Contrary to Popular Belief
I will begin by reminding everyone that I am not a doctor, I am NOT giving medical advice. You are responsible for your own decisions, and wine consumption. Much of what I am sharing here is opinion, medical professionals and scientists do not all agree on these subjects.
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions in regards to wine. I hear several of theses on a weekly basis as I pour tastings behind the counter at Strey Cellars. The number one bogus thing people say to me is that they have an allergy to a specific varietal. For instance, people will stop me before I pour a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Merlot and say, “Oh no, I’m allergic to Cab…I’m allergic to Merlot….” At which point I try very hard to keep my face from betraying the massive eye roll that’s itching to show itself. Grapes are grapes, guys. If you are allergic to grapes, then you probably should not be drinking wine. If you have had a particular reaction to a specific varietal, like Cab, for instance, it most likely means you have an allergy or sensitivity to one of the additions that the specific wine maker used. Many factors can have a hand in allergic reactions. But being allergic to only one specific type of grape is not realistic.
Which brings me to the next misconception, “I only drink organic wine because it doesn’t contain sulfites.” There is a lot of hype on this subject, but before you run around saying you can’t drink wine because it contains sulfites, be aware that sulfites are in a plethora of everyday foods from dried fruits to mushrooms to shrimp, so if you are having a reaction to wine, it’s unlikely that sulfites are the culprit, and it’s advisable to have an allergy test. What are sulfites? A natural by-product of yeast, and is used as a preservative keeping the wine tasting the way the winemaker intended. Sulfites have been used in winemaking for abut 2,000 years. Organic wines contain sulfites, because they are naturally occurring. If you are one of those people who has a reaction when you drink wine, like runny nose, rash, congestion, itchy throat or hives, it’s possible you do have an intolerance. In which case, my condolences.
This one is a little bit controversial, but bear with me, “Don’t drink wine when you’re pregnant.” OK, I have a theory on this, Americans don’t know what “moderation” means when it comes to drinking… or eating for that matter. It is safer for doctors to tell you not to drink at all rather than risk you going balls to the walls while you’re gestating. Yes, excessive drinking is dangerous while pregnant, or any time. There is a reason we have hangovers, over drinking is like poisoning your body. Just like with medicine, we take what is prescribed. Having a glass or two here and there might help uplift and relax you while your body is going through so much. In France and Southern Italy it is customary to drink a glass of wine a day while you’re pregnant. (Like the doctor literally prescribes a glass of wine a day.) Katie has still worked the tasting room and drank on occasion throughout both of her pregnancies. Actually, nearly all of my friends drank wine and or beer throughout their pregnancies. We all have healthy and intelligent kiddos. Now, these women weren’t throwing back shots, or getting drunk, they had a glass of wine or a beer. And in all of these cases, these pregnancies were uncomplicated. In this case, to each their own, if or when you get pregnant, talk with your doctor, and decide for yourself.
If you know me, you know this one was coming, “I get a headache when I drink champagne.” I mean sure, you CAN get a headache from drinking too much champagne, but it’s because you’re dehydrated. When you drink, you pee more often, and while alcohol is dehydrating on it’s own, the added urination is the straw that breaks the camels back. The bubbles don’t help this situation, these little guys push through your stomach lining into your bloodstream. When you have a competition between oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood you get drunk quicker. Not to mention it’s delicious and so easy to drink! So, you can now drink bubbly without fear as long as you hydrate properly.
Don’t judge a bottle by it’s price tag. Do you assume that a higher priced wine is better? Let me let you in on a secret, pricing wine has more variables than you’d think. Did you know that different shapes of wine bottles have a different cost? Which changes the cost of corks and capsules and labels. Not to mention the label design! Then there’s storage and aging overhead and labor costs. And since we are on this subject, I may as well mention that the age of the wine doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better either. It’s been aged longer, which means the price tag can go up based on the amount of time it was in barrels. Wine is good if you like it. Yes there are absolutely different qualities of wine, but basing your assumption on the price tag or the year isn’t going to be accurate. I have bought pricey bottles that I ended up not liking, or in the very least, not being impressed with. I have also had wine that was very moderately priced that was delicious. This is why paper bag tastings are so much fun!
Additionally, people say that white wine doesn’t need to age, but I found out while I was researching Verdelho, that Verdelho specifically ages very gracefully. This stopped me for a moment because I just thought white wine was different, and it would not taste as good over time, which launched me into the rabbit hole of aging wine. Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Semillon, and some champagnes are often purposely aged. (Other whites age well, too!)
Have you ever decided not to buy a wine that has a screw cap? (Personally, I am probably taking the bottle to the beach without a corkscrew, so that twist cap is a godsend!) It seems the rule of thumb with deciding whether or not to use a screw cap is based on when the wine is ready to be drank. If it’s meant to be drank younger, then a screw cap is a more affordable and user friendly option. If the winemaker wants the wine to continue to age in the bottle then cork is the choice. Whether you twist, unscrew or pop your next bottle, CHEERS!