‘It’s not holy water

THINK AGAIN: Flute glasses might not be the best way to drink champagne or cap classique. This is one of several wine conventions – such as 'having' to drink reds with red meat and whites with fish – that the writer refuses to accept at face value
THINK AGAIN: Flute glasses might not be the best way to drink champagne or cap classique. This is one of several wine conventions – such as ‘having’ to drink reds with red meat and whites with fish – that the writer refuses to accept at face value

DO you drink your champagne or cap classique at room temperature? A recent study by the University of Reims, in France, suggests that it might be better to do so because champagne served at 64°F (18°C) is likely to form more bubbles. Personally, I prefer mine chilled. But there are a few more myths out there just waiting to be busted…

RED WITH MEAT, WHITE WITH FISH

Matching wine and food is more about looking at the intensity or volume of the flavours involved than it is about going for red or white.

Shouty food needs shouty wine, and vice versa. So it is true that you might prefer not to bludgeon a delicate piece of steamed sea bass into oblivion by downing a big fat shiraz or Chilean cabernet with it. But a meaty fish, such as swordfish or tuna, can work beautifully with a light red. Pan-fried salmon is delicious with pinot noir.

Cod wrapped in prosciutto with lentils goes well with Italian reds, and if you have a hearty, tomato- based fish stew, then how about a rustic red wine to go with it?

As for the meat side of the equation: what if you had lamb cooked Greek style, with lemon juice, oregano and olives? Might you consider an oaked assyrtiko – a white from Santorini? Go on…

THE HEAVIER AND MORE IMPRESSIVE THE BOTTLE, THE BETTER THE WINE

No. The heavier and more impressive the bottle, the bigger the winemaker’s ego.

OLD WINE NEEDS DECANTING

Hold back. Put that decanter down. It’s true that more expensive wine can sometimes be improved by decanting – it might have intense concentration and tight tannins that will ease and open if they are given time and air.

But older wines can be fragile. They have already aged, slowly and gently, in the bottle, and may, like a griddled steak, have reached the moment when they are á point. Swilling them around in a decanter may send them over the edge.

Old wines, decanted, sometimes just fall apart before your eyes. My advice is open the bottle a couple of hours before serving, pour a small amount into a glass and recork it. Taste the wine immediately, and again when it’s been in the glass for 10 minutes or so. You will know if it needs decanting.

WINE UNDER SCREWCAP CAN’T BE CORKED

I’m afraid it can. The culprit here is a chemical known as TCA and it can infect the winery. I once had dinner with a winemaker in the Barossa Valley in Australia. One of her (red) wines clearly tasted corked – and she went to retrieve the screwcap from the bin that would give her the lot number of the wine, so the rest of the batch could be tested. That said, it’s rare to find a corked screwcap wine.

RED WINE IS BEST AT ROOM TEMPERATURE

Maybe it once was. Maybe it still is if you go to my parents’ house where they doggedly set the thermostat at 14°C.

But quite often red wine is served too warm, so that it tastes soupy and indistinct. There’s no need to get the thermometer out – just try cooling it down slightly and see if you prefer the taste.

CHAMPAGNE SHOULD BE DRUNK OUT OF FLUTES

Leaving aside the fact that I’m not a fan of the word “should”, in almost any context, I prefer not to drink champagne or cap classique out of skinny, straight-sided flutes.

I threw all of mine in the bin when I moved house. It’s a far better idea to simply use an ordinary wine glass – that way you get much more pleasure from the smell of the wine.

Or go for the increasingly fashionable option of the so-called bowed-flute, a voluptuous flute that shows off the wine but also looks the part.

IT IS SACRILEGE TO PUT ICE CUBES IN WINE THAT IS TOO WARM

No, it’s not. You can certainly put ice in your glass of wine if you want to. I did it in a cheap Chinese in Soho the other night. And at the ballet last week when I’d been treated to a glass of champagne that was too warm. The friend I was with looked a bit put out and said: “I’d have put ice in mine if I hadn’t been with you.” Just do it. After all, it’s wine, not holy water! © The Telegraph

 

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