Wine’s greatest myths

Katie Gardner of Birmingham Wine School separates fact from fiction to make your drinking experiences even more enjoyable

Wine, with its rich history and complex flavours, has always held a certain allure. However, certain misconceptions surrounding this beloved beverage persist, leading to confusion and missed opportunities for wine enthusiasts. Let’s bust some myths and enhance your enjoyment of the good stuff!

Myth 1 – I’m allergic to sulphites
One common myth is that people are allergic to sulphites, often blaming them for headaches and allergic reactions. Sulphites, which occur naturally in wine, serve as a preservative, preventing oxidation and maintaining wine’s freshness. While some individuals are sensitive to sulphites, wine contains far fewer sulphites than other everyday foods like dried fruits or processed foods.
In reality, reactions to wine are more likely related to histamines or other compounds present in the wine. If you experience adverse reactions, consider taking an anti-allergy tablet with a pint of water before drinking. If you are polishing off the bottle though, nothing can help you with that hangover!

Myth 2 – Serve red wine at room temperature
Do you keep your wine in your kitchen? With all the bright spotlights and temperature fluctuations when cooking, it’s probably the worst place for it. Serving wine at the appropriate temperature significantly impacts its taste and aroma. For red wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, an ideal service temperature is between 15 and 18°C. This range allows the wine’s bold flavours and tannins to shine without overwhelming the palate.
You don’t need a wine cellar to store your wines, just somewhere cool and dark like a garage or cupboard is ideal. We tend to serve our white wines too cold. If you drink straight from the fridge, your wine will just taste of ‘cold’, which is perfectly fine for a glass of plonk after a long day but if you are spending a little more or drinking something more full-bodied like a Chardonnay then wait 15 minutes or so to allow it to warm up a little before drinking. You will find that the flavours are greatly enhanced! Experts recommend between 6 and 10°C to serve your white wine.

Myth 3 – This wine has great legs!
The question of ‘legs’ comes up time and time again at our wine school tastings. You may have noticed when swirling your wine around the glass that you see drips or tears falling around the sides. This is often referred to as the ‘legs’ of the wine, and some people think that if a wine has thicker legs then it is of higher quality. The reality is that it is simply down to the higher sugar or alcohol content of the wine in question. All wines have legs and you can’t measure quality by them!

Myth 4 – You should always decant red wine
Decanting wine serves two primary purposes: separating sediment in old wines and more importantly, aerating the wine. Not all wines benefit from decanting for long periods of time, particularly old wines which are very delicate and unstable but most bold red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz tend to benefit the most. To decant, stand the bottle upright for a few hours before pouring it gently into a decanter, leaving any sediment behind. You don’t need any fancy equipment for this, you could just use a carafe or even a Pyrex jug! The process allows the wine to breathe – react with the oxygen in the air to fully develop its flavours, enhancing your overall wine experience.

Myth 5 – More expensive wine tastes better
Wine tasting is such a personal, subjective experience and if you like a cheaper wine more than a than an expensive one, enjoy it!


Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Discovery Colletion Lugana, Lake Garda, Italy (Sainsbury’s, £12 a bottle)
A delicious, easy-drinking and refreshing white wine from the beautiful Lake Garda in northern Italy. It goes great with creamy risottos or fish dishes.

Honey Drop Chenin Blanc, Swartland, South Africa (Majestic, £13.99 or £9.99 mix six)
Creamy tropical fruit notes and touch of vanilla from oak ageing, this is a top-notch white wine from one of South Africa’s most exciting wine regions. Try it with roast pork.

Specially Selected Ribera del Duero, Spain (Aldi, £7.49 a bottle)
This cracking red wine is from one of Spain’s best up-and-coming wine regions. Made from the same grape as they use in Rioja but more deep and powerful in style due to the harsher, desert-like conditions of the Ribera region.

Wynns The Siding Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, Australia (Tesco, £15 a bottle)
Full of ripe blackberry and cherry fruit with a touch of smoky spice and great structure from the tannins. Ideal for your roast dinner or a steak.

Birmingham Wine School is an independent wine education company that offers fun informal wine tasting events and Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) courses online, in Birmingham and Warwick. For more information, contact Katie Gardner on 0121 270 7359, or visit