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Myths And Tall Tales About Wine

Relax, prostate enjoy and drink up!

They say that wine is the drink of the Gods. And it’s true the mystery surrounding this delightful beverage adds to its mystique. But the downside is that over the decades and centuries quite a few myths have sprouted up. A number of these were “uncorked” at the first ever London Wine Week held one year ago in, well, salve you guessed, it, London. Below, writer Perin Ilavia explores some of these myths, and helps set the record straight.

Perhaps the most notable myth about wine is that it’s bad for you. Research shows that drinking wine in moderation – that means two glasses a day for men and one for women – actually bolsters heart health. The problem is that the moment you exceed the one- or two-glass limit, the health benefits are erased and wine consumption can become injurious to health.

Some people believe drinking wine will help them sleep. But here again, more than a glass or two actually disrupts REM (Rapid Eye Movement) – your deep sleep stage. If you’re drinking wine, your best bet is to leave a couple of hours between your last glass and your bed time. This way you’ll feel more rested in the morning.

Another myth is that wine has to be expensive to be good. Some great and relatively cheap wines are coming out of Spain, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, the USA, India and New Zealand. It’s all about the location, technique, type of grape, combined with soil type that create specific qualities in wine and not the price. Unfortunately, here in Goa the wine selection is still quite limited by international standards. It’s difficult to find high-quality wines at affordable prices (one exception being the Spanish Crucillon now available for Rs 500). And many expensive wines available here are just not very good (when was the last time you sipped a Yellow Tail?).

Now here’s something that’s not actually a myth, but a common mistake by wine virgins reading fancy restaurant menus or wine labels. When you see, “hints of raspberry, cherry, and vanilla”, it doesn’t mean some wayward vineyard decided to toss fruit or baking ingredients into your wine. These words simply describe naturally occurring wine tastes similar to these components.


Another myth is that all wine improves with age. Yes, some wines can improve in flavour, aroma and complexity with age. Yet many lack the proper structure to hold up to aging, and should be drunk within a few years. Chemically, the structure of wine (bouquet, taste, and finish) change over time. Bad wine will always be bad wine. Once white wine has been bottled, it is ready to drink. Only certain wines are meant to be stored for long periods in a dark place with controlled temperatures.

Champagne is not a generic name for a certain type of wine. It’s a place on planet Earth where sparkling wine is made, namely, the Champagne region of France. So if you are drinking sparkling white wine made in, say, Nasik, Maharashtra, you are most definitely NOT drinking champagne.

The same idea applies to another French region, Bordeaux, where wines are made by blending different grape varietals (in the case of red Bordeaux, often Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot.)

Next myth: Wine lovers are snobs. Actually, most serious wine lovers are quite down to earth and passionate about continuing their wine education. It’s people who mask their ignorance with arrogance you have to watch out for.

Contrary to what your blue-blooded friends think, sniffing the cork to figure out if the wine is good isn’t required. It’s a tradition that now seems pretentious, as those in the know understand that it’s just not a very good indicator of the wine’s quality. Instead, sniff out a bad bottle by swirling and smelling a small amount of it in your glass. Bad corks can spoil wine, and corks in general are not cheap to produce. Those are two of the many reasons numerous winemakers worldwide, including almost all of them in Australia, are switching to screw caps.


Still another myth is that you must drink red wine at room temperature. Let me state this unequivocally. If your room lacks AC and you are in Goa in the middle of May, you do not want to drink your red wine at room temperature! If you’re in Bordeaux or Champagne and winter is fast approaching, then chances are your room will be at about the right temperature for red wine. An analogous myth exists about white wine, that it has to be served at near arctic temperatures. Many professionals agree, the best way to enjoy is to put your red wines in the fridge for about 5 – 15 minutes and white wines about 20 – 30 minutes before opening.

Times change, and so do beliefs that do not serve us well.  Just pop open the cork (or unscrew the cap!) and say cheers to ‘wine o’clock’ whenever it may be.