It happens to everyone, even those of us who taste wine for a living. Certain unfortunate misconceptions about wine become unquestioned truths. And once they harden into beliefs, they inevitably put up fences around anyone’s ability to expand their wine knowledge and exploration. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having favorite grapes, producers, or wine regions. But limiting yourself to only those wines you know you like closes the door on the vast, unexplored territory occupied by all the wines you know nothing about. Here are 10 of the common misconceptions about wine that you should be aware of:
Expensive wines are better
As with many things, wine prices are influenced by factors other than quality. Location, image, scores and celebrity connections can elevate prices without impacting quality. On the flip side, wines from less familiar grapes, places and producers—especially imported wines—can offer surprisingly impressive quality for your budget-squeezed dollar.
Serious, ageworthy wines are always sealed with cork
Actually, screwcapped wines can age just as well as—some would argue even better than—wines finished with cork. Some wineries, like Australia’s Peter Lehmann, use screwcaps exclusively, except for wines being shipped to the United States. But even here, more superpremium red wines are using screwcaps. There is no technical reason that those wines won’t age just as well as those finished with cork.
Big, tannic wines just need more time to age
This is one of those wine myths that contain a smidgen of truth. Yes, over time, tannins drop out of solution, hence the need to decant older wines. But any wine that is unbalanced when young is likely to remain so when aged. If a wine is too tannic, too acidic or too alcoholic when young, it is not likely to have a long life ahead.
Sweet wines are for beginners, not educated palates.
Some of the greatest wines in the world are sweet. Sauternes, ice wines, trockenbeerenausleses and so on are decadently sweet, immensely flavorful and also quite ageworthy. And generally the more educated palates are the ones that they most appeal to.
All wines worth cellaring are red.
Certain white wines—vintage Champagne, Sauternes, German Rieslings, and even some dry white wines from places as diverse as the Loire Valley, Western Australia, and southern Spain—are just as ageworthy as any reds. Any older wine delivers a different spectrum of flavors from what you would taste in a young wine. That’s why it’s fun to pull out an old white wine once in awhile, just as you would with a Napa Cabernet or a Barolo, and see where the wine is taking you.