Wine Series: Wine Myths Uncorked
Its high profit margin makes wine a product that many restaurants seek to sell more of. But how?
Over several weeks Restaurant Management talks to Barbara Wichman Nowak and Beverly Wichman Pittman, who give advice on everything from how to make your restaurant wine-friendly to how to save money and find the best value on wines.
Known as The Saucy Sisters, Nowak and Pittman are the authors of ‘The Saucy Sisters’ Guide to Wine: What Every Girl Should Know Before She Uncorks’ and ‘The Everything Wine Book.’ Their third book, ‘The Saucy Sisters' Guide to Wine: What Every Girl Should Know Before She Unscrews,’ will be published in October.
This week the sisters tell RMGT which are the top 10 wine myths and why they are in fact not true:
1. Zinfandel is a pink wine
White Zinfandel became so popular that often wait staff don’t know about red Zinfandel. Staff training should make it clear. Servers should also know the characteristics of a Zinfandel (little spicy, medium to full bodied) so they can suggest another red like Syrah or a Rioja if they don’t carry Zin.
White Zinfandel is a sweeter, light wine. Substitutes for it are a Gewürztraminer, a sweeter Riesling, or, what’s really big right now, the Muscat grape—Moscato.
2. Red wines should never be chilled
One of the top restaurant complaints is that red wine is served too warm. Red wine should be served at cellar temperature (60º), not room temperature. All reds need a little chilling if they’re at room temperature, even the lighter reds like Beaujolais, but a lot of this comes down to personal preference so the server should always ask the guests.
If red wine is too warm guests will experience too much of the alcohol. That alcohol will mute some of the other flavors because it’s so overwhelming—and drinkers can’t appreciate all the flavors in the wine.
3. Uncorking a wine will let it breathe
Taking the cork out of a wine bottle to expose an extremely narrow bottleneck does virtually nothing to get air into a wine and allow it to breathe.
Either decant the wine into a decanter or pour it into the glasses and let it sit. It could be poured once, or even two or three times. Decant around 30 minutes in advance—20 minutes minimum. If you decant wine several times you can do it closer to the drinking time.
4. Screwtops are a sign of cheap wine
Some people think a screwcap denotes a lesser quality wine but it doesn’t. In fact, some producers are putting them on some expensive wines and they’re used exclusively in New Zealand.
Screwtop or cork notwithstanding, a server should always present the bottle to the guest (but don’t present the screwcap or leave it on the table). Then continue with the tasting ritual—the pouring, the tasting, swirling. All wine drinkers want this experience.
5. Doggy bags pertain only to a restaurant's food
Most states allow diners to take unfinished bottles of wine out of the restaurant. Check www.winedoggybag.com, which discusses it on a state-by-state basis.
If your state allows wine to be taken out, make it clear on your menu. That fact may encourage consumers to buy wine by the bottle and increase your check averages. And ensure your servers all know so they can mention it.
6. Wine and food pairings can only be done right by trained sommeliers
There are no hard and fast rules about taste and pairings. People just have personal preferences. Some people like sweet Rieslings with whatever they’re having.
It’s very personal when a server can give his or her own preference for a pairing. It may not be exactly what the guest is looking for but makes for a very personalized service, and may lead to the diner trying something new.
7. Vintage wines are better than non-vintage wines
People think vintage wine has to be better because it comes from a single year but non-vintage wine made from several years’ grapes can be just as good. Many consumers equate vintage with quality, but vintage simply means that the grapes were all harvested in one year.
8. Sulfites cause the red wine headache
Sulfites are always listed on wine labels but they do not cause post-wine-drinking headaches.
Headaches are due to many factors. The wood barrels can cause them, as can other factors like histamines and chemicals used.
Sulfites are also not only found in red wines. In fact, there are fewer sulfites in red wines because sulfites are preservatives and red wines have a natural preservative in their tannins
Sulfites can actually be life threatening for asthmatics.
9. A wine with larger “legs,” means a better quality wine
“Legs” (trails down a wine glass from the rim) are indicative of how much alcohol is in a wine. There’s nothing a guest can know about the quality of a wine until he or she has tasted it.
10. Extra Dry sparkling wine is drier than Brut
This is very confusing. In fact, Extra Brut is the driest of the dry, then Brut, then Extra Dry.
By Amanda Baltazar