Wine Facts versus Fiction

November 18, 2011
There are many myths floating around about wine.  Here, we sort out the facts from the fiction.
True or False:
1. Uncorking a bottle to sit for a time period of a few minutes to a few hours before drinking lets the wine “breathe” and improves the wine.
2. Sniffing the cork can tell us information about the wine.
3. Wine “legs” or “tears” indicate high quality in wine.
4. The first winery in the U.S. was in California.
5. Chianti wines come from Tuscany.
1. FALSE – “In my 36 years of teaching wine,” says John Keating, “I have heard my share of nonsensical things about wine, particularly in its service. Any waiter who brings your bottle to the table early, for the purpose of letting it breathe lives in a fantasy world. How much air can get to a full bottle in a few minutes? Maybe it can breathe if everyone waits until tomorrow night’s dinner! Far better, particularly with reds, pour the wine and get some air. As for all the required glass sizes and aerating gadgets, try them with a grain of salt. Try blind tasting every gimmick. Make sure expectations don’t become reality. I
have found two carafes and a little back and forth sloshing work quite well”.
2. FALSE – “Cork sniffing is meaningless,” adds John. “A corked wine might be detected, but sniffing the cork yields nothing else about the quality of the wine”.
3: FALSE – “Legs” are the viscous clear streams of fluid that run down the inside of a glass after the wine has been swirled. In general more pronounced legs do indicate a greater amount of alcohol in the wine, but experts agree that “legs” or “tears” indicate nothing about the quality of the wine. According to wine blogger Fredric Koeppel, “the contention between the surface tension of the wine and the interfacial tension that acts between the wine and the inner surface of the glass draws the liquid up the inside of the glass to the point where, exposed to air, the alcohol evaporates, the surface tension of the remaining water intensifies, and the water forms a drop that clings to the glass and slowly slides back down.”
4. FALSE: “The first commercially successful winery in the United States was founded in Cincinnati, Ohio in the mid-1830s by Nicholas Longworth, who made a sparkling wine from Catawba grapes.  From the 1830s through the 1850s, Longworth’s still and sparkling Catawba were being distributed from California to Europe where it received numerous press accolades. In the 1850s, a journalist from The Illustrated London News noted that the still white Catawba compared favorably to wines of the Rhine and the sparkling Catawba “transcends the Champagnes of France”.
“The wines were also well received at home in the United States where Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published a poem dedicated to Nicholas Longworth titled Ode to Catawba Wine. So successful was he that he has been called the Father of American Grape Culture. The growing tide of German immigrants coming down the Ohio Valley to Cincinnati liked his wine. Longworth had found a lucrative market: the new German immigrants wanted an affordable, drinkable table wine to continue with the traditions of their homeland, and he enjoyed a virtual monopoly. Besides being a pioneer and leading horticultural expert in his section, he was recognized as an authority in national horticultural matters.”
“In the 1860s, vineyards in the Ohio River Valley were attacked by Black rot. This prompted several winemakers to move north to the Finger Lakes region of New York. During this time, the Missouri wine industry, centered around the German colony in Hermann, Missouri, took off and was soon second to California in wine production. In the late 19th century, the phylloxera epidemic in the West and Pierce’s disease in the East ravaged the growing American wine industry”. (Information comes from online sources and from Paul Lukas’ book “American Vintage: The Rise of American Wine”). 
5. TRUE.