The wine world is shrouded in mystery and pretension, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
While some in the industry are keen to perpetuate the myth that wine should be locked in a dark cellar for years, fresh faces such as Australian online retailer Vinomofo advocate a simpler ‘drink it, enjoy it’ approach.
We asked Vinomofo’s resident award-winning wine writer Charley May to help us debunk a few of the more irksome myths.
1. The single vineyard is king
“This is a common misconception, but not always the case,” says May, who cites Hill of Grace in South Australia as the perfect example of a celebrated single vineyard vino, and Grange, which is a blend of multiple regions and districts.
2. Sulphites give you headaches
“Sulphites are a naturally-occurring compound in grapes, and help preserve and protect the wine from going off,” says May. She’s unsure how sulphites ended up copping the blame for headaches, when most dried apricots and sultanas have more sulphites than your average glass of wine. “It might have more to do with how much you drink,” she says with a smile.
3. Biodynamic wines rule
“Biodynamic is a loose term for wines that are made more in tune with nature’s natural cycles.” The idea behind this is that it helps with the quality of the wine, but May says that’s hard to judge. “There’s research underway, but really no one knows,” she says, suggesting we instead go with our gut when plucking a bottle from the shelves.
4. Points are the best way to assess quality
Australia adopted a 100 points rating system in the 1980s, and May says any wine with a score above 90 tends to get people excited. But don’t forget taste is subjective. “If you only stick to the opinions of others, you might miss out on good wines,” she says.
5. Cellaring improves all wines
“Not true,” says May. “To be honest, most wine is made to be drunk now or in the next five years.” Unless the wine has been made especially for the cellar, May says locking it up in the dark for years is likely to strip it of the vitality you love about it. “If you do buy a wine with stamina and like aged characters, great, if not get stuck in while the vino is fresh.”
6. Chill white, room temp for red
“Wine is a cocktail of aroma and flavour compounds, and temperature can have a big effect,” says May, who thinks chilling white wine to an icy temp can restrict its true character. As for red? “Chill it if you want to, stuff like young grenache and pinot can be really refreshing, and with a charcuterie platter on a hot day there’s nothing better.”
7. High price, high quality
May says a bottle’s price tag and your enjoyment won’t always correlate. “It depends on the context you’re drinking it in. For example, one of the best wines I had cost me just 20 Euros, but because I was drinking it under a Tuscan sun with some of my all-time favourite people, it ranks as one of my best wines.”
8. White with fish and red with meat
“This is a guideline and sometimes it’s true, but not always,” she says. Good matches are based on contrasting them or bringing their complementary characters together. Try a fresh pinot noir with a salmon fillet and watch the flavour and acid of the wine work a treat with the oiliness of the fish.