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5.1WineMyths-Ia Some of the conventional wisdom about wine is true; most has an element of truth; some is really stretching it. Many of these bon mots reflect supercilious attitudes—snobbery you expect from uninformed waiters or friends. I will separate this discussion into about three posts.
1. The only good wines are dry (non-sweet) wines. Actually, almost the opposite is true. There are few bad wines, except for ones that have turned. There are bland or thin ones, oenophiles tend to prefer subtlety and complexity; there are ones thatBackCoverPic need to breathe, and there are wines that go well with desserts, not savory entrées. Generally speaking, sweet foods go better with sweet wines and conversely.
An illustration of the importance of the accompanying food occurred when I was in a wine tasting class a few years ago. Nearly all the students agreed that wine Number 7, a Bordeaux, was the best. Then we ate some spicy beef stew and tried our wines again. After the flavorful stew, nearly everyone said their favorite was Number 3, a quite different Bordeaux. The take-away from this experience is that the pairing may be, and usually is, more important than the wine itself.
Homework: Try some Port (a sweet fortified wine) with vanilla ice cream or a good white Zinfandel with a chocolate sundae. Better: host a wine tasting of sweet wines with a variety of desserts.
2. The best wines are single vintage varietals. Not true, despite the displays of non-Frenc5.1WineMyths-Ibh wines you’ll see in stores. Many oenophiles would rate Bordeaux wines as among the world’s best or at least assert that many of the world’s best wines are from there. Most Bordeaux wines, especially the best ones, are made from a variety of grape types. Many, probably most, Bordeaux wines do not list the grape varieties used. Perhaps it is only French elitism or a slap at American vintners, but Bordeaux wines that feature the varietal designation are the cheapest (meant to indicate the lowest quality).
Many vintners will mix the juices or musts of wines they have available to achieve their desired taste. As they improve their knowledge and palates, their judgment improves and they are better able to achieve the taste they desire. Multi-varietal wines seems to be growing in popularity in the US, probably because the vintners are getting better and the wine drinkers are becoming more discriminating. If the movie Sideways had been made twenty years earlier, not only would they not have mentioned Pinot Noirs, they wouldn’t have used wine. It would have been about beer tasting. Wine appreciation takes time and practice. Lots of practice. Don’t neglect your homework.
American vintners seem to think they need a name with cachet for each product. Calling wines by a varietal name was okay, but they had no name for blends like typical good Bordeaux wines. A group of them came up the the term Meritage, a trademark. The Meritage Alliance requires that wines using its French sounding name on their label have must (juice) from Bordeaux type grapes, and of at least two of them. The Alliance also puts restrictions on the amount of wine that is produced and on its qual5.1WineMyths-Icity.
Homework: be sure to include some blended wines in your next tasting of California reds. Good standards for the comparison are French wines, because they are usually blends, especially the best Bordeaux wines.