As much as writers 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 age-old ritual only yields a snootful of cork and no revelation, yet lots of people still think they're supposed to do it. Myths about everything from wine storage to wine pairings abound, and people go on believing them because nobody tells them otherwise. Consider this myth-busting:
MYTH: Red Wine is Best With Red Meat
Although the protein in red meat can soothe a savagely tannic red wine, there's no rule against drinking white wine. Don't let the establishment lay guilt or shame on you, be the rebel. In fact, the creaminess of 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 in the States, room temperature falls in the low to mid-70s range, and even higher in the South. But keep in mind that aroma and flavor of wine change radically at different temperatures, and too much heat kills off a wine's subtleties and interesting characteristics. To demonstrate, try chilling a bottle of red wine for several hours (or better yet, freak out a waiter by asking for an ice bucket with your red). Taste it right after opening, then again every 10 minutes. As it warms up, different flavors will emerge. This is also pretty remarkable with white wines, which are often served way too cold in restaurants.
MYTH: All Red Wines Can Age
Fact: 90 percent of all wines are meant to be consumed within the first two years after bottling. For the most part, the remaining age-worthy 10 percent are cabernet sauvignon, syrah or grenache-based wines, sturdy pinot noirs, some barrel-aged chardonnays, and dessert wines. Aging tames tannins and acidity, and allows the natural fruit to come forward.
MYTH: "Reserve" Wines are Better Than Regular Wine
In California, the word "Reserve" gets thrown around a lot, but there's no official definition. This means Joe's Winery can slap the word on the label and charge extra for no reason at all. Although some wineries use it legitimately for their better bottlings, without official regulations to set quality standards, be wary.
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 express the character of a certain vineyard — good or bad. Blending wines made from the fruit of multiple vineyards can actually improve a wine by balancing out its flavors, acidity levels, and so on.
MYTH: Rinsing Your Glass at Wine Tastings is a Good Thing
I have no idea where this ritual came from, but there's no need to rinse. Essentially, this exercise will only water down the flavor of the next wine. There is, however, one situation where you'd want to rinse: if you're changing from red to white wine because the red will discolor and change the flavor profile of the delicate white.
MYTH: Opening the Bottle Lets the Wine Breathe
Oxygen exposure can help tannic reds mellow out, but only if you pour the wine into a glass or decanter. Simply pulling the cork isn't gonna do squat because the space between the bottle neck and the wine is too small to give the wine enough air contact. Fruity reds and most whites don't usually need to breathe.
RH Phillips Toasted Head 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon Smooth, elegant tannins laced with cherry chocolate and coffee flavors. Nice whiff of roses, too. Great value price on this one. $14.
Blind River 2002 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough Fresh-mown green grass nose, followed by grapefruit margarita on the tongue. Nice, balanced acids. $12.
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THE WINE LIST
COMING UP ROSES Eric Renaud from Bern's Steak house will explore the world of Roses. He'll teach how to pair perfectly with your summer fare and what varieties to taste this summer. $25. 6:30 p.m. Mon., June 28. SideBern's Restaurant, 1002 Howard Ave., Tampa (813-250-9463). Reservations requested.
WINE FESTIVAL Taste the fruits of our local wine at the Florida Estates Winery Festival. Event includes a variety of fresh produce, sauces, sandwiches, plants, homemade arts & crafts, live music, and, of course, wine. Free. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sat., June 26. Florida Estates Winery, 25241 State Road 52, Land O' Lakes (813- 996-2113 or www.floridaestateswines.com).