The biggest myth in the whole world of wine is that the people who love it take themselves and their passion way too seriously, spouting all sorts of regimented wine commandments that all refined people should feel obliged to follow. I wish everyone who believed that could see my colleagues and I eating salt and pepper potato chips with leftover Veuve at the end of a long night popping corks. Truth is, some of these so-called sacred rules are like the emperor’s new clothes – people have believed and repeated them for so long, everyone’s afraid to be the first one to break the proverbial mold. Luckily, I have no such filter. From pairings to storage to what you pay to fill your pantry, here are 7 wine rules well worth breaking.
White Wine with Fish, Red Wine with Meat –
This has been debunked numerous times, but I can’t rail against it enough. I recently had a bowl of boar ragu at a noted Italian restaurant where the sommelier tried to practically force feed me Barolo. I simply wasn’t in the mood for it, so my dinner date and I split a bottle of peppery, pear-laced Arneis. The pairing was sublime. Yes, a wine can make or break a meal and a bad match can be icky in the extreme, but there isn’t one right answer to the “what should I drink?” question, and experimentation can often lead to some truly lovely discoveries.
Older Wine is King –
There is no right or wrong in wine, and some people love the funk and crunk that comes with a bottle that has been collecting dust for a few dozen or more years, but if you don’t, that’s okay too. Don’t let anyone talk to down to you if young wines are more your thing – just like some people lack an affinity for blue cheese or vintage clothes or black-and-white movies, if you prefer your wine fresh and funk-free, you should be proud of your perfectly valid choice.
All Wine Should Be Aged –
Aging has several effects on a bottle of wine: harsh tannins may mellow out, green wines may open up and develop complexity, and the overall flavor profile will absolutely evolve (I love aged whites, when tart and crisp stone fruit flavors start to get that succulent, honeyed glaze), but there are limits. Not every wine should be aged, whites in particular have a limited shelf life, and there is a point when a wine isn’t “aged” it’s just old.
Points Are All Powerful –
Robert Parker is a smart man and Wine Spectator is a very valuable source of information, but last time I checked, neither Parker nor any publication in existence has had the privilege of living inside your palate. Simply put – your tastebuds are yours and although a great rating can be a useful way to discover new bottles and producers, the last word on what is delicious should come from your happily slurping mouth.
Riesling is for Lightweights –
Poor Riesling has such a bad rep among the uninformed. A lot of the stigma comes from the misguided idea that Riesling automatically equals sweet, and sweet wines automatically equal sorority girls or the Real Housewives of Alsace, but Riesling comes in all levels of complexity and the residual sugar levels can range from quite dry to Trockenbeerenauslese. Say that three times fast.
The Bigger the Price Tag, the Better the Wine –
You know how sometimes you see some haute couture creation in a fashion magazine labeled “hot off the runway” and you think to yourself that a more correct caption would just be “hot mess”? Yeah, wine is like that too. Sure, sometimes you have to pay for quality, especially if that quality comes courtesy of a well known producer who hand picks their grapes and only offers 500 cases a year, but you can also get incredible wine at a price point that won’t force you use up our whole paycheck purchasing the grapey equivalent of a $300 T-shirt. Look for second labels from premiere wineries, new producers, and wines from up-and-coming regions.
Decant All the Wine! –
Upturning a tight (read: young, immature, etc) wine into a decanter may very well breath enough life into your juice to reanimate sleeping tannins, but if your wine is dead (or, worse, was never really all that alive in the first place), ain’t nothin’ no decanter is going to do for it. Call time of death and move on. And if your wine is already open or lighter in style and body like a Beaujolais, decanting can actually be detrimental, diluting the subtleties inherent in the varietal.