VIC100 head judge Nick Stock busts the myths, misnomers and plain old white lies surrounding wine.

WINE: we all see it and taste it differently but the one thing everyone needs to remember is that wine is all about pleasure. It’s just a drink, often one with an aura of mystique, and sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes it’s not.

The ins and outs of wine are not simple and that’s why the world has surrounded it with helpful tips to get the most out of what’s in your glass as well as to make it easier to enjoy. But sometimes what starts out as an insight gets lost in the mix of time, myths emerge and something helpful then becomes the obstacle to having fun and relaxing.

These are the things that give wine a bad rap, so let’s bust a few of the myths, misnomers and plain old white lies surrounding wine and help you unlock a better experience of wine along the way, it is all about relaxed enjoyment after all.

1. Wine is difficult: the biggest myth about wine is that it’s hard, or tricky or some fancy drink invented by bow tie-wearing blokes in dandruff-crusted jackets with gravy stains on their shirt and cheese crumbs in their beards. Now whilst I’ve met a few that fit the description, wine has historically been a drink for everyone, made wherever grapes will grow and served as a celebratory reminder of the magical interaction between humans and Mother Nature. The basic knack of enjoying wine is to find a style that you like and to zoom in on that style, understanding what makes it so great. It might be that it is refreshing, that it has a lot of oak, or none. Once you’re on the map, you can then explore other similar styles and that’s where the adventure of enjoying wine really begins.

The biggest myth about wine is that it’s complicated. Not so, says wine critic Nick Stock.

2. Never say never: it is really easy to say what you don’t like, in fact, it’s a little too easy with wine. I hear it all the time, “I don’t like chardonnay” or “I don’t like red wine” and this is basically a challenge to me because almost every single time I hear someone say they don’t like a style of wine, I can find an example they really do like. So never say never, instead try to figure out what you do like and go from there

3. You only decant old red wines: actually no, you should also be prepared to decant many white wines, almost as often or even more often as you decant reds. Traditionally we are taught that decanting is for older red wines to remove the harmless sediment (sometimes called a crust – eew!) that builds up in the bottle over time. This is where the candle comes in, shining through the bottom of the bottle as you pour it gently into a decanter, carefully letting the sediment remain (hint: mobile phone torch lights are the best for this!). But these days we drink mostly younger reds and they mostly benefit from decanting as a way of aerating the wine to effectively wake it up. But young whites also really benefit form decanting in just the same way, a little bit of air brings out more aromas and flavours and also opens up the texture of the wine. Whites from fridge are often really cold and closed and decanting brings them up to a better temperature quicker, which brings me to myth number 3.

To decant or not to decant? That is the question.

4. Serve at room temperature: one of the great myths about wine, especially for Australia, especially in summer, is this idea that wines should be served at room temperature. This is an old idea, an idea that probably came from another hemisphere where room temperature was a little different to the magic 21ºC we set things at today. In Australia we tend to drink our reds too warm and our whites too cold. So swap things around a little and take the whites out of the fridge before serving and put the reds in for a gentle chill. Sparkling and Champagne should be served with a solid chill, but these also show a lot more personality when they’re allowed to warm up a little, try it!

5. Great reds need time: this is a myth that quite possibly dates back to the days of horse and cart. Red wines were often fiercely tannic and impossible to drink when they were young, hence this idea that great reds need ageing in order to be enjoyed. Today’s work in the vineyards and wineries is much more focused on balanced grapes, perfectly ripe, making balanced wines. This means that the vast majority of excellent reds are great to enjoy young and great to enjoy with some age. Hard work really does pay off!

6. I’m having the fish, so I can’t drink a red: food and wine matching is meant to be fun and it’s certainly not as simple as red wine with red meat and white wine with the fish. Just as most people understand food in a much deeper way, so too wine. Whites and reds come in many different shades and this means that when it comes to food matching you can find so many options to explore. But most of all remember you can drink whatever you like, whenever you like, don’t let anyone tell you any different!

Glass of wine against a brick wall Thinkstock PERSONAL OZ Picture: Supplied

7.  Look at the legs: one of my least favourite myths, I recently sat through an entire tasting in France where the host made everyone study the legs on the glass every time a new wine was served. True, different wines have different textures and levels of viscosity, and the way a wine holds to the inside of the glass after a swirl will be different, but please, it tells you virtually nothing about the way the wine will taste and how much you’re likely to enjoy it. Please, no more wasting valuable time, less staring at the glass, more smelling and sipping!

8.  Size doesn’t matter: in wine it actually matters a whole lot. Large format bottles aren’t just impressive (or substitutes for other small things!) they actually keep wines fresher for longer and give a great wine a much longer potential life. The biggest difference is in Champagne and sparkling wine, so next time you know you’re going to have call for two bottles of fizz, hunt down a magnum (1.5 litres or two standard bottles) and make a great impression on your guests.

9. Cheese and red wine: are often not great mates. Red wines have a lot more tannin than whites, these are the compounds responsible for the drying sensation you get on your tongue. With cheese, the combination can be a disastrous dry mouth episode. Whites are more about acidity and these are really refreshing when you have a fatty food like cheese, they cleanse the palate, so go for a crisp, higher acid white when you’re next busting out the cheese plate.

If you’re pairing wine with cheese, ditch the red and pour a white instead.

10.  Price means quality: it is true that certain things simply cost money, like manual labour in the vineyard compared to mechanized practices. So up to a point you can say that price means quality in wine but once you get up over say $30 you are starting to pay for increased quality as well as other things that are much harder to define. Sometimes, the most expensive wine is not the best one on offer, so try to make your own mind up based on your own personal ‘expert’ opinion, not what’s on the label!

11.  You can cellar your wine under the stairs: unfortunately for many of you reading this with wine stashed under the stairs, in the bottom of the cupboard or under the bed, the news is not good. Storing wine properly is a much more serious thing than we often think. Each bottle is a living thing, like an apple or a carton of milk and they are really sensitive to their surrounds. Long term you really need a cool place (ideally less than 15ºC) that holds the same temperature day and night. Light and vibration will also take their toll and, for cork sealed bottles, humidity is important to stop the natural cork wood form drying out, shrinking and letting air get to your wine.

Want to learn more about wine? Nick Stock and other leading experts will be talking all things Victorian wine at this year’s VIC100 Festival of Wine on Saturday September 17 at Federation Square. To buy tickets visit

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Bad Habits at Wine Tastings

The Drinks Business magazine had an article on the Eight Bad Habits of those attending Wine Tastings. Mainly journos and in-the-tradies but it could reflect others.

Here are some:

Responses to “Eight irritating habits of people in the wine trade”

1. August 19, 2016 at 1:38 pm

People who stand about chatting in front of the spittoons blocking your way…

Those who taste in large groups (always Restaurants) and hog the table…


2. August 19, 2016 at 1:51 pm

We had one chap at a tasting who claimed to be a journalist and showed us a ragged piece from a magazine. He then said that if we gave him a couple of bottles he would write a review. He’d even brought his own carrier bag. Was funny the first time but he kept turning up to tastings to blag free wine. Eventually we contacted tasting organisers to ban him from attending.

3. August 19, 2016 at 4:40 pm

Not recognising faulty wines. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve poured a sample from a bottle that is half full, only to discover that it is haloanisole tainted, oxidised, or otherwise faulty. Not only have the stand staff failed to check the wine, but the previous dozen or do tasters haven’t realised it was faulty or alerted them to have it pulled.

4. August 19, 2016 at 5:26 pm

The time a director of a major wine importer, at an in-house tasting, aimed for the spitoon, forgetting that he just had his teeth fixed. A fine spray of wine shot out sideways and made a lovely pattern down the front of a fellow directors new cream linen suit.
Or the time my neighbour, a huge wine snob, was served a cheap wine from a bottle of expensive Italian red. “Absolutely outstanding!” he exclaimed.
Or the time a colleague dropped a cigarette butt into the wine glass of a very, very drunk fellow employees wine glass. He picked up the wine glass and knocked it back, butt and all.
Or the time the boss of the Icelandic distributors team got very drunk at a boardroom lunch and unbuttoned his fly and piddled against a glass wall, to the horror of the open plan office on the other side.
I could go on.

5. August 19, 2016 at 5:32 pm

Heh. Soon after we opened our tasting room we learned to make the spit bucket very clear. We were using a nice looking vase as the spitter, and a customer decided they liked it and proceeded to turn it upside down, looking for a price tag…

6. August 19, 2016 at 7:40 pm

One time at a beautiful seaside venue , a fine upscale hotel, a couple of my customers were so happy, they decided to have a quick “go at it” in the ladies room. The ladies in there weren’t quite as excited.

7. August 20, 2016 at 12:31 am

I had a 400 pound enologist at Ektimo winery scream at me for bringing a flower into a tasting room. claiming I was ruining the bouquet of the wines. As I looked around, I noticed a stinking restroom in the tasting room and smelled the open cess pool right next to the tasting room…..

8. August 22, 2016 at 10:33 am

What irritates me ? the studying classroom atmosphere of tasting sessions, the so called ability to find “incredible color variations” between 2 indistinguishable wines, the so called ability to taste differences, even after 20 wines, the endless ability to find words to describe flavours, and finally (but that’s not from the experts), the docile nodding of the audience, agreeing to anything being told by the “expert”.

9. August 23, 2016 at 2:26 pm

My favorite is when a “trade attendee” baths in so much perfume or aftershave that their ORDOR cannonballs into the room, the wines and everyone else.