Wine Truisms: Part 2

The second lot of wine truisms may be true (or not), but they will never be as shockingly true (or false) as the first lot. 

(Oscar Wilde – not)


–Good wine can be nourishing.

–You write off some wines at your peril. Despite being considered dead or beyond redemption there are zombie wines that apparently reanimate themselves and taste as if they are once more in the first flush of youth.

–That lava lamp is, in fact, a natural unfiltered wine from Mt Etna.

–Just because it is interesting that a certain country makes wine does not mean that the wine from that country is interesting.

–It seems that Virginia specialises in Viognier simply because all the letters bar o & a are contained within the other.

–A corkscrew loaned is a corkscrew you will never see again

–Wax capsules were designed to annoy sommeliers. In this, they have succeeded.

–Wine appreciation is the ability to appreciate why some wines appreciate in value.

–The general consensus about the quality of a wine region is neither general nor a consensus.

–Mood and company immeasurably influence the taste of wine, but it goes both ways.

–Over-analytical tasters can detect reductiveness in a wine at acutely low levels, but are seemingly impervious to sulphur dioxide at very high concentrations.

–If you write positively about a wine that retails between £15 and £25 in a newspaper you must be prepared for the seven seas of correspondence complaining about your choosing to review a wine that is expensive and therefore, by definition, elitist. The entrance fee to see waxworks in Madame Tussauds is £22 and an adult match ticket to see Arsenal may be as much as £129, not that watching waxworks play football is an elitist pastime.

–Reverse snobbery about wine is equally as rebarbative as wine snobbery.

–BOGOF has successfully reduced wine to the status of a mere alcoholic product where price point is venerated at the expense of quality. It is also an example of the long marketing con that supermarkets play on their customers.

–Using cheap composite corks in expensive bottles is playing Russian roulette with a wine whilst at the same time slowly poisoning it.

–Good orange juice is invariably ruined by bad champagne


–You never stop learning about wine, but that doesn’t stop some people.

–The wine trade needs closure on the stelvin debate.

–Wine judges rarely take home and drink the wine that they award trophies and gold medals to.

–People who have the temerity to write approvingly about their enjoyment of natural-tasting wines are caricatured as swivel-eyed loons and dizzy-headed, clay-brained yahoos by the rational HOUYHNHNMS of the wine cognoscenti (pejorative word).

–The language of wine treads a perilous tightrope between graphic and pretentious. It is easy to fall off that tightrope.

–According to some scientists and wine scribes gout-à-terroir is not only unverifiable but the result of collective mass hypnosis and a priori association even when the taster has no idea of the grape variety, region, topography or soil type.

–Believing in the common denominator of taste causes many winemakers to aspire to mediocrity.

–Great wine service in restaurants is more about the communication of knowledge than about the knowledge itself.

–Tell me how you taste and I will tell you who you are. Tell me who you are and I will tell how you taste. We inevitably bring our life experience to the process of tasting and enjoying wine.

–The MW accolade is a portal to further investigation and consequent expertise, not the gateway to omniscience and divine infallibility.

–The typical natural wine bar is a humble place designed to make drinkers relax and have fun with wine.

–Taster’s twitch is not only contagious but should be throttled back for the well-being of the wine.

–A lot of people who call themselves natural make unnatural-tasting wines.

–Generic trade tastings have ceased to fulfil any meaningful function but they do provide large rooms where members of the wine trade can gather together and update their Facebook/twitter status.

–It is far more important that high-end Californian wines succeed in their home market than that they fail in markets abroad.

–New World winemakers are occasionally too obsessed with being judged better than their brethren in Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhone – as if being highly regarded by certain critics is the be-all-and-end-all of making wine. It is never a question of being thought better for the sake of it, but making wine with a singular identity that gives pleasure to those who drink it.

–You shouldn’t discriminate against which grapes wine is made from because wine doesn’t discriminate against who drinks it. (Apart from Muscadine because that grape hates you and you should hate it right back).

–Following on from that if you want to insult or diminish the status of a grape variety you may assert the following without fear of contradiction: “Wild Muscadine grapes are functionally dioecious due to incomplete stamen formation in female vines and incomplete pistil formation in male vines.”

–There is a dominant vein of tabloid-esque hyperbole in wine recommendations in national newspapers wherein the journalist displays a quite superb indifference to the overuse of superlatives.

–Following on from that any trumpeted recommendation which uses the word “best” in it deserves to be taken with a massive sack-load of sulphur.

–And following on from that how often can one region have its best vintage ever (since the last one)?

–Never overestimate the quality of a wine where a huge amount of thought has gone into the creation of a label.

–Never operate heavy machinery whilst pregnant and drinking a bottle of wine. Your doctor wouldn’t like it.


–Never trust a wine from a winemaker who says that they were a woodpecker or a termite in a previous incarnation.

–In the Panglossian world of Bordeaux all is for the best in the best of all possible financial worlds as the good vintages are pluperfect if you are an oligarch, and the bad vintages make up for it by being barely affordable.

–Poor editorial work by magazine sub-editors often results in wine articles that read like a series of sweeping generalisations.

–The wine world would be a fantastically dull place without idealism, controversy, humility and humour. And sometimes is.

–The knowledge of restaurant critics about food is only matched by their ignorance of, or complete indifference to, wine.

–Drinkers May Be Divided Into Four Classes (with apologies to Samuel Taylor Coleridge):

*Sponges, who absorb all they drink, and return it nearly in the same state, only a little dirtied.

*Sand-glasses, who retain nothing, and are content to get through a bottle of wine for the sake of getting through the time.

*Strain-bags, who merely retain the dregs of what they drink.

*Mogul Diamonds, equally rare and valuable, who profit by what they drink, and enable others to profit by it also.

–If wine is mutable and tastes different on different days what is the point of big wine competitions? For what is “the average taste” of that particular wine? But if the wine isn’t mutable, what is the point of the wine?

–Slavishly conventional winemaking is as much as voodoo science as an empirical one.


–Bordeaux and Burgundy are oriented (in all senses) towards the Chinese market.

–Try as one might it is very difficult to get remotely worked up about the fraudulent marketing of fine wines.

–Winemakers like to have “missions”. Not be confused with Mission or Pais grapes which is what Chilean winegrowers from Maule like to have. It gives a whole new meaning to “raisins d’être” (sic).

–There is a widespread belief that without the constant oxygen of media exposure, self-publicity and marketing self-reinvention the entire commercial viability would be jeopardised.

“Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable and prejudice is a great time saver as you can form opinions without having to get the facts.” Pillars of wine trade wisdom.

–When a producer says that they are very pleased with a vintage, it means that they are delighted that they made any wine at all.

–AOC is not, and has never been, AOK.

–Price comparison websites have discovered that supermarkets artificially inflate wine prices before slashing them in order to give the appearance of a bargain. This news is as shocking as the fact that, apparently, the earth also goes round the sun.

–Champagne’s innovative marketing strategies, with its links to fashion, luxury and celebrities, are helping to build a high-end image in China and attract more consumers. Please pick out in bold the many objectionable terms in this sentence.


–Boutique has become a marketing term denoting a cult wine that commands beastly prices.

–Garage wine used to be a description of a wine made in a garage. Now it refers to a wealthy chateau that has a garage big enough to house a fleet of Daimlers.

–Opposing wine grape varieties in a metaphorical beauty contest or arm-wrestle is a monumentally pointless activity. Chardonnay versus Gruner Veltliner, Pinot Noir versus Cabernet Sauvignon and so forth. Far better to oppose soil types: limestone versus clay, schist versus granite, gneiss versus orthogneiss, eisen versus blut, dumb versus dumber.

–If sweet wines are the greatest expression of the winemaker’s art why do so few people drink them?

–When a wine becomes trendy it acquires an initial veneer of sophistication. Take sherry. It took ages for the UK wine trade to be impressed by and recognise the potential quality and versatility of this wine. Yet so much sherry that is imported into this market is strip-filtered and cleaned up to the point of being anodyne. But trends always reflect the attitude towards the idea of something rather than the actualité.

–The best wine in a restaurant is often not on the list.

–Restaurants use wine merchants as a kind of old-fashioned bank which can only say yes offering discounts (and retrospective discounts), extended credit terms, endless samples, free stock for parties, Christmas and private charity events, and subsidies of trips and other educational ventures. Were the wine merchant to be genuinely a bank the economy would be booming with the good (and bad) credit times a-rolling.

–“The New…” is the classic rehashing of the insert grape/region/style/wine colour and, like any novelty, is as old as the world itself.

–The wine trade understands and embraces the concept of mutability when it relates to the value of Bordeaux and Burgundy vintages, but fails to appreciate variability in wines from less exalted regions.

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