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Marriage, like wine, improves with age – provided you keep a cork in it.

Men are like wine—some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age. – Pope John XXIII

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. This is the second part of about three on wine myths.

3. Wines improve with age. While there is an element of truth, only dry red wines that are high in acid and tannins (giving the wine a sourish taste and puckering your mouth) are likely to improve significantly. Time in a properly sealed bottle will reduce the tannins and acids and so soften their effects. It also tends to add complexity to the taste and bouquet (= wine snobbery for aroma). Time in an improperly sealed bottle may allow the wine to turn to vinegar or spoil in various other ways.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGood Burgundy wines are known for their great aging characteristics, but Beaujolais, an area in the south of Burgundy, produces wines that are best drunk when released in November of the year the grapes are grown. Bourgogne, corrupted to Burgundy in English, is known for its Beaujolais Nouveau parties on the third Thursday each November. Hug your own bottle or glass of BN that week before (American) Thanksgiving.

Homework: Organize a Beaujolais Nouveau party. Talk to your vintner to see when you can buy some and have a tasting of several. Most large American wine retailers start selling their BN the same mid-November day as the French. Can you think of a better way to spend an evening of Thanksgiving weekend (for Americans, anyway1) than a Beaujolais party?

One caveat: In the US, it seems easy to find Beaujolais Nouveau, wines that are hardly nouveau, ones that are a year or two old. They should have been drunk when new, but if you find some, you can easily include some old BN for comparison. (Beaujolais Nouveau translates as New Beaujolais.)

4. The darker the color, the better the (red) wine. This false attitude probably stems from the observation that Cabernet Sauvignon has much more color than Pinot Noir, just as it has a stronger bouquet. First note that more (even flavor) is not necessarily better. A spicy chicken dish will often taste better with a Pinot Noir than with a Cab and a good, lightly colored Pinot is always superior to a poor opaque Cab.

For white wine drinkers, I suggest using Pinot Noir as a gateway to red wine. It is softer—less likely to have overpowering tannins and acids than a young Cab. Often it is the acids and tannins in Cabernet Sauvignon that bother white-wine lovers. Pinots tend to have less.

Homework: Compare an opaque box wine with a nice, uncolored Pinot Noir. American red wines tend to be colored or darkened. Therefore, translucent American Pinots are not easy to find. In some countries it is not legal to darken or color wines.

1American Thanksgiving is one week after the release date of the Beaujolais Nouveau each year. In Canada, Thanksgiving is celebrated a month earlier, on the second Monday in October.

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