20 Fun Facts about Wine

  1. It takes approximately 440-660 grapes to make a single (standard size) bottle of wine.  1 vine produces around 10 (standard sized) bottles of wine.
  2. As wine ages its colour changes.  Red wines become lighter and paler whilst white wines become darker and deeper.
  3. Sparkling wine corks have agglomerate cork bodies with natural cork disks bonded to them at the base. Straight before insertion and 50% wider than the bottle neck, it’s these disks that mushroom in shape after prolonged contact with the wine.
  4. Wine glass design is focused around enhancing the differing styles and characters of wine.  For example, red wine glasses are larger in shape than a white wine glass to allow more oxygen into the glass to help aerate the wine and release the aromas.
  5. Following their 2001 Screw Cap Wine Seal Initiative, today around 90% of New Zealand’s wines are sealed with a screw cap. The first ever screw cap (not for wine, but bottles and jars) was invented and patented in 1889 by Dan Rylands from Barnsley, Yorkshire.
  6. In 1942, Fernando Van Zellar offered the owners of the Palace of Mateus a ‘royalty’ for each bottle sold or a lump sum if he could use the name and image of their palace for his new wine.  The Palace plumped for the lump sum.  Oh oh. Over 1BL bottles of Mateus Rosé have since been sold. Decisions decisions!
  7. Hotter wine regions can use altitude to cool the climate as there is a 0.6° C drop in temperature every 100m in height. Planting vines on hills or mountainsides in these warmer environments are important to slow down ripening and build complexity.
  8. Portugal produces around 50% of cork globally. This includes 340,000 tonnes of natural wine corks – that’s equivalent to 44,000 elephants! As an important commodity, it’s illegal to cut down cork trees without permission irrespective if the tree is dead or alive.
  9. The vine (vitus) is a perennial climbing plant that produces fruit.  There are in excess of 5000 different types.  The vine used for quality wine, vitus vinifera, is called after the grape variety e.g. Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir etc.
  10. A 125ml small glass of red wine has around ¼ teaspoon of sugar in it!  Dry white wines are similar, but sweet dessert wines are another matter!
  11. Australia has 65 wine growing regions contributing over $40BL to their economy.  With a gigantic land mass, around 7.692ML kilometres square, it takes up 5% of the planet and is the 6th largest country in the world after Russia, then Canada, China, USA and Brazil.  Australia is world’s largest island!
  12. A standard shipping container holds 12,000/13,000 bottles, yet a flexitank (same dimensions) can hold 32,000 bottles worth. A colossal amount of wine is shipped to the UK this cheaper way. If the wine you purchase has been imported in bulk and then bottled in the UK, you’ll know as importers have to state it on the label. Check it out.
  13. Oenophobia is the fear of wines – luckily no one at WSE suffers from this! The origin of the word oeno is Greek and means wine, and phobia is also Greek and means fear.
  14. In the late 1800s, a microscopic louse, Phylloxera, started to cause unprecedented and catastrophic destruction to vast areas of European vineyards.  By the early 1900s around 70% of French vines had perished!   The French Ministry of Agriculture was so concerned it offered 20,000 Francs (about $1ML in today’s money – to anyone who could find a cure.  Today, Phylloxera is still present in many wine regions around the world.
  15. Famous for indulging in life’s excesses, legend has it that the Champagne coupe glass was modelled on Marie Antoinette’s breasts.
  16. Wines sealed with a cork should be stored on their side to keep the cork moist and the seal intact.  Additionally, the wine should be kept in a cool and constant temperature, and without bright lights or vibrations.
  17. All red wines benefit from being decanted.  Old and/or unfined/unfiltered wines, including some Ports, should be carefully decanted to separate them from the sediment.  New wines can be decanted more clumsily to help aerate them.
  18. Austria was involved in the 1985 scandal where around 4.5ML litres of wine was found to contain anti-freeze.  Used to give wine extra body and a sweeter taste, the scam came to light with tax inspectors when a wine broker claimed large quantities of anti-freeze in his expenses.  1986 saw Austria introduce new and stricter regulations.
  19. There are 50 states in the USA and wine is produced in all them. America has been making wine for around 300 years and now produces in excess of 350ML cases per annum.
  20. The custom of clinking glasses originated from apocryphal stories about poisoning.  When bumping glasses together some of the liquid would spill over into the other so, both parties would be more confident that they were drinking the same safer fluid.

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