Mything the Point

As much as we try to cut through all the bullshit perpetuated by wine snobs, there's still a lot of misleading info out there. Take the old story about sniffing corks. This ritual does nothing to tell you about a wine's quality, yet lots of people still think they're supposed to do it. Myths about everything from wine storage to service abound, and people go on believing them because nobody tells them otherwise. Well, we're here to set the record straight with some myth-busting wine facts:

MYTH: Red Meat Means Red Wine

There's this little pesky myth about drinking red wine with red meat. Don't let the snobs lay guilt on ya; you can consume white wine with beef all day long and never turn into a pumpkin. In fact, the acidity in Chardonnay is kinda refreshing with a juicy grilled sirloin.

MYTH: Serving Wine at "Room Temperature"

A long time ago when wine rules were born, room temperature in European wine cellars meant 62-66 degrees Fahrenheit. Here at home, room temperature falls in the low-to-mid-70s range. But keep in mind that the aroma and flavor of wines change radically at different temperatures, and too much heat kills off a wine's subtleties and interesting characteristics. To demonstrate the drama, try this trick at home: Chill a bottle of red wine in the fridge for several hours (or freak out a waiter by asking for an ice bucket with your red). Open the bottle right after it emerges from the cold depths and pour a glass. Taste it, then again every 10 minutes while it warms up, remarking the different flavors that emerge. This is also pretty remarkable with white wines, which are often served way too cold in restaurants.

MYTH: Reserve Wines are Superior to Regular Bottlings

There's no official definition of "Reserve" for American wines, which means anyone can use it on a label - even if the wine is only "reserved" for suckers. Without official regulations to set quality standards, the term usually just means the wine is more expensive than the non-reserve version.

MYTH: "Single Vineyard" Wines are Better than Other Wines

Single-vineyard wines (those that feature the name of the vineyard on the label) may be trendy, but they don't guarantee quality. These wines are made to express the character of a certain vineyard - whether it's good or bad. Blending wines made from the fruit of multiple vineyards can actually improve a wine by balancing out its flavors, acidity levels, etc.

MYTH: All Wine Needs to "Breathe" Before You Drink It

Oxygen exposure can help tannic reds mellow out, but only if you pour the wine into a glass or decanter. Simply pulling the cork won't do squat because the space between the bottle's neck and the wine is too small to give the liquid enough air contact. Fruity reds and most whites don't usually need to breathe.

MYTH: Wine Sulfites Case Headaches

Sulfites refer to a type of chemical additive that winemakers use to keep wine from oxidizing. Small amounts are also produced naturally during fermentation. A typical wine contains about 100 parts sulfites per million gallons, an amount so small that people are rarely affected by it. (Dried fruit, pickles and mushrooms also contain sulfites.) Those who are affected usually have severe asthma and most commonly react with breathing problems or skin rashes. "Wine headaches" are usually caused by the histamines in grape skins - or by overindulgence.

Frei Brothers 2000 Pinot Noir Gallo brings us an amazing Pinot with lotsa cherry action. Smooth and Fabulous. Wonderful bargain in a classy wine ($18).

Carmenet 1999 Dynamite Cabernet Juicy fruit for a Cab, with raspberry and spice. Very similar in style to a red Zinfandel, and a great deal ($18).

E-mail Corkscrew at [email protected], write to 1310 E. Ninth Ave., Tampa, FL 33605, or call 1-800-341-LOAF (fax 813-248-9999).

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