Wine misconceptions

Winemaking (Photo: How Stuff Works website)

The topic of wine is never very far from my conversations, as people from all walks of life love to talk about it. Everyone has a story, whether it be about a special bottle they own or a tiny winery they have discovered.

One person revealed that the reason she serves wine to friends who drop by is so they stay longer and talk more. It is the pause, that one gets from slowly sipping a glass of wine, which allows for a few more words to be exchanged; something that is always welcomed in this fast-paced world.

I am endlessly fascinated by, and appreciative of, the thoughts people share, though I am sometimes surprised by the misconceptions that are revealed.

Many still think that all riesling is sweet and that chardonnay is oaky and buttery, which is of course very far from the truth.

Another person revealed that because they were a ‘clean eater’ they exclusively chose organic and biodynamic wines because all other wines were full of chemicals! A classic case of the converse not always being correct.

Just because a winery chooses not to adopt these defined philosophies in their entirety, and embark on the detailed and costly documentation process to become certified as an organic or biodynamic producer, certainly does not mean that they are producing wines laden with impurities.

To demonstrate the challenge some wineries face over these misconceptions, I saw a wine labelled as having ‘a lower than organic level of sulfur’, to illustrate that although it was not an organic wine, the amount of sulfur used was less than the maximum allowed in one certified as organic.

Someone else revealed that they now only drink French wine as Australian wine is not very interesting. Really? I also thoroughly enjoy French wine, and wine from all over the world for that matter, but to shun local wines surprised me.

The Australian wine industry is in a wildly fascinating state, with experimentation at an all-time high and winemakers seeking to make wines with true personality and flair. Some choose to put their very own thumbprint on the wine, whereas others take a truly hands-off approach letting the wine twist and turn at will. Winemakers chase site expression, balance, complexity, restraint and texture more than ever before. Australia is producing wine of phenomenal quality with prices that are more than fair.

If looking for more diversity, start buying your wine from different outlets that stock an alternative range of wines, and experiment with new labels and varieties in wine bars and restaurants. Plan a few short breaks to vineyard regions and connect directly with producers so that you can understand their philosophies towards grape growing and winemaking. Attend wine tastings and dinners, plus add your name to mailing lists to gain access to unique small batch, limited release wines.

With over 2400 wine producers in Australia, many of them small, there are so many interesting bottles to discover. In most cases, you will find that the best wines, irrespective of the size of the winery, are being made by passionate people who care about the integrity and purity of their product as much as their customers do. Take a lateral approach, embrace diversity and trust your palate. You will be surprised what you will find.

3 thoughts on “Wine misconceptions”

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  2. John Elliott says:

    Hi Toni

    Is sulfur, as a natural element, an allowable agent used in organic vineyards to control diseases and this is why there is a higher level found in the resultant wine? I suspect that the majority of vineyards use synthetically produced chemicals to control diseases and have less or no residual sulfur on the grapes that are used to make their wines.
    Have I misconceived that you are stating that sulfur is used in winemaking or perhaps you mean sulfur dioxide or sulfites?

    1. Toni Paterson MW
      Toni Paterson MW says:

      Hi John. Thanks for touching base. You are correct that sulphur sprays can be used in vineyards to control disease. When I used the term sulfur, I was talking about the permissible additive sulfur dioxide which is used in both organic and non-organic winemaking because of its antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. The additive prevents wines from spoiling through oxidation and microbial spoilage. When added to wine it can exist in both a free and a bound form. Most winemakers, whether they are certified organic or not, will use the minimum amount necessary to protect their wine. Best wishes, Toni

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