MAY 14th 2021
One of the reasons why the wine industry is often wrongly perceived as being overly-exclusive is because there are a number of misconceptions as to the ‘rights and wrongs’ of enjoying wine. Here at Whitehall Vineyard, we believe that no-one should be put off testing and enjoying wine. We are on a mission to break down any barriers of inaccessibility.
So, if you’re a budding wine enthusiast, and looking to separate the wine fact from the wine fiction, this is the perfect guide for you. For further details on the what’s what in the world of wine tasting, make sure to also check out our Wine Terminology Glossary.
Myth 1: Sweet wines are only for desserts
While it is true that a sweet variety would be the perfect pairing for your pudding, it is a waste to think that such wines should be reserved only for the end of your meal. Often packed with decadent fruity punches, sweet wines are an excellent choice for your picnic hamper, to be enjoyed on long summer days.
Wines that are usually classed as dessert wines are typically those with a higher alcohol content. For such wines to be palatable, they do tend to be sweeter than average. But this does not mean that all sweet wines are dessert wines, nor are all dessert wines sweet.
Sweet wines like our Charlotte May Rosé, for example, are actually the ideal partner for your main course, with the fruity flavours combining expertly with less powerful meats like chicken or turkey.
Myth 2: Blended wines aren’t high quality
This myth states that a wine made from a combination of different grape varieties is somehow inferior to a wine made purely from one. While it is true that some grape combinations simply wouldn’t work, to rule out all blended wines on this basis is to miss out on expertly crafted and often delicious flavours.
For example, our stunning white Water Meadows is a tasty blend of Bacchus and Chardonnay, making an extremely versatile wine that combines a citrussy aroma with a satisfyingly crisp aftertaste, working particularly well with fish.
If you’re still not convinced, it may interest you to know that some of the world’s most infamous ‘quality’ wines are actually blends. Bordeaux, Champagne and Châteauneuf-du-Pape (which is made up of 17 different grape varieties!) are all made from exciting combinations of flavour.
Myth 3: The older a wine, the higher the quality
It is certainly not true that all wine gets better with age. In fact, 90% of the wine produced around the world would actually be at its best if consumed within just 1 or 2 years of when it was made.
The difference between those wines that are best aged and those that aren’t comes down to how they are produced and the flavours the winemaker intends.
Wines that haven’t been aged tend to be characterised by their primary flavours. Take our award-winning Bacchus, for example. This is a wine typified by its fruity, zingy taste – with notes of pear drops, elderflower and lemon. Ageing such a wine would make such light and zesty flavours less prominent.
By contrast, wines that thrive when aged are those where secondary or even tertiary notes of flavour develop over time. Ageing a wine transforms it from testing fresh to tasting bold, subdued and sophisticated. The texture of an aged wine is also different from its younger counterparts. As wine ages, they become smoother, as compounds such as tannins fall out as sediment over time.
Given that both aged and non-aged wines have very specific benefits over one another, it would be inaccurate to draw a direct correlation between age and quality. They are simply different, and different doesn’t mean better.
Myth 4: Quality wine always has a cork, not a screw-top
Wines with a cork stopper may have a long and rich history, but wine brands around the globe are increasingly embracing the advantages of a screw top.
The reason why corks were used in the first place is because, since the 15th Century, it has been widely known that it is one of the few natural materials that is malleable enough to hold the contents inside a glass bottle. Screw caps only came into mass-use in the 1960s, so they have centuries of tradition to overcome.
While screw-tops have been scoffed at in the past as synonymous with lower quality, it is actually provable that they are a choice that actually ensures taste and quality are maintained. Screw caps seal a wine bottle better, not allowing oxygen to react with the contents and so keeping the wine fresh, crisp and well-preserved.
Of course, we all love the celebratory feeling of popping a cork to mark the moment, but the dreaded broken cork or ‘cork taint’ can ruin a good bottle, so it’s not always the joyous action you want it to be.
Myth 5: You can only serve white wine with fish
While tradition does dictate that white wine is the favoured choice for your fish course, it is a total myth that it is the only option.
The marriage of white wine and seafood is born out of a desire to not overwhelm the often soft flavours of fish with a wine that dominates the senses. That said, both red wine or rosé can actually hit the spot just as well, if not better. It all comes down to what fish you’re serving and how it’s prepared.
While delicate white fish is probably most suited to lighter white wines, meatier fish like tuna, salmon or monfish can stand their own very well against the more robust flavours of a Pinot Noir, for example. Unlike some other reds, Pinot Noir does not have a very high tannin count, which is what is often associated with bringing out a somewhat unpleasant ‘metallic’ quality in fish. Instead, Pinot Noir compliments the punchy flavours of your seafood, pairing particularly well with pasta-based fish dishes.
Myth 6: Expensive wine tastes better
An experiment conducted in 2007 performed a blind taste test on over 500 participants, asking them to rank and review wines ranging from $1.65 to $150 per bottle – without knowing the cost. On the whole, there was little correlation between the scores received by expensive wine compared to cheap wine. In fact, there were often actually higher ratings for cheap wine compared to expensive.
This shows that price should never be used as a singular indicator of quality.
Instead, you should consider the flavours and textures that are right for you and your occasion. Select your wine based on what you know you like, what food you’re pairing with and the brands you love.
For more educative pieces on understanding and enjoying wine, subscribe to the Whitehall Newsletter below. Also make sure to check out our excellent selection of English-grown wines.