Got a fire that needs putting out? Call a fireman. Got a wine myth that needs busting? Call Tony Goitia. Southern Wine & Spirits’ territory manager taught International Wines at the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration at UNLV for six years. So not only does he know firsthand just how important the scholarship money raised by UNLVino is to the school, he’s a passionate educator. In honor of this year’s event (March 22-24), Goitia kicks down the winery door and lays it all on the vine with the seven most common misunderstandings about fermented grape juice. And then he stomps on them, like so much sangiovese.
Myth No. 1
It must be a special occasion to drink champagne.
I was on a dinner date last week, and we started with a bottle of champagne as I often do. The couple at the next table asked if it was our anniversary. I said, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand the question.” They replied that since we were having champagne, it must be a special occasion. Why is it that so many Americans feel that way? It’s just wine with bubbles in it, for Pete’s sake! It’s the perfect way to start a meal, and often a perfect way to end an evening.
Explore: Try the Segura Viudas Reserve Heredad at Booth 5, and the Lanson Pink Label Rosé at Booth 43.
Myth No. 2
Red wines should be served at room temperature.
OK, this might have been a pretty good rule thousands of years ago, when room temperature in your cave hovered around 50 degrees, but today … not so much. Whenever I have red wine at home, I put the bottle in the fridge for 20 minutes or so before serving it. You taste less alcohol, and the fruit becomes more prevalent. Try it—it really does make a difference. Just don’t let me catch you putting ice cubes in your wine!! I think that’s actually illegal in some countries.
Explore: Look for the Chimney Rock cabernet sauvignon at Booth 32. Wow, what a wine!
Myth No. 3
All riesling is sweet.
I must admit that I haven’t had a glass of Blue Nun in 25 or so years, but rieslings are among my favorite wines, and range from bone-dry to sticky-sweet. Yes, many are sweet, but certainly not all, especially those from Alsace, which is in eastern France and borders Germany. If you have a German riesling, look at the label closely, and if you see the word spätlese, auslese or anything that ends in lese—those are going to be sweet. In fact, the longer the lese word, the sweeter the wine. Sweet rieslings from Alsace are generally quite expensive, so price can be a clue there.
Explore: The Pacific Rim rieslings at Booth 38 run from dry to extremely sweet. Try them all and you’ll taste the difference.
Myth No. 4
Screw caps on wine bottles mean that they are cheap and not good wines.
Years ago these caps were only found on the cheapest of bottles, but not so today. Stelvin closures—the technical term—are found on literally thousands of wines, and have been embraced by wineries throughout the world. True, you will probably never see Château Lafite with one, but it is the perfect closure for wines that are meant to be consumed within a few years of the vintage date. Nearly 80 percent of the wines produced in New Zealand have these closures, and Australia isn’t far behind. I won’t even mention that when you’re really thirsty, you can open a bottle with a screw cap in less time than it will take you to find a corkscrew!
Explore: A number of wines at Booth 13 have screw caps. Search them out and find out why this is such a hot trend.
Myth No. 5
Red wine with red meat, white wine with fish and poultry.
OK, here’s another idea that was a pretty good rule of thumb years ago, but now, with exotic preparations and certain sauces and reductions, some reds actually pair better with fish than whites. Try pinot noir with blackened fish. It works well. If you’re having a steak on the grill, it’s hard to beat a full-bodied red, but probably the best rule is to try to match the food with a wine that complements it. In other words, the lighter the food, the lighter the wine.
Explore: This takes a bit of imagination, but go to Booth 34 and try the Spring Mountain Estate syrah. Delicious, right? Now, imagine it with blackened sea bass. A winner.
Myth No. 6
If it’s pink, it’s sweet.
Admittedly, I have never had a dry white zinfandel, but not all pink wines are white zinfandel! Pink (or rosé) wines from France, especially, are bone-dry and absolutely wonderful, especially during the summer. Personally, I drink them year ’round, and they pair beautifully with many cuisines. They’re perfect with a cheese plate, pâte, burgers or simply by itself. Try one, I dare you! Real men drink pink.
Explore: The Chateau de Campuget Rosé at Booth 18 and the Jean-Luc Colombo Cape Bleue Rosé at Booth 81 are both amazing! Don’t miss either.
Myth No. 7
If you find a wine you like, stick to it.
I certainly understand having a favorite wine, as I often fall back on white Burgundies, or Sancerre, but when that’s all you drink, shame on you! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at a big wine tasting, and someone sees that I am pouring their favorite wine. They get excited and ask for a glass because “it’s my favorite wine; I drink it all the time.” What’s wrong with you? No sense of adventure? Think about it, the next wine you try may be 10 times better than the one you love now. If you don’t like it, dump it out and try another. That’s why we put dump buckets on the tables at wine tastings.
Explore: Votre Santé pinot noir at Booth 2, Torres Vina Esmeralda at Booth 18, and Chapoutier La Ciboise Blanc at Booth 32—these are all very cool and a bit different. You won’t regret trying any of them, and you might find a new favorite!