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Wine myths
Mazzi 1997 Le Calcarole" Recioto della Valpolicella Classico ($16.99/375 ml)
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Wine myths

As I point out in the introduction to today's Wine Lovers' Voting Booth, one of the curious - and perhaps frustrating - things about wine is that some of the conventional wisdom about its appreciation falls into the realm of misconception or myth, and it can be challenging for the newcomer - and even, sometimes, the expert - to sort it all out.

In the Voting Booth (see link below), we'll offer you the opportunity to cast your vote against the misconception that bothers you most. First, though, let's devote today's article to a quick deconstruction of the 20-plus "myths" that our volunteer advisory panel suggested as some of the most common and enduring:

  • The more wine costs, the better it is. (While there may be some relationship between cost and value, exceptions abound ... thank goodness!)
  • Old vines make better wines. (Occasional ancient vineyards make delicious, concentrated wines, but by and large, old vines generally produce fewer and fewer grapes until the grower eventually rips them out)
  • Sulfites are unhealthy for everyone. (Sulfites, a natural preservative, occur in all wines. A tiny percentage of people have a potentially life-threatening allergy, and these unfortunates know what they must avoid. Sulfites are not a threat in any way to the rest of us.)
  • Filtration is bad for wine. (Some excellent wines are unfiltered, but many great ones are filtered.)
  • Natural cork is the only good wine closure. (Natural cork is traditional, even romantic, but a high rate of "taint" and failure is prompting an increasing move to alternative closures.)
  • Screwcaps are the sign of cheap wine. (Historically, screwcaps have been used for cheap wine; but many premium wineries are now reconsidering them as a practical alternative to cork.)
  • Europe makes the best wine in the world. (Europe benefits from an ancient tradition, but in a diverse world of wine, no region can claim supremacy.)
  • You can tell a good bottle by smelling the cork. (You can tell a good bottle by smelling - and tasting - the wine.)
  • Wine critics are always objective. (Wine critics are as human as the rest of us.)
  • Only experts understand wine. (A particularly pernicious myth, promoted only by a few peculiarly insecure experts.)
  • Zinfandel is a pink wine. ("White" Zinfandel is a pink wine made from a red grape. True Zinfandel is red, ripe and robust.)
  • Wine labeled "Reserve" is the best. (While some countries legally define "Reserve" for wines that receive special treatment in wine-making, the term is unregulated in the U.S. and many other countries, and may be used indiscriminately as marketing hype.)
  • Wine must be stored at 55F (13C). (This temperature, which matches the environment of natural caves, is optimal for long-term storage, but fine wines can be stored properly over a much broader range.)
  • Wine storage temperature doesn't matter. (Excessive heat will damage wine quickly, and long-term storage over 80F [27C] should be avoided.)
  • Old wine is better than young wine. (A few special wines benefit from age. Most simply fade and lose their fruit.)
  • Old wines are always valuable. (See above. Many old wines are worthless.)
  • White wines don't age. (Too broad a generalization. White Burgundies, Sauternes, Gruner Veltliner, quality Riesling and Chenin Blanc are only a few examples of whites that can age with grace and style.)
  • Always decant wine. (Unless a wine is either immature or contains sediment, there's rarely any need to decant.)
  • "Legs" on the glass indicate quality. (These "tears" that drip down the inside of your wine glass may reveal high alcohol content, but tell us nothing about the wine's quality.)
  • Never serve red wine with fish or white wine with meat. (Although the basic rule offers a useful guide, the many exceptions can be delicious. Pinot Noir with salmon, for example, is one of the great wine matches.)
  • Never serve reds chilled or whites at room temperature. (Again, a useful generalization that overlooks many worthy exceptions. Some experts even go to the extreme of suggesting that virtually all wines are best served at an intermediate cellar temperature.)

Now, to cast your ballot for the myth you consider worst (or to enter a fill-in-the-blank option if you prefer), click to the Voting Booth,

If you would like to discuss these and other wine myths in more detail, you're welcome to join the conversations in our Wine Lovers' Discussion Group,

For today's tasting, let's follow up on Friday's suitable-for-Valentine sweet Greek red with a traditional Italian red dessert wine from the Veneto. Recioto, like its dry sibling, the noteworthy Amarone of Valpolicella, is made from ripe red grapes that are air-dried (using large industrial fans in modern times), turning them into raisins to concentrate the fruit and sweetness before they're pressed into wine.

Mazzi Recioto Mazzi 1997 "Le Calcarole" Recioto della Valpolicella Classico ($16.99/375 ml)

This clear, dark-ruby wine offers characteristic Valpolicella aromas and flavors of spicy dried cherries. Ripe and sweet but with appropriately tart acidity for flavor balance, it adds an attractive bittersweet quality with abundant dried-fruit nuances in a long finish. U.S. importer: Vintner Select, Cincinnati, and other regional importers; a Marc de Grazia Selection. (Feb. 8, 2003)

FOOD MATCH: Thin-sliced Parmigiano Reggiano makes a traditional and delicious accompaniment for this dessert wine.

VALUE: Not cheap but appropriately priced at this level.

WHEN TO DRINK: Enjoyable now, but strength and sweetness will hold it for years under good cellar conditions.

WEB LINK: Mazzi's Website is available in Italian and English. You'll find the English-language fact sheet on its wines, including the Recioto, at

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Last Week's Wine Advisor Index

The Wine Advisor's daily edition is currently distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:

A sweet Greek Valentine (Feb. 7)

Caution: Wine humor ahead! (Feb. 5)

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (Feb. 3)

Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:

Last week's Wine Advisor Foodletter: Mastering the omelet (Feb. 6)

Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:


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All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.

Monday, Feb. 10, 2003
Copyright 2002 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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