We have all heard of the so called “wine rules” but are they all true? Wine Consultants, Andrew Dike and Marc Pelletier, break down a few of the most common ones for you.
1. Red Wine with Meat. White Wine with Fish. true or false?
ANDREW: False. So much depends on the preparation of the food and the weight of the wine. Seared tuna with coriander on a bed of arugula pairs well with a light Pinot Noir or Beaujolais but not with a Cabernet or Malbec. A well-structured Chardonnay pairs nicely with pan seared chicken breast topped with lemon sauce. If you switch the sauce to brown gravy, your Chardonnay isn’t such a great pairing anymore, and you have to start thinking lighter red wine.
MARC: False! You can use that as a general guideline, but remember there are no hard rules when it comes to wine (Except maybe to never open a warm bottle of Champagne. That’s bad.) Drink what you want with whatever you want.
2. Wine Serving Temperature
ANDREW: 56 ºF for red wine and 45 ºF for white wine
MARC: This is one of my pet peeves for sure, especially for red wine. “Room temperature” for reds is a misnomer. The correct term is, should be, “cellar temperature.” As we all know, room temperature during the summer in New Orleans can range from 72-82 ºF. Proper cellar temperature is at least 10-15 degrees lower at about 55-60 ºF.
Try this experiment:
- Take a lighter bodied red like a Pinot Noir, Beaujolais or Barbera d’Asti
- Pour a glass from a room temperature bottle and set aside.
- Put the bottle in an ice bucket filled with ice and water for 10 minutes
- Pour another glass from the chilled bottle and taste the two wines.
I do this experiment with my Beginner’s Wine Class (served blind so they don’t know they’re the same wine), and at least 90%of the students always pick the wine served at the proper temperature as their favorite.
Oh–and don’t chill the whites down to 35 ºF! If they’re too cold they become ungiving and will not show much complexity. Try it more around 45 ºF!
3. Sweeter Wines and how they pair with Desserts
ANDREW: Port wine and Chocolate together are proof for the existence of God. That said, not all dessert wines pair well with desserts. Some deserts are made with so much sugar that pairing a wine with a lot of sugar can be overkill.
MARC: In my opinion, sweet wines are best served with cheese or as the dessert themselves. Ask me what wine to serve with a flour-less chocolate cake, and my answer will always be the same: Dark Roast Coffee!
4. Wine Critics Are Always Right
ANDREW: False. Wine is very subjective. Think of it like a painting. You don’t by artwork based on some critic giving it a score of 95 points. You buy it and hang it on the wall because you like the way it tastes…
5. Blended Wines Are Not As Good As Non-Blended Wines
ANDREW: The majority of wines sold as a single varietal like Merlot or Pinot Noir are actually blends. The vintner needs only to meet a certain minimum to label the wine as the said varietal. Usually this number is between 85%-95%. Some grapes lend themselves to blending while others do not. For example, Pinot Noir is generally not a varietal for blending, while Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux tastes great blended with Merlot and Malbec. Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley can taste fantastic on its own. It really just depends.
MARC: “I really like blends” is a comment I have heard from many customers. I think most would be surprised to know that they’ve been drinking blends all along. Just because a California wine says Cabernet Sauvignon on the label doesn’t mean it’s 100% Cabernet Sauvignon! Blends are a regular part of the industry and a necessity. You could compare it to cooking. Do you use a spice blend when cooking or seafood boils? Italian seasoning, Tony Chachere’s, etc… Sometimes your dish needs a little more salt, or cayenne, or oregano, or lemon juice, etc…, doesn’t it? But you don’t know until you try it. That’s what winemakers are doing when they blend their wines: perfecting the recipe based on what the vintage has given them to work with.
6. Better wines are always sealed with a cork.
ANDREW: Yes and no. First off, there are many problems that stem from a cork closure. The most common is a taint that comes from a little bug called trichloroanisole or TCA. The contamination from TCA is what wine people are referring to when they say the wine is “corked.” Once a wine is “corked,” it is robbed of its fruit flavors and ends up smelling and tasting of wet cardboard (yuck!). That flaw is not found in wines that are bottled under cap. I have seen $500 bottles of wine that were perfectly stored in a customer’s cellar for 15 years that were “corked.” Heartbreaking! There are many excellent wines with a cap that cost above $50. Generally these are wines which have been designed to be consumed young. Fine wines from Burgundy, Bordeaux and Napa are still bottled under cork, mostly because customers would freak out if they found their favorite premium wine under a cap! People still believe that if a wine is under cap, it is cheap, but that is not always the case.
MARC: Not necessarily. Embrace the screw-cap, y’all! It’s a good thing and it’s here to stay.
7. “Legs” are evidence of a high-quality wine.
ANDREW: Nope. It just means that the wine has a higher alcohol content.
MARC: I was taught this 35 years ago, and it is just as false now as it was then. “Legs” will give you a general view of the viscosity of the wine, but consider that everything from residual sugar in the wine to soap residue on the glass will play a part in how that wine will “sheathe” down the glass. Quality of a wine is determined primarily by aroma and taste!
8. Vintage Champagne is better in quality than non-Vintage Champagne (NV).
ANDREW: Almost always. Non-Vintage Champagne is produced by mixing different vintages to ensure consistency in the product. They can also be produced in larger quantities. Some of the high quality vineyards are earmarked for producing vintage wines. These Champagnes are generally designed to age, and usually have more depth of flavors. It is important to remember that there are always exceptions to the rule.
MARC: A “Vintage Champagne” is only produced in the best years, meaning that the quality of the crop in a given year will be the determining factor in a producer declaring a vintage. By that very action, the producer is telling you that this wine should be better than their non-vintage blend. That said, it really depends on the producer’s style of Champagne. Some vintage bottlings need a few years of aging to reach the level of drinkability that I find in many non-vintage blends. The producer and the vintage itself need to be considered on this point, in my opinion.
9. Wine tastes better with age.
ANDREW: Oh boy, probably the most common misconception. Less than 1% of the wine produced the world over is designed to age for more than five years. Most wines should not spend more than a year or two in the bottle. There is a middle tier of high quality wine to be aged for 5-7 years, during which the wine will improve in taste. At the super high end, there are wines that improve with 20+ years of aging, but most of us never taste these pricy and rare gems.
MARC: Myyyy…where to begin?
- Not all wines are meant to age. Many for no longer than the time it takes you to get the bottle home from Martin Wine Cellar.
- Aging the appropriate bottles is also dependent on proper storage conditions (i.e. wine cellar or refrigerated wine cabinet)
- Pinpointing the optimum aging potential of a given wine is nothing more than a “best guess” as it completely depends on the point above. Warmer temperatures will age a wine faster. Wine cabinet temperatures that are too cold will shut down the aging process.
- Perhaps the most important point is: Do you like aged wine? If not, then aged wine certainly will NOT taste better to you!
In conclusion, I am a firm believer in something I heard a very wise man once say: “A wine is ready to drink when you are ready to drink it.”
Three guesses as to who that was…