Wine is everywhere these days and so are misconceptions about our favorite fermented friend. We asked industry insiders to debunk a few widespread wine myths so that you can shock your friends, fend off irritating wine snobs, and impress the in-laws.
Myth: Cheeses pair best with red wines
Expert: Jacquelyn Buchanan, Culinary Director, Laura Chenel’s Chevre
"White wines are the unexpected best partners for most cheese. They are more acidic and fruity so they are natural partners for the saltiness in most cheeses and can cut through the fat and tanginess. A buttery quality in white wine can match the texture of soft-ripened cheeses, but if the wine lacks fruit, it will be hard to find a compatible cheese. If you're stuck on red, the best options are the lighter reds with juicy, soft fruit, generally lower in alcohol and with less oak and tannins."
Myth: Chocolate always goes with red wine
Expert: Ryan Wycoff, Brix Chocolate
“Only a few select chocolates pair well with wine and those are typically made specifically for this purpose. From the choice of cocoa (the region it’s from and its natural flavor profile) to the chocolate blends (bitterness vs. sweetness) and format it’s served (block-style preferred), a chocolate should be engineered to balance and work with a specific grouping of wines (ex. full-bodied reds). Confectionary chocolate is good with just about anything but for it to pair well with a wine and truly enhance the experience you must choose your chocolate very wisely.”
Myth: Red wine comes from red grape juice
Expert: Marc Nanes, Winemaker, Kenzo Estate
"Red wine is red because of the pigment, known as anthocyanin, found in the skin of the grape. When red grapes are de-stemmed and thrown into a tank for alcoholic fermentation, the skins are broken and the clear juice mixes with other broken skins and juice. This mixing or maceration allows for the extraction of color."
Myth: Labels truthfully indicate alcohol content
Expert: Kerrin Laz, Wine Director, Dean & Deluca
“The legal requirement is that the label state the alcohol level within 1% of it’s actual content. So, right off the bat, you could easily be drinking a wine with 15% alcohol when it says it's only 14%. If you detect alcohol or heat or your face is feeling hot, that means you've got a strong wine no matter what the label says (hot is actually the industry term for a wine with a lot of alcohol). It's also not clear that all wines are within the legal 1% limit. I've opened bottles and known right away that they are much "hotter" than stated; so talk with your local wine shop associate because balance and quality are much more important than anything on the label."
"Meadowood Chef, Christopher Kostow, prepared an Arctic Char with Romesco Sauce for the annual Wine Writer’s Symposium Dinner last February. There was quite an array of wines on the table. Wines with brighter fruit and a zesty balance, including my estate Zinfandel and the Saintsbury Pinot Noir, were delectable hits."–Julie Johnson
“Melka Wines was paired with Spring Hill Restaurant of Seattle, which is predominately seafood, and we are a red wine house, so we said to ourselves, this could be interesting… but it was really quite amazing.”–Cherie Melka
Myth: Nice legs (heavy paths of juice running down a glass after swirling) = quality.
Expert: Austin Peterson, Winemaker, Ovid Winery
“Legs in a wine are dependent on a number of factors in the wine such as the level of alcohol, the protein level in the wine, etc. In the past, a higher alcohol level (and hence greater legs) indicated a riper vintage and a better wine. These days very few people struggle to get their fruit ripe."