Feel empowered this holiday season knowing you have these 10 interesting facts in your back pocket to counter your know-it-all Aunt who went to Italy for a week and now acts like she's a Master Sommelier. Put Auntie in her place AND feel good knowing you're that much closer to entering the new year more smarter than the last. Knowledge is power!
Wine fact #1. The custom of hitting glasses together with a “cheers” greeting dates back to old Rome, where people enjoying wine together could also get poisoned together. Bumping glasses made wine spill from one to the other, ensuring that there wasn't any poisoning going on. Seriously...this tradition started even earlier in ancient Greece where the party's host customarily had to take the first swig and swallow to show his guests that he didn't intend to poison them. Things could get messy clanking glasses and spilling potentially poisonous wine but at least you could have the peace of mind knowing at least you weren't the only one getting poisoned.
Wine fact #2. When in Rome takes on a very different meaning for this fact: In ancient Rome, it was forbidden by law for women to drink wine. If a Roman man caught his damsel drinking wine, he would be legally allowed to kill her. Good thing we live in the 21st century in America, my female friends. Denying a woman her wine nowadays could end very badly for the forbidding male. I know I would get myself in a serious battle with my man if he tried telling me I wasn't allowed to drink my wine.
Wine fact #3. The old kings of Egypt, however, avoided wine entirely because they believed that the red alcoholic beverage was actually the blood of men who attempted to fight the gods and failed. Thank goodness for science and debunking myths! Egyptians were, however, all about their version of beer rather than wine, brewing a sweet, thick, and low-alcohol drink consumed for nutritional value over getting a buzz.
Wine fact #4. Are you a wino and also a crazy person? If you visit Vietnam, go ahead and ask your waiter for a glass of cobra wine. Venomous snakes aren't preserved for their meat but for their venom, which is dissolved in the liquor. Venom is not a threat to the drinker here because its proteins are unfolded and therefore made inactive by the ethanol and would also be denatured by stomach acid anyway. If venom isn't your thing, try the cobra wine--made using the body fluids mixed with wine and consumed immediately in the form of a shot. Snake blood wine is prepared by slicing a snake along its belly and draining its blood directly into the drinking vessel filled with rice wine or grain alcohol. Let's take a bloody shot, mate!
Wine fact #5. During prohibition in the United States, grape juice concentrate manufacturers took advantage of the lust Americans had for drinking alcohol and decided to slap a clever warning label on their grape juice products saying, “After you mix the concentrate with water, please do not keep the mix in a barrel for 20 days – as it will turn into wine.” Think it might take a bit more than just placing grape juice and water in a barrel but what do I know?!
Wine fact #6. The world champion of recognizing wine by smell is Richard Juhlin, a Swedish Champagne writer, who correctly named 43 out of 50 champagnes in Paris at the annual Spectacle du Monde tasting in 2003. For comparison, the second place winner was only able to recognize 4 of them. Juhlin also earned the title of holding the record in tasted champagnes since 1998 (currently, he has tried more than 8,500 different champagnes). This guy really nose his wine!
Wine fact #7. Although most of us cook with wine (maybe spare a splash in the actual food being prepared) it is best not to keep your wine in the kitchen. There is too much heat which could damage the wine’s quality. Don't keep your wine chillin' in the fridge either (unless it's a white wine)--just too darn cold in there. Find a cool, dark closet somewhere in the house where you can keep all your bottles. Hopefully the skeletons in there don't drink all your stash.
Wine fact #8. If you own a collection of bottles, don’t age or store them standing upright--this can cause the cork to dry out, potentially shrinking and allowing oxygen/air to get in the bottle. Always keep wine bottles lying down on their side (unless it has an artificial cork or screw-cap).
Wine fact #9. A survey in Australia produced results which showed that women who drink 2 glasses of wine a day tend to enjoy sex more than women who do not drink at all. Bet those Romans are kicking themselves for sure now!
Wine fact #10. People who have wine phobia are called Oenophobia. It might sound funny, but this phobia, just like others, cause the victim a lot of suffering, especially if they go out to restaurants a lot. The most common reason why people fear wine is because it contains alcohol, which is a toxin that could cause unpleasant effects. People suffering from methyphobia (fear of alcohol) would fear wine and beer (zythophobia). Sufferers would not drink wine themselves and avoid people who are drinking wine because they worry that drinking wine may make them act unpleasantly towards them.
Fear not, friend. Wine production is only advancing right now, and we are here to enjoy every last drop of modern viticulture.
Written by: Sara Cortez