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Interesting Wine Facts

Wine has been with us for a very long time. Archeological evidences suggests that wine was being made as far back as 8000 BC. Domestication of grapes specifically for making wine was well-established by the early Bronze Age. It seems as if a lot of human history has been inextricably linked to wine. The search for ingredients has launched many an exploration. Countless poetry, stories and even books were inspired by the quest for wine. With that in mind, here is a compendium of interesting wine facts and trivia through the ages:

  • Archeologists have found grape seeds dating from 8000 BC in Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. This is considered the oldest evidence of wine-making yet found.
  • Wine-making is a significant theme in one of the oldest literary works known, The Epic of Gilgamesh. The deity in charge of wine was the goddess Siduri. Representations of her suggest a symbolic relationship between wine, and fertility.
  • One of the most repeated legends throughout history of the discovery of wine is that of King Jamsheed, a possibly mythical king of Persia, who also might have been the inspiration for Noah, of Biblical fame. One of the women in his harem attempted suicide by fermented grape, which were believed to be poison. Wine was discovered when she awoke rejuvenated, and somewhat lively…..
  • Plato was fond of saying that the minimum drinking age should be 18. From then until age 31, a man should only drink wine in moderation. After 40, he could drink all he wanted “ to cure the crabbiness of old age…”
  • Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, included wine in every one of his recorded remedies. He undoubtedly had a lot of happy patients…….
  • In ancient Greece, a dinner host would take the first sip of wine to ensure it was not poisoned, hence the phrase to “drink to one’s health”.
  • The ‘Toast’ was instituted by Romans, who would drop a piece of toasted bread in their wine to buffer unpleasant tastes and excessive acidity.
  • In the entire Biblical Old Testament, the book of Jonah is the only one that does not mention wine, or vines.
  • The Code of Hammurabi (1800 BC) included a law that punished fraudulent wine-sellers by death.
  • In ancient Babylon, it was custom during a wedding for the brides father to supply the groom with all the mead (a delicious honey-based fermented beverage that is similar to beer) that he could drink for a month after the wedding. They used a Lunar Calendar, so this was called the “Honey Month”, which evolved into the modern “Honeymoon”.
  • Before the invention of thermometers, wine-makers would test the temperature of the liquid by sticking their thumb in it, to see if it was the proper temperature for adding the yeast culture. This became known as “ the Rule of Thumb”.
  • In the ancient world, wine was considered legal, and universal currency. The Greeks traded wine for precious metals, and the Romans traded wine for slaves.
  • Thomas Jefferson stocked the wine cellars in the White House for the next five presidents that succeeded him.
  • The wreck of the Titanic holds the oldest known wine cellar still in existence. The bottles are still intact.
  • The temperature of the wine makes a big difference in flavor and bitterness. Wine coolers are the easiest way to properly control this.
  • The most famous toast: “Here’s looking at you, Kid.”- Humphrey Bogart, with a glass of Veuve Clicquot, toasting Ingrid Bergman (well worth a toast)in the classic movie Casablanca.
  • The US is the 4th largest wine producer in the world, right after France, Italy and Spain.
  • Wine grapes are the largest world crop, in terms of acreage planted.
  • The time from seed to harvest of a wine grape is 4 to 5 years.
  • There are over 10,000 varieties and sub-varieties of wine grapes in the world.
  • 55% of all restaurant wine sales are red wine.
  • Wines that feature pictures of animals on the label are called critter wines.
  • Contrary to popular belief, most wines do not age, and should be consumed young. Very few wines last beyond 10 years.

Here are some interesting facts about customary wine practices:

  • ‘Sniffing the cork’ will tell you nothing about a bottle of wine. Corks smell like cork. The reason a sommalier hands you the cork is so that you can examine the date, and other identifying marks on the cork, and match them to the bottle. You can also look for cracks in the cork, mold, or other indicators that the wine might not be fit to drink.
  • The practice of allowing a wine to “breathe” is a holdover from earlier times, when wine-makers used much more sulfur than they do now. On those wines, there would be an initial blast of unpleasant aromas, that dissipated quickly from aeration. Modern wines just need a little time in the glass, and maybe a swirl or two, to release their full bouquet.
  • It is a myth that wine will turn to vinegar if left open, or exposed to heat. Vinegar is a mild solution of acetic acid, which happens as a result of specific bacteria feeding on sugar. The acetic acid is a by-product of their metabolism. Ethanol can be converted to vinegar, but wine contains none of the chemicals needed for this to happen. Wine that has ‘gone-off’ is just that…spoiled wine. The myth probably got started in confusion over another ingredient called Wine Vinegar. This a a purposely made vinegar that uses wine as a base. Wine is put in a fermentation vat, and vinegar starter (similar to sourdough starter) is added. This will create a wine-based vinegar. You can make wine vinegar at home from left-over, and even spoiled wine. But it won’t make itself. You have to add starter, because it is a specific species of bacteria that makes the vinegar. Any other species will ruin it. Undoubtedly, the similarity in names threw somebody, and the myth continues to be perpetuated.
  • Coca-Cola owes its existence to the wine industry. In the 1850s in Europe, popular wines were being fortified with coca extract (the coca plant is the source of cocaine), and called Tonic Wines. In America, John Pemberton began producing a version known as Pemberton’s French Coca Wine in Atlanta, Ga. It was an immediate success. In 1885, local prohibition laws forced him to produce a non-alcoholic version, which he ‘fortified’ with caffeine-rich Kola nut extract, from Africa. This became Coca-Cola……

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