Welcome to Mark O’Neill’s Wine Blog


Common misconceptions about wine

1. Screw cap closures are for cheap, lower quality wine

Not true. More and more winemakers all over the world are using a screw cap as an alternative to traditional cork because it seals the bottle and does not allow oxygen to enter; it also removes the risk of the wine being contaminated by cork taint (you know, the smell of wet cardboard or old mushrooms). Sure the screw cap is less romantic than removing a cork but they are practical.  Nowadays practically all wines from New Zealand, famed for the high quality of their wines, come with screw cap.  Australia and USA are not far behind. In the current Discovery Selection 50% of the wines have screw cap.

2. Expensive Wines are Better

Not always.  The price of wines is affected by many factors, not just quality: demand and availability.  Generally speaking the better known the area and grape variety the higher the price.  However, there are many lesser known grapes varieties from less known areas offering very high quality at lower prices.  Scale of production – a small winery will generally have higher handling costs than a larger automated winery but it is not to say that the wine from the larger producer offers less quality. In our current Discovery Selection half of the wines come with screw cap.

3. Old Wines are better than Younger Wines

While this can be true, it is not always the case.  Many people believe that wine improves with age and that the older the better. You should bear in mind that the vast majority of wines are made to be consumed within 1 – 3 years and consequently will not benefit from ageing.  If a wine is going to be aged it has to have the concentration of fruits, tannins and acidity that need time to mature.  If drunk too young they will be closed and the real character and quality will not be evident.

4. Sweetness and Fruitiness in Wine are the Same Thing

No, they are not.  People often confuse sweetness with fruitiness in wine.  A young Chardonnay may be full of rich, sweet flavours – tropical fruits, pineapple, papaya – but yet is dry in terms of residual sugar.  Understandably this can be confusing, how can something have sweet flavours but be dry. Our senses associate tropical fruits or ripe summer berries with sweetness hence the perception of sweetness.  On the other hand classic sweet wines such as Sauternes, Tokaj, some Rieslings and some Moscatels are made differently so that the wine has a much high level of natural residual sugar.

5. Only use the Cheapest Wines for Cooking

If it is not good enough to drink, why would you want to cook with it?  As the wine is reduced when heated the flavours become more concentrated due to the evaporation; so if you use a wine that is at best tasteless or even unpleasant that it what you are adding to your food when cooking. In Spain there is a big market for ‘cooking wine’, a base wine infused with a selection of herbs and then fortified.  It is undrinkable and consequently, is detrimental to the quality of the food.  So when cooking only use wine that you enjoy.

Next week there will be another five common misconceptions.  If you have any questions or comments leave them below.

Written by

I am a Northern Irishman based in Valencia. My career in wine began more than three decades ago, in London. I am the founder of TheWinePlace.es, an online store, where wine enthusiasts can enjoy a selection of international wines and Verde Marte, a company dedicated to exporting Spanish wines. Also, Thewineplace.courses, an "approved program provider" of the courses of the prestigious WSET. I share my passion for wines through my media work writing weekly columns for the Spanish newspaper El Mundo and 5 Barricas, an online wine magazine.

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