Wine culture sometimes feels like it’s rulebound. Never pair white wine with a steak! Serve red wine at room temperature! You should always cellar your wine bottles! But how do we know that these “rules” are true? Unfortunately, there are a lot of myths and misperceptions out there.
Thankfully, our stewards want to help you understand and embrace wine culture. Below, they highlight six wine myths and do a little fact-checking.
Wine Myth #1: All Wine Gets Better with Age
False. Most wine you buy at the grocery store is best consumed within a year or two after you bring it home. Winemakers age their product before it leaves the vineyard and the majority of bottles are ready to drink upon purchase. If you hold onto this wine for three to five years, you’ll discover it has turned flat and brown and may have a musty or vinegary aroma.
The idea of a well-stocked wine cellar is a tempting image, but the best plan is to drink your wine right away, especially for bottles of low-tannin and value wine.
However, some wine needs aging—and if you open it too early, it may be overly acidic and tannic. If you purchase a high-quality bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, Brunello di Montalcino, Barolo, Barbaresco, Nebbiolo, or Amarone, check with our wine steward before you crack it open. (And if you’re storing wine, always keep it on its side in a cool and dry location.)
Wine Myth #2: Wine Blends are Inferior to Single-Varietals
False. You may associate blending with poor quality or inexpensive wine. In fact, there are many red blends whose flavors compete with single-varietal grape wines. Highly coveted Super Tuscans and Bordeaux are both blends of different grapes. (Bordeaux is always a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, but may also include Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot.)
Furthermore, you may be surprised to discover that many of your beloved “single varietal” wines are actually a blend. Under U.S. law, you can market wine as a single varietal as long as it contains at least 75% of the labeled grape. Many winemakers add other grapes to their single varietal wine to boost its complexity and flavors. There is one exception to this rule: wine made in Oregon must contain 90% of the labeled varietal.
In other words, your beloved California Cabernet Sauvignon may be a blend. Rather than fixate on the listed grapes, trust your intuition, consult with a wine expert, and focus on what you like. Two of our favorite blends are Francis Coppola Claret Black Label and Crios Red Blend.
Wine Myth #3: Red Wine with Red Meat, White Wine with Fish
Mostly True. This wine myth exists for a reason. White wine is usually best with fish because there aren’t as many tannins in white wine. Tannins, which come from the grape seeds and skin, react with fish oils resulting in a harsh metallic flavor. Red wine is processed with the seeds and skin, and white wine typically is not.
The exception to this pairing rule is serving a low-tannin red wine with fish. A Beaujolais, like Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages, is an excellent example of a low-tannin red. Rosé is also lovely with fish.
The tannins that make red wine challenging to pair with fish make it delicious with red meat. Tannic red wines can balance the flavors of rich red meat and offer a refreshing counterpoint. However, a rich, full-bodied white wine would be just fine to accompany your steak. We recommend trying a bottle of Edna Valley Vineyard Chardonnay.
Wine Myth #4: Corks are Better than a Screw Cap
False. There are pros and cons to using natural cork and screw tops to finish wine, but at the heart of the debate is this fact: cork does not indicate a more expensive or better bottle of wine. It’s just the historically preferred way of closing a bottle.
Screw tops offer many benefits. They don’t leave any “cork taint” in the wine, are easy to open, and can be aged. Don’t let the sight of a screw cap deter you from picking up a new bottle of wine next time you’re at the store; it won’t compromise its quality at all.
A few of our favorite screw cap wines include Justin Sauvignon Blanc, La Spinetta Rosé, and Meiomi Pinot Noir.
Wine Myth #5: Red Wine is Best Served at Room Temperature
Mostly True. Red wine is ideally served at 65° F; five degrees cooler than what’s thought of as “room temperature.” However, chilling a bottle of red wine for too long can mask its flavors and aromas. For an optimal drinking experience, we recommend pouring yourself a glass and letting it sit on the counter as you finish making dinner. If you store your wine at the recommended 55° F, or even in the fridge, the wine will transform from something flat and chilly to robust and fruity while you prepare your meal!
If you’re looking for a red to serve chilled, try using a bottle of Dark Horse Pinot Noir to make Spanish sangria or tinto de verano.
Wine Myth #6: Expensive Wines Are Better Wine
Mostly False. Expensive wines typically cost more to make, and a more costly winemaking process may result in a higher quality product. However, that does not mean expensive wines are inherently better. Many affordable wines have trimmed the fat from the production process to make their wine more accessible, and that doesn’t lower the quality at all!
Perhaps the most important factor is that of personal taste. When it comes to wine, follow your palate, rather than chasing bottles at a certain price point. We say it’s better to enjoy a bottle of value wine, rather than suffer through an expensive bottle that doesn’t reflect your taste.
On Sale This Week in Our Stores
For example, Dark Horse Rosé is a great example of a premium wine at an affordable price point, available this week in our stores. Serve chilled at 50° F, with fish or steak if you like. It’s all up to you.