Wine is popular, especially in the United States. In 2014, 375 million cases of wine were shipped to retailers in the United States. The total value of all of that wine? $37.6 billion. In fact, since 2010, the United States has been the largest wine-consuming country in the world.
With the increase in wine consumption in the United States, there has also been an increase in common wine misconceptions. That’s why we want to review the common wine mistakes many consumers make. Of course, the best way to enjoy wine is to drink it the way that is most enjoyable for you. This guide will help you continue to discover new ways to enjoy wine while avoiding some of the common myths and mistakes.
Common Wine Myths Debunked
The truth is, there are many misconceptions out there about wine, and we fear these myths are getting in the way of true wine enjoyment. Whether they influence your buying habits or cause you to serve your wine improperly, we feel these errors need to be corrected — and quick!
Myth 1: Wine with Sulfites Causes More Headaches
The dreaded red wine headache. For years, people have argued that sulfites, which occur at higher levels in red wine, cause headaches. While there are a select few who do have adverse reactions to sulfites, for the vast majority of wine drinkers, sulfites are fine. In reality, sulfites usually result in increased allergy and asthma symptoms, but have not been linked to headaches.
Even wines that are not labelled “Contains Sulfites” still have sulfites in them. All wines naturally contain sulfites, and many winemakers will also add small amounts of sulfites to help preserve them. This is the same for European and US wines, but the US government requires the added label since sulfites can cause allergic reactions in some people.
That headache is usually the result of an adverse reaction to drinking too much wine, and there are also new studies that may link it to histamines in wine, not sulfites.
Myth 2: Organic Wine Is Sulfite-Free
Organic wines will often advertise that they don’t have any sulfites added to their wine. This is true, as many winemakers add sulfites as a preservative. There are also plenty of naturally occurring sulfites that come from the skin of the grapes.
While organic wines do have fewer sulfites, they still have some. Unless you are one of the few people who experience truly adverse reactions to sulfites, drinking the same amount of organic wine as traditional wine will give you the same headache.
Myth 3: Dry Wines Have Fewer Calories
The more sugar, the more calories, right? Well, alcohol is also caloric. Just because the sugars have been fermented into alcohol doesn’t mean the wine is lower calorie.
Instead, think about how much sugar the wine started with before fermentation and overall alcohol content. A big dry red wine may not have much residual sugar, but it started with a lot before that sugar was turned into alcohol.
If you want a low-calorie wine, look for a dry wine that is also low in alcohol – this indicates that the wine started with less sugar. Low alcohol wines are generally below 12.5% for whites and below 13% for reds. Certain styles of wine are known for being lower alcohol such as Prosecco, Moscato, German Riesling and Vinho Verde just to name a few.
Myth 4: Old Wines Are Better
This is wrong on a couple of levels. First, white wines typically shouldn’t be aged. They are designed to be enjoyed fresh when all of the subtle, delicate flavors can be appreciated.
Even red wines typically have a shelf life. In fact, 90 percent of red wines are designed to be consumed within five years of bottling. While it is true that wine may taste “young” — as if it hasn’t aged enough — this doesn’t mean you should hold on to a bottle for 20 years. Only a truly special wine will be markedly better decades later.
Myth 5: Aging Wine Will Increase Its Value
Just as wine doesn’t always get better with age, it typically doesn’t increase in value either. The reason famous vintages are so expensive is because they are famed wines that weren’t produced in large quantities.
In today’s market, winemakers are better at making the right amount of wine for the market. If a certain label isn’t flying off of the shelves, it probably will be worth about the same amount years from now.
However, if you are interested in cellaring, and you see a label with a growing demand, you can feel confident that it will probably go up in value with time.
Myth 6: Cheap Wine Isn’t Good Wine
The wine market is far more complicated than this simple equation. While expensive wine is likely of the highest quality, there are plenty of winemakers making excellent wines at a good price point.
Much of the value of wine depends on the scarcity of the grape varietal being used. However, just because a grape is abundant doesn’t mean it isn’t good.
Furthermore, sometimes a winemaker overestimates the market and releases too many bottles. While the wine may be very good, at some point, retailers need to move stock and will mark down the price of the wine.
Instead of shopping purely by price, check out Wine Advocate scores and ask your friendly wine distributor for advice. You may find a great wine for a bargain.
Myth 7: A Screw Top Means the Wine Is Low-Quality
The truth is, while corks are traditional, they aren’t always the best for preserving wine. Many winemakers who are worried about cork contamination are using screw tops, which are less likely to damage wine while preserving freshness better.
This is especially true of white wines, which are more susceptible to spoilage due to their delicate nature. Don’t be scared to buy a well-reviewed wine, even if you see a screw top.
Myth 8: The Best Wines Bear the “Reserve” Label
This is a trick winemakers use to make their wine seem higher quality. The truth is that in the United States, the term “reserve” means nothing. While many winemakers may use the term to distinguish special wines from their more common offerings, you can’t assume wine is higher quality just because it’s labeled “reserve.” Check the quality of the vineyard first before trusting the buzzword.
Myth 9: Red Wines Should NEVER Be Chilled
While it is true that most reds should be served at room temperature (see our discussion of wine temperature below) there are a few exceptions.
One popular label that should be chilled is Beaujolais Nouveau. This wine is made from the very first grapes harvested every year, giving it a delicate flavor not unlike white wines.
Many of these exceptions will include the temperature recommendation on the label.
Myth 10: Good Wines Have Legs
This one is a favorite myth that is repeated often, as anyone who has been to a wine tasting can attest. Wine legs are the streaks of wine that linger on the sides of the glass after swirling, also referred to by the French as the “tears of a wine”.
Most people think they relate to the quality, sweetness or viscosity of a wine. However wine legs are just an indication of how much alcohol is in a wine. The evaporation of higher alcohol wines results in streaks and legs on the wine glass.
Myth 11: All Wine Has the Same Alcohol Content
The truth is, there are a lot of factors that influence the level of alcohol. In fact, some winemakers even add alcohol to fortify their wines. Don’t assume a bottle will have the same amount of alcohol like any other. Make sure to check the label.
Myth 12: The Best Wines Come From Famed Wine Regions
While the famous winemaking regions of France, Italy and California certainly do produce many world-class wines, there are many up-and-coming wine regions that are just waiting to be discovered. Places such as Moldova, the Czech Republic, South Africa and Lebanon are all starting to get the attention of wine-lovers in the know.
Many of these regions have been producing wine for a long time, but their bottles were consumed locally and never made it into the international market. Luckily, intrepid winemakers looking to expand traveled to the famed wine regions of the world and brought their experiences back.
If you want to taste something special while enjoying the thrill of the unknown, usually at a much lower price, give a new region a try.
Common Wine Drinking Mistakes
Let’s move on to some common wine mistakes. While it’s best not to get too caught up in the “correct” way to drink wine – no one wants to be the resident wine snob – these tips can help you to more fully appreciate the wine you are drinking.
Mistake 1: Serving Wine at the Wrong Temperature
Wine aficionados can get pretty uptight about wine temperature — but they aren’t wrong. Wine that is too cold will be dull and lifeless, losing all of the robustness of the fruit. However, you also don’t want to serve wine too warm, especially a white wine, because then the flavor of the alcohol will be too pronounced.
Most wine styles have a specific ideal temperature, but a general rule of thumb is to serve heavy reds closer to room temperature while serving sweeter whites at around 39 degrees.
Mistake 2: Storing Wine at the Wrong Temperature
Even if you don’t plan on drinking your wine any time soon, you don’t want to let it get too hot while storing it. That’s why wines are stored in cellars, not attics.
Regardless of the style, you should store your wine at around 55 degrees. Even if it is a wine that should be served chilled, don’t begin chilling it until you are ready to open the bottle. Also, try not to chill and warm and then re-chill your wine over and over. If you put a bottle in the fridge, it’s best to keep it in there until you drink it.
However, if the bottle of wine has already been opened, then you want to make sure to store it chilled, even if it is a red. Wine has a very short shelf life after it has been exposed to oxygen. Keeping opened wine cooler helps slow down the chemical processes that begin the moment you open the bottle.
Mistake 3: Not Letting Your Wine Breathe
Have your fancy wine friends ever opened a bottle and poured a glass only to let it sit there for a while before drinking it? There is good science behind what they are doing.
Wine is bottled to prevent spoilage, which means it is separated from oxygen. But oxygen, while initiating a process that will eventually lead to spoilage, is needed to make your wine taste the way it is supposed to.
This is especially true of young red wines. Tannic acid in red wines mellows over time — but they mellow much faster when exposed to oxygen. Too many tannins in wine can overpower the other, subtler flavors. A young wine with strong tannins will benefit from up to two hours of aeration. If it is an aged wine, you will likely only need 30 minutes or so to get the best out your wine.
On the other hand, most white wines do not need to breathe. They are rarely aged and have far fewer tannins, making them more delicate.
Mistake 4: Not Using the Correct Glass
While it is true that sometimes wine snobs go overboard on glassware, it is important you have at least a few different glass styles on hand. A complex wine, for example, will benefit from a large bowl. This gives the wine a lot of surface area allowing oxygen to do its work. Plus, a larger bowl will allow more aromas to reach your nose.
On the other hand, white wines benefit from narrow glasses. Since white wine should not be exposed to oxygen to the same extent that red wine is, a narrow flute reduces surface area and oxygen exposure. Furthermore, if it is a sparkling wine, exposure to oxygen also reduces carbonation.
Finally, a stemmed wine glass is best for white wines because you want them to remain chilled. By holding a glass by the bowl, your hand will slowly warm the wine. A good stem allows you to hold your glass without exposing the wine to your body heat.
Mistake 5: Drinking Wine Too Fast
We get it: After a long day, a good glass of wine is the only thing that will restore your sanity. However, wine is not made to be chugged. If you can hold off, your patience will be rewarded.
Your nose is an important part of the wine-tasting process. When you drink wine fast, you don’t give your nose time to appreciate the aromas.
Take some time and swirl your wine in the glass next time. You will help bring even more oxygen into contact with your wine while also releasing the wonderful aromas.
Mistake 6: Pouring Too Much Wine Into Your Glass
This mistake works hand in hand with drinking too fast. You don’t want to overload your wine glass, no matter how big the bowl might be. Again, you are trying to maximize surface area while giving your wine space for that signature swirl.
Plus, large-bowled glasses aren’t designed to be filled to the brim — it destabilizes the balance of the glass and increases the risk of spills.
Mistake 7: Not Pairing Your Wine With the Right Food
Food pairing seems like an art that takes years to master. Luckily, there are basic rules that can get you well on your way to being a capable amateur sommelier.
There are two directions you can go to keep things simple: You can match like flavors, or you can pair wine with a contrasting flavor.
If you are matching like flavors, just think sweet goes with sweet or creamy goes with creamy. For example, chardonnay, which is the heaviest of the white wines, goes very well with poultry served with a creamy sauce. On the other hand, a lemony acidic dish pairs nicely an acidic wine such as pinot grigio.
On the other hand, some people like wine that contrasts with the dishes they are eating. For example, spicy dishes pair well with sweet wines. This will emphasize both flavors. Similarly, sometimes a heavy dish pairs well with an acidic wine, which cuts through the heaviness of the dish.
However, there are some important precautions. As a rule, a heavy wine does not pair well with a light dish. The wine overpowers the flavors in the food, making the dish taste lifeless.
Mistake 8: Giving up on a Wine After One Taste
There are a lot of factors that could make wine less enjoyable. Every so often, a single bottle isn’t sealed properly. Wine experts will sometimes come across wine they say tastes “corked.” This means that certain chemical compounds occasionally found in cork have made their way into the wine.
Perhaps your food pairing hasn’t worked out the way you planned. Maybe a subtle, less enjoyable flavor is being emphasized by the food.
If you feel as if a wine is close but not quite there, experiment with it. See if there are other conditions that might make it more enjoyable.
We’re not saying that you won’t occasionally come across a wine you just don’t like. Just make sure you haven’t given up on a good wine too early.
Mistake 9: Assuming You Only Like One Style
There are countless wine varietals available — so many that selecting wine can be daunting. This is probably why many wine drinkers settle on a favorite style and rarely deviate.
If this is how you are buying wine, you are missing out. Many wine varieties have much in common with other varieties and only slight variations. Discovering these subtle differences can be a very enjoyable way to expand your palate.
You should also know that many wines are more enjoyable under certain circumstances. Perhaps you tend to prefer dry wines and stay away from the so-called “dessert” wines. Have you tried a dessert wine served as it is intended? Or, maybe you tend to stay away from heavy wines. Give it a shot with a good steak and see if that changes the way you feel about it.
Mistake 10: Not Shopping Around for Wine
The truth is, sometimes good wine can be expensive. That doesn’t mean you can’t get a good deal on it. Too many people assume the only place to buy good wine is in a store or at a vineyard.
Here at Marketview Liquor, we have some of the best deals on wines with an amazing selection, all available online. We also offer the same kind of expert advice and purchasing assistance you receive when you visit a bricks-and-mortar store — although we do have a physical location for wine shoppers in the Rochester, New York area.
Shop Online Today for Your Favorite and Soon-to-Be Favorite Labels
We hope this guide has helped clear up many of the misconceptions that get in the way of your enjoyment of wine. With so many varieties and pairing possibilities, you will never finish exploring the world of wine, as long as you have the right approach.
Shop online at Marketview Liquor for new labels you haven’t yet experienced. Thanks to our free shipping on select wine bottles when you order 6 or more bottles along with mix and match case discounts, you can save time and money by shopping online with us. Join us in a toast to your new found wine knowledge!