Sunday, 10 January 2010

Myths about Wine

There are many myths (urban and otherwise) out there about wine. But perhaps the one that sticks in my mind more than most is the one my mother told me when I was young. ‘‘Yvonne, there’s nothing cool or grown-up about drinking too much,’’ she said. Actually, that happens to be true, but at 15 it sounded like the biggest crock I’d ever heard. After busting me so many times for taking sneaky sips from her treasured box of Blenheimer when I was a teen, it’s no surprise she still finds it hard to believe that nowadays I actually get paid to drink. But I digress. The myths are still out there and my mother still drinks Blenheimer; but at least I can correct the myths.
Myth number 1 Uncorking a bottle for a few hours before drinking to ‘‘let it breathe’’ will improve and soften the wine. This is bog-standard bollocks because of the small surface area of the wine exposed to air. It’s a bit like expecting a weary backpacker to feel zippy and refreshed nearing the end of a 12-hourbus ride up the Khyber simply because the driver decides to open his air vent. To really let the wine breathe you need to decant it, slosh it around a bit and let it stretch its legs.
Which brings me to myth number 2. That the ‘‘legs’’, ‘‘tears’’ or ‘‘churchwindows’’ inside a glass of wine that’s been swirled indicate thatit’s a high quality wine. All it actuallyshows is that the wine may contain sturdy amounts of alcohol. Despite this being very important to some sippers, it doesn’t really detail whether the wine is going tobe delicious or dishwater.

Speaking of quality, myth number 3 says that smelling the cork will tell you if a wine’sworth drinking. The waiter or sommelier at a restaurant might hand you the cork so you can check to see if there is mould or if the cork is broken. But sniffing it won’t tell you if the wine is faulty or not, it will just announce to everyone else that you’re a ponce. A wine is ‘‘corked’’ when it smells like damp cardboard or a mouldy sack.Thanks to screw caps, these days fewer wines end up being spoiled. But trust some zealously politically correct Californians to be complete spoilsports.

An award-winning adaptation of LittleRed Riding Hood was withdrawn from a recommended reading list by a schoolboard in Culver City, simply because the heroine had included a bottle of wine in thebasket she brought to her grandmother. Only in America.

Political correctness aside, in New Zealand we’re told that drinking and driving is extremely naughty. But that’s a myth if you reside in Uruguay because apparently over there‘‘intoxication’’ is a legal excuse for having a prang in your car. Just imagine. ‘‘Officer I honestly don’t know what happened? One minute I was having my tenth tequila layback and the next minute I’m in my car, wrapped around this tree.’’ ‘‘I completely understand sir, here’s a note for your insurance company. You take care now.’’

Believe it or not one thing I know is true is that I still can’t tell what day of the week it is. Don’t you just love January? Now I’m off to go crank up the barbecue and pop my merlot in the microwave to burn off all those harsh tannins. What? Everybody does it . . .
Matua Paretai Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009 $23★★★★1/2
Tangy tomato-stalk,lip-smacking lime and steely, mineral-driven flavours make Matua’s flagship sauvignon rather fantastic for any occasion; but it’s particularly fabulous with fresh-caught,beer-battered gurnard and crunchy salad. Ask for it at your local wine shop or visit for stockists.

Marsden Estate Black Rocks Chardonnay 2007 $35 ★★★★★
With more medals on its front than Col.Gaddafi’s best jacket and so golden in the glass it could pass for liquid yellow diamonds. This is stunning stuff from theBay of Islands, scentedwith grapefruit,toasted almonds, preserved lemon andpeach; it also oozesripe nectarine and juicy tropical characters on the palate. The finish is long and luxurious and chardonnay lovers should get their skates on because only small amounts were made. Order now from

Bellbird Spring Block8 Pinot Gris 2009 $30★★★★★
If you’d asked me a couple of years ago whether I’d part with thirty bucks for a bottle of pinot gris I’dhave questioned your sanity. But those werethe bad old days before the likes of Bellbird Spring and their addictively good gris. Subtle pear, jazz apple,lychee and soft spiceson the nose but in the mouth it bursts with opulent, oily tropical juiciness. Big, sweet, sensational bang for your buck—visit

Vin Alto Fizzante NV $24★★★
Sometimes the oddest combinations work wonders and that’s why it didn’t surprise me that this fizz from Clevedon ended up as the perfect partner for our summer calamari, fennel and chickpea salad.
I have no idea what this wine’s madefrom, but it’s a limited edition, Italian-style sparkling wine that’slight and tangy with a citrus edge and a hint of spritz.

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