Discovering fun facts about wine becomes an added bonus to the pursuit of sampling so many wines. Not only is winemaking steeped in history, but it also appeals to the romance conjured by vineyard lifestyles. Plus, the science of winemaking and skill of pairing wine with food often appeals to a person’s nerdier side in a sensual way. What’s not to like about wine? I’ve paired ten fun facts about wine with a great infographic courtesy of Tiziano.
Fun Facts About Wine
Dried blood powder has been used as a refining agent in wine in the past, but other organic material (such as egg whites) or minerals (such as bentonite clay) are typically used today. This process goes beyond filtration and can remove substances such as proteins that can cause haziness.
Screw caps are not just for inexpensive wine. Not only are they easier to open, but they also fail much less often than cork and are more environmentally friendly. A cork tree takes 25 years to be ready for its first harvest, and can only be harvested every nine years. Only upon a third harvest when the tree is 52 will the cork be suitable for stopping wine—the earlier harvests can be used for floor tiles or soundproofing material. A cork tree can be harvested 13-18 times.
Smelling a cork reveals little about the wine. When a sommelier hands you the cork, check for identifying marks like the vintner and date. Be sure to check for dryness, cracking, mold, or saturation. A wine that smells musty is said to be “corked.” This has happened to me twice with store-bought wine, and both sellers happily granted an exchange.
Unopened wine with a synthetic cork can be stored standing up. The common practice of storing wine on its side dates back to when only real cork was used. Doing so keeps the cork from drying out and letting in air. An opened bottle of wine should ever be stored on its side since doing so increases the amount of oxygen that reaches the surface of the wine, thus decreasing its already short shelf life.
Only 200 people have earned The Master Sommelier’s Diploma since the three-part exam was first offered 40 years ago. The test covers blind tasting, service, and theory and has been likened to the demands of earning a medical degree.
The wine carrier of choice thousands of years ago was the amphora. This type of clay vase with two handles dates back to before 5,000 BC when the Canaanites introduced it to Egypt. From there, the Phoenicians spread its use all over the Mediterranean. Greek museums abound with these vases.
Each wine really is unique as the terroir—soil, slope, sun exposure, and climate—greatly impacts the taste of the final product. A New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc tastes markedly different from an Australian one, and the list goes on and one. This for me is the ultimate fun and allure to be had with trying wines.
Wine glasses should always be held by the stem. Otherwise, the heat from a person’s hand on the bowl of the glass will cause the temperature of the wine to raise.
Speaking of temperature, whites should be served at 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit and reds at 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit. This is well below what’s “room temperature” for our comfort. This makes the kitchen one of the worst places to store wine.
Most grapes yield clear juice. Red wine gets its color from the skins that are mixed in with the juice during the process of fermentation.
Time for a glass…