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8 Wine Rules You Should Break

Find out which classic "wine rules" are meant to be broken.
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Moment of Truth

Wine "rules" exist for a reason: They guide us in a pinch. We know that that whites should be chilled and that we shouldn't pair a big fat steak with a pale Pinot Grigio, but on occasion these well-known truisms can hamper our enjoyment, too. We reached out to Bryan Flewelling, professional oenophile and wine director for Big Tree Hospitality's three Portland, Maine, restaurants to hear which rules are worth breaking.

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Rosé Is Only for Summer

"Oh, completely not," says Flewelling. Depending on the producer, good French rosé — he is partial to some that employ Grenache grapes, as well as those with more of a magenta hue, which tend to be more tannic and have good acidity — are ideal for autumnal drinking. "Rosé is not made to be laid down and drunk in 10 years," he reminds us. So seek out darker rosés, such as those made with Zweigelt, a grape from Austria, which can typically stand up to fall’s heartier pastas, soups and vegetable tarts.

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Sweet Wines Are Only for Dessert

When customers tell him they loathe sweet wines, Flewelling asks whether they also hate sweet desserts. "There's the sweetness of the Twinkie, and then there's the sweetness of an apple," he parries. "Why has wine been the single area where you can't abide sugar?" He'd point out that a German Riesling has just as much acidity as it does sugar, and can be fantastic with Asian cuisine. It provides "a yin-yang balance" to spice, he notes, "like a sweet-tart candy."

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You Have to Decant a "Big" Red Wine

"Aerating a wine makes a difference no matter what the wine is," says Flewelling, "although there are some that are so delicate I wouldn’t aerate them. I don't decant old bottles, because they've usually had enough time to mature." The point of decanting, he explains, is to "wake up" what are called "esters" — compounds in wine that react to oxygen. He'll often decant young wines that need the help, but a lot depends on the producer: If a vintner lets grapes hang on the vine well past ripeness, all that oxidation happens right on the vine, so you won't want to aerate at all. "Some wines are perfect after the first day; some suck after the first hour," Flewellling says.

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