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Common Myths about Wine: Part 1

The best wines are varietal wines

One advantage of varietal wines — wines named after a grape variety, such as Chardonnay or Merlot — is that you supposedly know what you’re getting. However, the presence of a grape variety name on the label tells you nothing about the quality of the wine.

Varietal wines range in quality from ordinary to excellent and, in general, are no better and no worse than other wines.


Expensive wine is better wine

For wine, as for many other products, a high price often indicates high quality. Purchasing a high-priced wine shows others that you can afford “the very best” and that you have good taste.

But for sheer pleasure, an expensive wine is rarely the best choice. For one thing, the highest quality isn’t itself the best criterion for choosing a wine. Not all situations call for a very high-quality wine, and besides, your personal taste might not align with what critics think of as high quality.


A screw-cap closure indicates lower-quality wine

Not all that long ago, this statement was true, but it’s no longer the case. Screw-off caps are still the closure on large “jug” bottles of those old-fashioned, really inexpensive domestic wines, but that type of wine is a dying breed. Meanwhile, sleek and modern screw-off caps have come on the scene as the closure of choice on many bottles of fine wine, especially white wines, from all over the world.

In addition, research in New Zealand has proven that wines can age and develop in bottles closed with screw caps, as wine does in cork-sealed bottles.


Red wines are more sophisticated than white wines

Something about red wine just says “serious,” right? But why? Maybe because many people enjoy white wines when they first start drinking wine, and then with experience, they progress to red wine. But many serious wine lovers rediscover the unique virtues of white wines, such as their compatibility with light meals and their easier drinkability, later on.


White wine goes with fish, red wine goes with meat

As guidelines go, this one isn’t bad, but it’s a guideline, not a rule. Anyone who slavishly adheres to this generalization deserves the boredom of eating and drinking exactly the same thing every day!

Even if you’re a perfectionist who’s always looking for the ideal food and wine combination, you’ll find yourself wandering from this guideline. The best wine for a grilled salmon steak is probably red — like a Pinot Noir or a Bardolino — and not white at all. Veal and pork do equally well with red or white wines, depending on how the dish is prepared. And what can be better with hot dogs on the braai than a cold glass of rosé?