, stick with youthful wines. “Focus on what you love, not on how old the vintage is,” says Chabot.