Sometimes it’s helpful to question accepted “knowledge”—those tenacious bits of information that are taken as gospel because they’ve floated around in the ether for so long they must be true: You’ll catch a cold from walking in the rain…If you swim too soon after a big meal, you could drown…Elvis faked his own death and is living on a ranch in Idaho. (That one I made up.)
There are many misconceptions about wine as well:
Wine Myth #1: Swirl your wine around in the glass and observe its “legs”—the longer the legs, the better the wine.
—Actually, the longer the drips of wine you see on the inside of your glass, the higher the alcohol content, which does NOT denote quality.
Wine Myth #2: The correct way to pronounce the wine term, “Meritage,” is with a French flourish on the last syllable (mer-i-TAHZH).
—Well no, it’s not. This trademarked wine designation for Bordeaux-style California blends was created purposely to rhyme with the word heritage (merit+heritage).
Another widespread wine misapprehension is that screw top wines are of lesser quality. This may have been true decades ago, but not anymore.
One of the main benefits of a screw top enclosure is that it removes the risk of cork taint, most notably caused by the chemical compound TCA, which can give your wine the aroma of a moldy basement, and which ruins anywhere from 5-7% of bottles annually.
The biggest negative about screw caps is the uncertainty about whether they minimize the development of wines meant to age over the long haul, since it’s believed that a small amount of oxygen is necessary for wines to develop character. The latest work in “screw cap technology” is focused on caps that allow a bit of air transfer into the bottle over time.
Uncorking a bottle of wine is a romantic, centuries-old ritual that ties us to all the other wine lovers who came before us. Yet, great care must be taken to maintain corked wines when cellaring. And who hasn’t had the problem of opening a bottle with a crumbly cork and finding the particles in that first sip of their favorite Napa Cab (blech!).
Whether it’s a mid-priced crowd pleaser, like a 2012 Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant Rhone-style blend (available at Trader Joe’s), or a super premium collectible, like the 2014 Cade Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain from Plumpjack, screw cap wines are on the rise. So the next time you have guests over and you crack open the twist cap on a bottle, don’t hide in the laundry room to do it. True wine lovers will judge a bottle based on its contents, not its cover. In the unlikely event that anyone turns up their nose, ask that person how Meritage is pronounced.
(This post is an updated version of my article, “Don’t be a Stopper Snob,” which appeared in a recent issue of Augusta Pines Life magazine.)