Wine has been around for centuries, and over the course of years, there are tons and tons of facts and myths around this complex drink. Did you know that the majority of the wine industry was wiped out in 1890 because of a mite called pyrexia? This little insect fed on the vines and caused Vitus vinifera, the vital sap which produced the vine to die off? Incidentally, American vines had developed an immunity towards it and eventually bounced back. Or did you know that ‘Citter Wines’ are those bottles that have images of animals on them? Some people suffer from ‘oenophobia,’ which is the fear of wine. While these are the lesser-known titbits, here are some interesting facts about the drink by Logan Payne from Quora.
There are good wines and bad wines.
There are objective characteristics of a wine that makes it good or bad. You often hear the warm and fuzzy idea that a wine is good if you like it, but that’s not true. If you really like wine, that doesn’t mean it’s good; it means you really like it. Quantifiable characteristics such as length, balance, concentration, varietally correct flavors, etc., differentiate the quality of wines.
Corked wine has nothing to do with the physical condition of the cork.
Corks can be moldy, crumbly, saturated with wine, etc., but that is not corked. Corked wine refers to a wine contaminated with TCA (Trichloroanisole), resulting from a contaminated cork. The degree of contamination varies, from very subtle, which only a highly trained palate can detect, to an overpowering musty taste and smell similar to wet cardboard or a damp basement.
Out of all the variables, the producer is the most important indicator of whether a wine will be good or bad.
There are good and bad vintages and below-average to majestic vineyards, but the producer matters most. Except for rare terrible vintages, great producers will make great wines every vintage. On the flip side, even when blessed with amazing fruit from a legendary site, an incompetent winemaker will still make garbage wine. Just because you see the name of a Grand Cru Vineyard on a bottle of Burgundy and the triple-digit price tag it carries, the wine might be trash compared to a village wine, at a fraction of the price, from an excellent estate.
The best wines cost more for a reason.
Another security blanket for insecure people with a bias against wine aficionados is that expensive wine is only so for egotistical reasons. The best of the best indeed cost a premium because they are rare and there is more demand than supply, but there are production costs associated with premium wines versus mass-quantity offerings. They include hand-harvesting, premium vineyard location, new oak barrels, low yields, winemaking talent, etc. Yes, it does not cost $5000 to produce a bottle of Romanee-Conti, but just like any other rare luxury good, they can only charge that price because people are willing to pay it.
Almost all good restaurants allow you to bring your own bottle for a corkage fee.
It can feel intimidating at first, but you should feel at ease showing up for your table with a bottle. Call first to ask their policy, but they will welcome you and your bottle if a restaurant allows it. The most important thing for a restaurant is to have customers at the tables. It is a benefit for them to be wine-friendly. Just make sure to follow these two rules of etiquette: Don’t bring a $10 wine, because in that case, you aren’t looking to enhance your experience; you are just cheap. Please don’t bring a wine they offer on their wine list.
Sweet wines are adored by passionate wine drinkers.
Many superficial wine drinkers try to project sophistication by proclaiming a dislike for sweet wines, but to experienced aficionados and professionals, they are simply betraying their ignorance. Majestic German Riesling, irresistible Moscato d’Asti, and aristocratic Vintage Port, among other sweet wines, are adored by experienced wine drinkers and professionals.
Every wine benefits from decanting, and simply pulling the cork does not let the wine breathe.
Except for old wines that can fall apart quickly, every wine benefits from exposure to oxygen, even white wines and $10 everyday wines. Also, pulling the cork to allow a dime-sized surface area exposed to air does almost nothing. You don’t need to buy decanters made from priceless Austrian crystal; you can get a $5 juice carafe or vase from places like Marshalls that gets the job done. If possible, decant every bottle you drink to maximize its deliciousness. There really will be a discernible difference, I promise.
The more experience you gain, the more you will appreciate wine.
In Burgundy, for example, a wine from a particular vineyard might run you $200 a bottle, while wine from a different vineyard a mere thirty feet away will cost only $50. Or a wine you are used to paying $50 for is suddenly $100 because it is a great vintage. The subtle differences between Vosne-Romanee and Gevrey-Chambertin, or between 2014 and 2015, fascinate and enchant. It takes time to develop a palate capable of recognizing those details, but it will happen if you put in the effort, and my God, is it worth it!
For a specific reason, critic scores can be very valuable.
Recently there has been a backlash towards critics and their numerical scores, but they can play an important role. By nature, there is a subjective aspect to the scores. If I don’t like overblown Napa Chardonnay, even if Robert Parker gives a wine a 100 point score, I will not like the wine because it is not my cup of tea. But, there are objective qualities to a wine that the score from a critic can convey. Unless you are wealthy, you don’t have the funds to wade through dozens of bottles of Classified Growth Bordeaux, at hundreds of dollars per bottle, to figure out which wines are the best. If you find a critic that has a palate in line with yours, they can help you make wise purchasing decisions without hemorrhaging piles of cash auditioning wines.
You can gain valuable experience easier than you might think.
There are free and readily available resources to help you develop a good palate and in-depth knowledge of wine: Try to immerse yourself in your local wine community. Wine lovers are a very generous and welcoming community of people. In-store tastings and tasting groups are a fantastic way to experience a quantity and diversity of wines that would be cost-prohibitive if you had to purchase every wine yourself. Chances are, wherever you live, there are free wine tastings at multiple stores, at least every Friday and Saturday. In fact, in mid-size cities or larger, you can usually store-hop on a Saturday afternoon and taste a few dozen wines from all over the world. It won’t take long attending store tasting to notice some of the same faces. Make friends and join tasting groups, or if you can’t find one, start your own. I promise you that oenophiles are some of the friendliest people you will meet, and you will make friends fast. Most importantly, try to make acquaintance with the employees at your local wine shops. They can turn you on to exciting new wines, can invite you to invite only tastings they offer, AND YOU CAN LEARN MORE VALUABLE KNOWLEDGE IN 20 MINUTES TASTING OR DISCUSSING WINE WITH A PROFESSIONAL OR HIGHLY EXPERIENCED OENOPHILE THAN SPENDING ALL AFTERNOON READING ABOUT WINE!
I hope this provided at least a little valuable insight. Wine is truly one of life’s great pleasures, and we are incredibly fortunate that in 2018 we have easy access to thousands of well-made, diverse, and reasonably priced wines from all over the world.
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