Wine 101: Stomping on Wine Myths

Do you find yourself following wine "rules" that you don't truly understand? For example, have you ever stopped someone at your dinner table for pairing a red wine with fish or a white with steak? Wine can be complex and pretentious, so when many people don't know the details, no one questions the rules. Below, I've outlined some of the most common wine "rules", the logic behind them and if you should follow them.

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Red Wine with Red Meat; White Wine with Fish

Great pairings mirror or contrast flavours in the food. Sweetness and umami can make wines taste harder, while salt and acid can make them taste softer. However, since everyone has different tastes and sensitivities to these flavours, there are no universally good pairings.

The complexity of some red wines can make them difficult to pair, but the salt in meat dishes can soften the tannins and overall impact of the wine while enhancing the flavour of the meat. If you want to pair a red with fish, you'll want the dish to be salty and acidic to avoid the wine tasting too bitter and pungent. On the other hand, white wines are often lighter, more fruity and sweeter so will generally pair well with dishes higher in umami, like fish. 

Following this rule may avoid disasters, but there is no reason not to drink white wine with red meat or red wine with fish if the elements match. If you feel like breaking the rules - consider a Champagne with red meat and a Pinot Noir or Cab Franc with fish.

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Red Wine Should be Served at Room Temperature

I'm sure you've heard people at the dinner table say that red wine should never be chilled. In reality, the best temperature to serve a red wine depends on the type. Medium to full-bodied wines like an Australian Shiraz, Barolo or Rioja should be served at room temperature. Light-bodied wines like a Beaujolais, Pinot Noir or Gamay should be slightly chilled at 13° C.

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Wine Tastes Better When You Let It Breathe

Some people are religious about letting wine breathe or sniffing the cork once they open a bottle. It's fine to let a wine breathe, but it should be done properly in a decanter or glass. In reality, only about 15-20% of red wines need to breathe prior to drinking. Old wine should not be decanted for very long as the molecules are fragile. Younger wines should be decanted for approximately one to two hours. 

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Red Wine is Healthier

Pinot Noir is the healthiest wine to drink because of the number of antioxidants. In general, lower-alcohol wine has fewer calories than higher-alcohol wine. If you're calorie counting, white wine has approximately 140 calories per six-ounce glass, while red wine ranges from about 135-200 calories per glass depending on the alcohol content. Avoid sparkling and dessert wine because of the added sugar.  

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The Thicker The Legs, The Better The Wine

The wine's legs are the tears that run down the side of the glass when you swirl the liquid. Legs are not an indicator of quality; they are simply the alcohol evaporating at a faster rate. The legs get pushed down the glass by the increased surface tension. One thing you can comment on is the speed at which the legs move down the glass because slower moving, thicker legs equate to a higher alcohol content. 

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