Bullish On Wine

Seems like everyone's getting into the act these days: Consumer Reports just published a "no-nonsense" approach to wine consumption (and, by the way, we have over 90% of the wines mentioned in the article in stock at The Bottle Store right now); and Forbes ran an article along the same lines debunking wine myths and even Saint Robert Parker. The Wine Nose has always taken the same approach to wine as Bully Hill Winery in upstate New York, whose motto is "Wine without bull." Wine has a rich mythology, and that is good. Some of this mythology can be rationalized and, fortunately, other aspects of it cannot. For example, there is no accounting for taste. Fine. But there are some aspects of wine beliefs and rituals that are worth tilting at. This month we will paraphrase and put our own spin on some of the demythlogization (now, that's a magnum-sized word) in the August 97 issue of Forbes. After Andrew Lloyd Webber's 18,000 wine cellar sold for $6 million, a guy named Frank Prial decided it was time to state that wine is to be consumed not commoditized. Here's to you, Frank!

Myth 1: The higher the price, the better the wine. As the Nose pointed out once before, this is the Cindy Crawford school of wine buying. Baloney. We have many wines under $10 that will beat the pants off of... many over $20.

Myth 2: All wines benefit from aging. Not. Unless you know about the craftsmanship behind the wine, its alcohol content and acidity and so on, it may not last very long at all. Most wines between about $10 - $20 do not improve that much after about 5 years of aging. (Here, some assumptions about price may seem to contradict part of Myth 1; this is part of the art and mystery. Sorry.)

Myth 3: Wine must be stored in a carefully controlled environment. That's always nice, but who can carve out a cellar or spend several grand on a humidity-controlled cooler. Our rule of thumb: Lay 'em down until the cork stays wet.

Myth 4: Organic wines are best. Many people grow their grapes organically, they just don't advertise it. Think you can tell the difference? Try a brown-bag test. Good luck.

Myth 5: Drink red wine with beef and white wine with seafood. Do whatever turns you on. But if the acidity and tannins in the red wine make the fish taste fishier, then you better do something else with your sole.

Myth 6: Wine has to breathe before you drink it. There is so much bull about decanting that we will not try to debunk it all here. Suffice it to say that enough oxygen mixes with your wine when you pour it into a glass. However, swishing the wine in the glass or letting it stand for half an hour before you consume it can soften and enrich its flavors a bit.

Myth 7: Serious wine drinkers must have a cellar. Oh, it's so nice to descend into the cave and come up bearing a cool gift. But if you do not have this luxury, buy some wine, drink it, and when you run out, go out and buy some more.

October 1997