Wine talk: Ten myths

There are many misconceptions about serving and drinking wine. Here we dispel the top 10.

Wine (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
1. Taste a wine in a restaurant to see if you like it.
When you order wine in a restaurant, the wine waiter will offer you the opportunity to taste before pouring it. This is only to check if it is the wine you ordered and that it is in good condition. It is not an opportunity to send it back because you don’t like it!
2. Smell the cork to judge a wine’s quality.
A waiter will often give you the cork to smell or may even smell it himself. I have never known a cork to smell nice, so a bad-smelling cork does not indicate a bad wine.
3. A corky wine has bits of cork in it.
A corky wine has a musty smell that overwhelms any fruit. It is not a wine with bits of cork floating in it. The reason is that the cork has been contaminated. A wine such as this may be referred to as being “corked.”
4. Drink white wine with fish, red wine with meat.
Certainly red wine goes with fish and white wine goes with meat. The art is to either match the intensity and body of the wine to the dish or to contrast it. And clashes need to be avoided. However, this is an out-of-date guide. Today, people match wine to mood, not to food. Drink what you like and with whatever food. It is quite simple: Good wine goes with good food, and what you prefer is always the best choice.
5. Israeli wine is expensive.
I disagree that Israeli wines are expensive. Yes, most of the trophy wines or the wines that win awards may be relatively expensive, but no more than similar wines in other countries. Furthermore, most wine journalists seem to write about the more expensive wines. However, more than 95 percent of sales are of wines with a shelf price of less than NIS 40, offering real value for money. Just go into any supermarket.
6. Kosher wine can’t be good.
This is totally incorrect. Some of the best wineries in Israel produce worldclass wines that happen to be kosher. A well-made wine may be good and a poorly made wine may be bad, but whether it is kosher or not is insignificant to its quality.
7. Quality wines are stoppered only with natural cork.
Aesthetically, cork is still the best closure for wine. However, do not be put off by the use of synthetic corks or even screwtop closures, which are becoming more and more popular. Both are fine, even for quality wines.
8. Wine must be stored in a wine fridge.
Ideally, wine should be stored at a perfect 12 to 13 degrees Celsius in a beautiful wine fridge. This will give respect to the wine you want to store and give it the best chance to be at its peak when you decide to drink it. It is true that July and August are hot enough in Israel to ruin any wine, regardless of its quality or price.
However, wine is hardier than you think. If kept sensibly, it may last surprisingly well. Just try to follow a few basic rules. The wine should be kept horizontal or upside-down in its original carton. It should be kept away from vibration, any form of heat and direct sunlight.
9. Serve white wine cold and red wine at room temperature.
The biggest problem with wine service is that white wines are served too cold and red wines too warm. If it is too cold, a quality white wine will lose its delicate fruit aroma. Certainly an inexpensive white wine, sparkling wine or sweet dessert wine should be served very cold. However, a Chardonnay, Viognier, Johannisberg Riesling or Gewurztraminer would benefit by being cold, but not ice cold.
As far as red wines are concerned, I believe that even a quality red wine should be served after 20 minutes in a domestic fridge. This will bring it to about 16 degrees Celsius, and it will warm up in the glass. In Israel’s hot climate, our high-alcohol wines will soon lose shape if served at room temperature.
10. Once a bottle has been opened, the wine does not last.
If you are having dinner at home and you just want a glass or two, don’t leave the bottle open at the table. After you pour what you want, immediately put the cork back in. (If it does not go in easily, try it the other way round.) Then put it in the fridge. The wine will last for a few more days with no problem, even without the use of a wine-saving device.
Adam Montefiore works for Carmel Winery and regularly writes about wine in Israeli and international publications.
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