Wine is one of the most popular beverages in the world, and chances are – like us – you’ve drunk a glass or two in your life! But how much do you really know about it? Do you know your Burgundy from your Beaujolais? Your Chablis from your Chardonnay? Or would you struggle to tell a Pinot Grigio from a Prosecco?
Well, not to worry. We’re not exactly wine experts ourselves when it comes to detecting top notes or oaky flavors. But, we’ve done some research and one thing we do know is that all wine pairs well with good conversation!
So pick up a few bottles (and we don’t mind if you choose them based on their vintage or purely for their pretty label) then throw a dinner party and get ready to regale your friends with a few of our fun wine facts!
Raise a glass
Let’s kick off our fun facts list with a toast, which, like many modern wine drinking rituals, has its roots far back in history. The phrase ‘to drink a toast’ comes from ancient Rome, where it was customary to drop pieces of toasted bread into wine to temper any sharp or acidic flavors.
Clinking one’s glass against another’s may now be a way of saying cheers, but in the middle ages, the tradition was to bump your cup forcibly against the other’s so that some of your wine spilled into their cup and vice versa. This was a way to show that neither of you had poisoned the other’s wine.
To your health!
The ancient Greeks were similarly afraid of poisoning, and so the phrase ‘drinking to your health’ comes from them. At gatherings, the host would stand and drink the first cup of wine, again to show that they had not poisoned it and that their guests were in no danger.
Wine, wine – everywhere
Grapes are the most planted fruit globally, with more than 10,000 varieties growing around the world and over 80 countries involved in wine growth and production.
Free wine, anyone?
In Abruzzo, Italy, there is a wine fountain that dispenses free red wine 24/7. It was created primarily to serve those walking the popular 196-mile Cammino di San Tommaso pilgrimage route between Rome and Ortona. But anyone is welcome to visit the vineyard and enjoy a free drink in the beautiful surroundings.
50 states of grapes
Wine is grown in every state of the US, even Alaska, where wine is made from not only grapes but other locally grown fruits like blueberries, gooseberries, and even rhubarb. Some Alaskan wineries are also known for making ice wine, a sweet dessert wine produced using grapes frozen while still on the vine.
Wine is found not just all over the world but under the sea too! Divers exploring the historic wreck of the Titanic were surprised to find that many of the wine bottles in the ship’s cellar remain intact despite the boat sitting at a depth of 12,000 feet below the surface. The bottles were not removed but left undisturbed aboard the ship.
Aged like a fine wine
Older doesn’t always mean better
Contrary to popular belief, old wine is not necessarily good wine. Not all wines benefit from the aging process, in fact, it’s only around 10% that do. Most wines should be consumed within the first year and left no longer than five years.
But sometimes, it does
For a few very high-quality wines, the aging process does benefit the wine adding complexity to the flavors and value to the bottle. The most expensive bottle of wine in the world was sold at auction by Sotheby’s in 2018. The bottle of 1945 Domaine Romanee-Conti Burgundy sold for $558,000. That equates to about $100,000 per glass!
An excellent vintage.
Although many of us use the term ‘vintage’ to be synonymous with age and high quality, it doesn’t actually mean that. A vintage wine (or Champagne) is merely a bottle in which all the grapes came from the same year’s harvest. In comparison, a non-vintage bottle contains grapes from a blend of harvests. So for quality, don’t just look for vintage but premium vintage, meaning that the year those grapes were harvested was a good one.
The oldest bottle of wine in the world is on display in Germany at the Historical Museum of Pfalz, Speyer. The bottle was unearthed in the 1800s from a tomb where it had been buried along with several other vessels and glasses. The wine dates back to 325 AD and is still liquid at its center, although it doesn’t look very appealing!
And the oldest winery in the world is located in a cave in the mountains of the Vayots Dzor region of Armenia. The Areni-1 winery is thought to be over 6000 years old. Ancient graves and funeral relics located nearby suggest that wine was made here for use at funerals and burial rites.
To your health!
The original health drink
The health benefits of wine have been championed for thousands of years. As far back as 400 BC, wine was being prescribed to patients to help a variety of ailments from fever to depression, diarrhea to pain during childbirth. These days it’s still said to have plenty of health benefits, including lessening the chances of diabetes, stroke, and heart disease while increasing cognitive function.
A diet-friendly beverage
Wine contains no cholesterol and is entirely fat-free! And so long as you stick to the dry wines, you’ll find it low in calories and sugar too. A standard glass of dry red wine contains around 110 calories and less than a gram of sugar.
It’s better than juice
Wine, especially red wine, is extremely high in antioxidants. From just one glass of wine, you can gain the same antioxidant benefits as are in 20 glasses of apple juice!
It’s better for you than water (kinda’!)
Well, this one’s no longer true, but it used to be. Centuries ago, people drank wine instead of water because it was substantially less risky. The water, especially in the cities, was infected with diseases, including typhoid and cholera. On the other hand, wine went through a fermentation process that killed many harmful bacteria.
What’s in your glass?
A whole lot of grapes
It takes around 500 grapes to make a bottle of wine, and in your glass, you’ve probably got about 75!
Red or white?
One of our more surprising fun facts is that white wine can be made from red grapes. Wine gets its color from the skin of grapes, not their juice which is clear regardless of the variety. If you remove the skins of red grapes, the wine produced can be white, and even Champagne is made with a blend of grapes that includes red varieties.
Pink or orange?
You’ve heard of rosé, but what about orange wine? While the signature blush color of rosé wine comes from careful contact with the skins of red or black grapes. Orange wine is made when the skins of white grapes remain in with the juice during the fermentation process. This results in complexly flavored wines in a range of colors, from golden to amber to an almost tangerine shade.
Might contain … eggs?
Bad news for vegans, but many wines use a surprising range of animal by-products in their production process. Wine producers have used egg whites, gelatin, milk, and even fish bladders to soften, filter, and remove astringency from their wines. This is not true of all wines, but it’s worth checking the label of your favorite bottle just in case!
How do you drink yours?
Use the right glass
Wine culture can be intimidating from the outside. There are so many rules which sometimes seem designed just to confuse beginners. But there is logic behind it. For instance, wine glasses are designed to fit the needs of each different type of wine. Red wine glasses are large to allow oxygen into the wine, which deepens the flavor and releases the aromas. White wine is less robust, so the glass is smaller to let in less oxygen and protect the more delicate flavors.
Don’t overfill it
For this same reason, you should not fill your glass more than a third full. Leaving two-thirds of the glass empty allows the necessary oxygen in to aerate the wine.
Take a sniff
Wine glasses are tulip-shaped to capture the aromas and keep them in the glass, so get your nose right in there to appreciate them.
Hold it by the stem
Wine glasses have stems for a reason, and it’s to stop your hand from heating the liquid inside the glass. So don’t cup your hand around the bulb of the glass but hold it by the stem to keep the wine at the perfect temperature.
Store it sideways
Wine bottles sealed with a cork should be stored lying down. This keeps the cork wet, keeping the seal tight and preventing any air from getting into the bottle.
Keep it chill
Trying to cool that bottle of Champagne in time for the big moment? Get some water in your ice bucket. Putting water in with the ice cubes means more of the bottle’s surface area is exposed to the cold, chilling it much faster. See, our wine facts aren’t just fun they’re helpful!
Let them drink Champagne!
One of the best known fun facts about wine is that the wide saucer-like champagne glass known as a coupe was modeled on the shape of Marie Antoinette’s breast. Sadly this is not a fact but a myth since Marie Antoinette was born after the creation of the glass. This knowledge hasn’t stopped people from associating the coupe with women’s breasts, though. Several famous ladies, including Kate Moss and Claudia Schiffer, have had custom coupe glasses modeled on their assets!
Battle of the sexes
It has been proven that women are better wine tasters than men. This is because wine tasting is mostly about smell rather than taste, and womens’ olfactory sense is generally stronger and more accurate.
Do you choose your wine based purely upon the cute animal on the label? Well, you’re not the only one. You’ll find bottles featuring kangaroos, wolves, penguins, eagles, and even frogs in every wine store these days, and their popularity is on the rise. So much so that these bottles have their own category: critter wines.
Don’t fear the wine
There is a fear of wine, and it’s called oenophobia. Suffers have an irrational fear of or heightened levels of anxiety about wine. This fear can stem from a broader fear of all alcohol and will lead sufferers to avoid not only wine but wine drinkers too.
Luckily none of us are oenophobic, in fact we’re oenophiles – lovers of wine – so we’re off to pour ourselves a glass of the good stuff right now! We hope you enjoyed a few of our fun wine facts, Cheers!