Mythconceptions

Fortean Times - - Strange Days - by Mat Cow­ard

The myth

Good wine im­proves with age.

The “truth”

Wine ex­perts seem to be pretty clear on this mat­ter: al­most all wines should be drunk fresh – nor­mally within a year or two of bot­tling. Like most foods and drinks, wines have an op­ti­mum pe­riod of con­sump­tion, a nat­u­ral “Best Be­fore” date, af­ter which they will start to de­cline in qual­ity. Wines kept too long will be­come “stale”, in the sense of life­less and even musty, and will lose their colour. In the past, be­fore sci­en­tific pre­ci­sion re­placed guess­work, many young wines were far more acidic and heav­ier in tan­nin than they are to­day, and there­fore it was wise to cel­lar them for a while in or­der to ren­der them palat­able. To­day, some sweeter wines, cham­pagnes and a few reds are in­tended to be aged in the bot­tle for five years or so (pro­vided they are kept in ideal con­di­tions) be­fore con­sump­tion, but the vast ma­jor­ity of all wines – be­tween 90% and 99%, say the oenophiles – should be drunk now, not saved for a dis­tant spe­cial oc­ca­sion. One cause of con­fu­sion may be that very old bot­tles are some­times worth a lot of money; but they are usu­ally sold to col­lec­tors, as rar­i­ties, not for drink­ing.

Sources

www.nytimes.com/1987/01/18/mag­a­zine/wine-a-musty-myth. html; http://winere­viewon­line.com/Paul_Lukac­s_Myth_of_Aging. cfm; www.ya­hoo.com/style/12-myths-about-wine-busted-by-asom­me­lier-127011119136.html; www.his­to­ry­to­day.com/charleslud­ing­ton/pol­i­tics-wine-18th-cen­tury-eng­land

Dis­claimer

This col­umn is no wine ex­pert – but then, nor is any­one else, since the whole pile of non­sense was en­tirely in­vented by the newly-dom­i­nant mid­dle class of the in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion, who were try­ing to es­tab­lish their su­pe­rior taste and re­fine­ment in or­der to le­git­imise their rise to power. Still, if any wine snob does wish to cor­rect our er­rors, please feel free to swirl your thoughts around your mouth be­fore spit­ting them out in the let­ters pages.

Mythchaser

A few years ago, an FT reader came across a cu­ri­ous “fact,” and wants to know if it’s true: do more peo­ple die in deserts from drown­ing, than from thirst and hunger?

214: OLD WINE

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