A lot of contradictory advice surges around the wine world – some handed down from experts, but also some woven in by pseudo-experts. Because wine sometimes carries with it a sense of snobbery, many people are too intimidated to question some of the conventional wisdom. Here are a few of the most common.

Myth: You must remove the cork an hour before serving to allow the wine to “breathe.”

Fact: Opinions differ on this statement, but testing has shown little or no change in a wine by simply pulling the cork before dinner. This is because the wine is being exposed to only a small amount of air. Decant the wine or give it few extra swirls in the glass if you are looking to change the taste of the wine.

Myth: New World wines taste different than Old World Wines.

Fact: There was a time this was true, because you could taste the distinct differences of wines being produced throughout the world – for instance, the ultra-rich fruit of Australian wines compared to France’s more restrained and elegant or rough and rustic style. It was easy to detect because most New World winemakers were producing squeaky-clean wines with the most advanced techniques, while most Old World producers stood strong in a wine’s distinct expression of terroir. Today the lines are much more blurred, with many different styles being sought by Old and New World winemakers.

Myth: You must always smell the cork when the waiter hands it to you.

Fact: The purpose of the waiter offering the cork is so the consumer can check to see whether the cork is broken or moldy. The smell of the cork does not indicate the quality of the wine or whether it has been tainted from the cork.

Myth: The “legs” or “tears” can judge the quality of a wine.

Fact: The “legs” or “tears” are the viscous streams that run down the inside of the glass. If you swirl the glass, the “legs” are more noticeable. More pronounced legs do not indicate quality, only a higher amount of alcohol.

Myth: Old wines are the only excellent wines.

Fact: By no means does every wine improve with age; as much as 98 percent of still wines (those excluding sparkling and fortified) is produced to be consumed within a few years. Confusion around this myth is why many people are sadly disappointed when they open saved bottles only to find that the wine has turned to vinegar.

To explore the truth of the myths, consider these two wines when thinking about Old and New World comparisons.

THE VALUE

  • 2006 Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile (about $11, retail)

THE SPLURGE

  • 2005 Groth Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $76, retail)