Wine myths

Myth busters enjoy a field day with wine. Some examples:

• Dom Pierre Pérignon invented Champagne and proclaimed: “I am drinking stars.” Nope. The monk championed still wines and worked his entire 47 years at the Benedictine monastery trying to prevent his wines from getting fizzy.

By Pérignon’s death in 1715, some makers encouraged fermentation to continue in the bottle and provide fizz, but the secondary fermentation of today’s traditional method came much later. Partial credit goes to the widow (veuve in French) of Nicole-Barbe Cliquot and her cellar master who invented the process of “riddling” bottles around 1815—a century after Pérignon’s death (riddling—remuage in French—is technique to consolidate sediment during secondary fermentation in bottle). Even then, méthode champenoise was not perfected until the end of the century. The change was astonishing. In 1800, fewer than 300,000 bottles of Champagne were made annually. By 1900, the number was 30 million.

• “Legs” are evidence of wine quality. Nope. Legs are the streaks down the side of a wine glass. They largely are a product of the alcohol level. Thicker, slower legs can indicate a higher alcohol level, but that is separate and quite apart from quality.

• Old wines taste better than new wines. Nope. Very few wines improve with age, and those that do require careful cellaring—consistent temperature, humidity, darkness, minimal handling and vibration. Most wine will not improve with age or will improve only slightly and for only a few years.

• Wine contains large amounts of sulfites, especially red wines. Nope. An entire bottle of wine has less sulfite than a single dried apricot, and white wine typically has more sulfite than red. Less than one-half of one percent of the U.S. population actually suffers from a sulfite allergy.

• White wine is low in calories. Not necessarily. Calories in wine come from alcohol, so a high alcohol white will have more calories than a low alcohol red. White wines do tend to have less alcohol, but the differences often are slight. Six ounces of high alcohol wine can have as much as 200 calories, low alcohol wine as little as 100 calories. Beer and fruit juice typically have more calories than wine.

Last round: The only time I ever said no to the offer of a glass of wine was when I misunderstood the question.

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