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Wine Talk . . . with Cindy Adams: Are wine myths based in fact, or are they blown out of proportion?

Published in the March 30 – April 12, 2016 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Cindy Adams

Cindy Adams

Cindy Adams

Wine is one of the oldest beverages in the world. In the United States, it’s one of the newest, especially in terms of popularity. In between, many myths and misconceptions about wine have surfaced. Some of these are based in fact but, as wine became a more “acceptable” part of our lives, and was consumed by more of the population, some facts have been blown out of proportion. Below are some wine myths and the truth behind them.

Red wine causes headaches. If you drink too much, any wine can cause a headache. However, many folks blame a red wine headache on sulfites, which are naturally occurring in all wines, including organic wines. After much study, both physicians and scientists agree that sulfites in wine do not cause headaches. What is the cause then? That is still under study. It varies from drinker to drinker, but the most likely causes are histamines, tyramines or other chemicals naturally present in wine that one might be allergic to in some degree.

You can tell a lot about the wine from the “legs.” I hear this a lot in our tasting room and my response is “legs are overrated.” When you swirl a glass of wine, there are rivulets that run down the side of the glass, and these are defined as the legs.

Many folks think that the thicker and slower the legs, the better the quality of the wine. Actually, the only things that legs will indicate are a high sugar level or a high alcohol level in the wine. A dessert wine, or a Port — which are both high in sugar and alcohol — will have thick, slow-moving legs. Most table wines will have thin, fast legs, which are not an indicator of quality.

Red wine should be served at room temperature, and white wines chilled. Most people tend to serve red wine too warm and white wines too cold. I can’t tell you how many times in a restaurant I’ve asked for an ice bucket for my red wine and tried to warm a glass of white wine with my hands.

A good white wine will lose many of the underlying flavors if it is served too cold and a red will seem “flabby” if served too warm. A good rule of thumb is to serve red wines at slightly less than room temperature, or at about 55 degrees.

A white should only be 5 degrees less than that, or about 50 degrees, for optimal flavor. Sparkling wine, on the other hand, should be served well chilled at about 45 degrees.

Serve red wine with red meat and white wine with white meat. This is a long-standing “rule” which limits a diner’s full wine experience. There are no rules for food and wine pairing, just some guidelines.

A few of those guidelines are: Put a light-bodied wine with a light-bodied dish. Otherwise one will overpower the other. You wouldn’t want to put a big Cabernet with a Caesar salad, for example. Another guideline is to pair spicy dishes with a sweeter, low-alcohol wine, otherwise the heat of the food will be magnified.

I encourage you to experiment with different wines with foods — for example, try a very dry Champagne with a steak or Pinot Noir with salmon.
One thing that is not a myth is that there are many wonderful wines and wineries throughout this beautiful Santa Clara Valley. I encourage you to visit, sip and enjoy!

Cindy Adams, CS, CSW, is the director of retail operations at Guglielmo Winery.