Wine Myths – and the Odd Legend – Debunked

The world of wine is awash with myth and legend, old wives tales and tricks to stay one step ahead of the game. Here are some of my favourites, to help separate the facts from the fiction.

Wine gets better with age

This is a myth that refuses to die! We’re all vaguely aware of the concept of ageing wine, and I’m sure many people know of someone who’s got a wine cellar where they carefully nurture their embryonic Grand Crus to dazzling maturity, or have a few bottles of their own stashed away. There are some wines that do require ageing in the bottle before they’re at their best; top class Bordeaux, Burgundy or Barolo, for example. But the truth is that the overwhelming majority of wines consumed in the UK are ready to drink straight away, and will get worse over time. The best guide is probably price – if it’s expensive the chances are it will develop new and complex flavours as it matures, if it isn’t then the appealing fruitiness of a young wine will die away and it will taste flat and past its best after about a year or two. But it can be quite good fun to buy some bottles, squirrel them away for a few years and see what happens. If you fancy having a go then your best bet is to pick up something like a good quality riesling, chenin blanc or cabernet sauvignon for about £10. Self control is the key though; in my experience, nothing lasts more than 12 months in my house before I decide I’m thirsty, and the wine’s aged long enough…

Putting a spoon in a bottle of Champagne preserves its fizz

I have to say, this one’s a bit of a mystery to me – why would you ever not finish the bottle?! But some people will tell you that putting a spoon in stops the carbon dioxide from escaping and so keeps the bottle fresh for the next day. There have been studies carried out into this, and it doesn’t seem to make any difference. There are things that will help though: make sure you keep it cool and get a proper champagne stopper which will slow down the bubbles escaping. The thing that will make the biggest difference is the wine itself: a good quality traditional method sparkling wine like Champagne or Cava will keep its fizz for longer than something like a Prosecco, so look out for that on the label.

Opening the wine to ‘let it breathe’

The thinking is that if you open the bottle it aerates the liquid and makes it taste better. This is something that we talk about a lot on our courses, and you’d be amazed at the difference getting some oxygen into the wine does make However, when you simply open the wine the amount of juice that’s in contact with the air is tiny, so it has little effect on the wine’s flavour. The best thing to do is to decant it into some glassware – you don’t need anything fancy, a clean measuring jug would do, and this will help the wine show its complex flavours.

Pouring white wine on red wine to get rid of the stain

There is loads of anecdotal evidence to support this. My own one is at a friend’s wedding, when the bride spilled red wine on her wedding dress and then proceeded to douse herself in the only white wine available – Bollinger, whose effervescent loveliness rinsed the offending stain away, thus averting disaster and an expensive dry cleaning bill. Apparently it has something to do with the alcohol and acid content, and there is even a white wine kitchen cleaner currently in development.

The deeper the punt the better the wine

The punt is the indentation in the bottom of the bottle, and many people stick their thumb in, and if they encounter a suitably deep depression, purchase accordingly. Sorry folks, this one’s not true either. The punt developed with the production of Champagne, where it fulfils the important function of collecting the sediment that forms during the maturation process. It doesn’t really have any purpose with red and white wine, other than to help sommeliers do the one-handed pour! It’s certainly true that making a bottle with a deeper punt is more expensive, as it’s heavier and so costs more to transport, so it only really makes sense to put good quality liquid in it, but the depth definitely doesn’t equate to quality.

If you’ve got any wine myths of your own, then help me put the world to rights, and email me at

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