While learning about wine is, by nature, a very fun thing to do, “intimidating” and “overwhelming” are the first words that come to mind for many would-be oenophiles.
And rightly so: there is a lifetime of wine information at your disposal, and unless you’re ready to dedicate every waking (and sleeping) moment to vino, it can seem easier to say “screw it” and just grab the closest twist-off $10 Malbec.
Luckily, you don’t need a textbook to gain a little confidence when it comes to buying and ordering wine. You simply need to arm yourself with a few basic facts and avoid the most common pitfalls.
To wit, seven myths that don’t hold up under the magnifier.
Rosé is a blend of red and white wine
This is definitely not true, and don’t try to make rosé at home. The perma-popular pink drink is made by taking the juice from red wine grapes and aging it on the skins for anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks (more skin contact equals darker rosé).
You should always order the second cheapest wine on the menu
You think you’re gaming the system, but we’re all on to you. In fact, bars and restaurants will often pad the second cheapest glass or bottle with the highest margin wines (i.e., wines with about a 300-400% markup), so believe it or not, you’re better off going for the cheapest option.
Fruit = sweet
Everyone thinks they want dry wine, but wine is still made from fruit (remember, grapes?). Depending on the wine, those notes might be more prominent and can be perceived as sweet, even though the wine is technically dry. Just learn to ask for what you want: for white, ask for something crisp and not too fruit-forward, and for red, ask for something dusty with firm tannins and a bit of oak age.
The older the better
The vast majority of wine (anywhere from 95%-98%) is meant to be consumed young, meaning within the first 1-3 years. Some reds need time for the tannins to mellow out, and high-acid whites can also lie down for a bit, but those are the exceptions, not the rule. So don’t be an ageist and overspend just because a bottle is past puberty.
Red for meat, white for fish
Fish, especially those on the fattier side, love light-bodied reds like pinot noir and gamay. Likewise, many fuller-bodied whites, like chardonnay, can complement poultry, pork and cured meats with the best of ‘em. Just talk to your sommelier or local wine shop for out-of-the-box pairing suggestions.
Wine is alcohol and alcohol doesn’t go bad
Wine is an agricultural product, and it’s not always perfect. A variety of things can happen in the bottle, but the most common and easiest to identify is cork taint, aka a “corked” bottle. It will smell musty and moldy, like wet newspapers. If this happens, you should absolutely send it back at a restaurant or take it back to a shop. They will replace it no questions asked.
Wine is intimidating
This is true, but only because it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The bottom line is that wine is a beverage, that’s all. Go to free tastings, ask questions, download some apps and just have fun with it.