Wine Traditions, myths, and just plain silliness.
Vino Latino has a fun little program we call Vino with Amigos. It’s an in-home winetasting where we go to the comfort of your home and do a private wine tasting with your guests and educate using the wine made by our Latino vintners and winemakers. (Incidentally, we just launched a GROUPON deal for this, if you are interested). Last weekend, while at one of the in-homes, we saw our guests sticking their glasses under their chin and then bringing the mouth of the glass under their nose in a forward motion. Ramon and I just looked at each other with a puzzled look on our face. Finally, one of the guests explained to us that their friend is a Sommelier at a very well known resort in Napa and he told them that before you even swirl your glass, smell it by moving the glass in a forward motion starting from your chin and then past your nose. The reason is that you would capture wonderful little nuances that are destroyed when you swirl the wine before sniffing it. All evening long people were walking around doing this move convinced that it would enhance their wine tasting experience.
This got me thinking to all the silly things people do when it comes to wine. One of my favorites is when people talk about the legs of wine. The legs are those streaks of liquid that slowly stream the inside of stemware once the glass has been given a swirl. It seems that every wine class stops to talk about the legs. But here’s the thing, they don’t mean anything. They can indicate high alcohol, residual sugar, or it could mean that the winemaker added glycerin to the wine to give it a shine and viscosity that is pleasing to the eye. It doesn’t relate to quality, age, or anything else significant, so why bother? Our advice is if you are going to look at legs, look at the legs of your wife or girlfriend rather than streaks of liquid dripping down your glass.
Sometimes “wine experts” will explain why there is a punt (hole) at the bottom of a wine bottle. If the wine expert states anything having to do with the bung as fact, then it’s time to get up and leave and find a new expert. The truth is, no one knows for sure why there is this whole on the bottom of wine bottles. There are many theories. Some say it’s to trap the sediment. Some say it’s for the sommelier to be able to hold the bottle in such a way as to present the wine better. And others say it’s just the glass mold that was used hundreds of years ago and it hasn’t changed since.
This brings us the difference in bottle. You have the shouldered Bordeaux bottle and the smooth burgundy bottle. I’ve heard “experts” say the shoulders on the Bordeaux bottle is to trap sediment, which it does in fact do. However, the truth is that the bottle molds in Bordeaux had shoulders and the ones in Burgundy did not and they haven’t changed since.
We’ll close with one of our personal pet peeves found in many wine circles and that is the mispronunciation of the word “meritage.” “Meritage” should be pronounced so that it rhymes with the word, “heritage” for it is a purely made-up American word. A meritage is Bordeaux blend made in the USA. It can only contain Bordeaux grapes (cab sav, can franc, merlot, malbec, petite verdot, etc.). Many people like to put a French spin on it and pronounce it with a French spin so that it rhymes with “decoupage.” What is really infuriating is when wineries who make a meritage (to label a wine “meritage” a winery has to pay money to the meritage society) also mispronounce the word. There aren’t many terms in the wine lexicon that originate in the USA, so let’s be proud of one word that is purely ours.