The Irish believe that fairies are extremely fond of good wine. The proof of the assertion is that in the olden days royalty would leave a keg of wine out for them at night. Sure enough, it was always gone in the morning. – Irish Folklore
Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914), “The Devil’s Dictionary”, 1911: CONNOISSEUR, n. A specialist who knows everything about something and nothing about anything else. An old wine-bibber having been smashed in a railway collision, some wine was poured on his lips to revive him. “Pauillac, 1873,” he murmured and died.
Fill up, fill up, for wisdom cools
When e’er we let the wine rest.
Here’s death to Prohibition’s fools,
And every kind of vine-pest! – Jamrach Holobom
Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914), “The Devil’s Dictionary”, 1911: WINE, n. Fermented grape-juice known to the Women’s Christian Union as “liquor,” sometimes as “rum.” Wine, madam, is God’s next best gift to man.
There are about 400 species of oak, though only about 20 are used in making oak barrels. Of the trees that are used, only 5% is suitable for making high grade wine barrels. The average age of a French oak tree harvested for use in wine barrels is 170 years!
75 grapes = 1 cluster
1 grape cluster = 1 glass
4 clusters = 1 bottle
40 clusters = 10 bottles = 1 vine
30 vines = 1200 clusters = 1 barrel
1 barrel = 60 gallons
60 gallons = 25 cases
400 vines = 1 acre
1 acre = 5 tons
5 tons = 332 cases
The bill for a celebration party for the 55 drafters of the US Constitution was for 54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of claret, 8 bottles of whiskey, 22 bottles of port, 8 bottles of hard cider, 12 beers and seven bowls of alcohol punch large enough that “ducks could swim in them.”
The Manhattan cocktail (whiskey and sweet vermouth) was invented by Winston Churchill’s mother.
In the 1600’s thermometers were filled with brandy instead of mercury.
The longest recorded champagne cork flight was 177 feet and 9 inches, four feet from level ground at Woodbury Vineyards in New York State.
Foot treading of grapes is still used in producing a small quantity of the best port wines.
In ancient Babylon, the bride’s father would supply his son-in-law with all the mead (fermented honey beverage) he could drink for a month after the wedding. Because their calendar was lunar or moon-based, this period of free mead was called the “honey month,” or what we now call the “honeymoon.”
Before thermometers were invented, brewers would dip a thumb or finger into the liquid to determine the ideal temperature, neither too hot nor too cold, for adding yeast. From this we get the phrase “rule of thumb.”
In English pubs drinks are served in pints and quarts. In old England, bartenders would advise unruly customers to mind their own pints and quarts. It’s the origin of “mind your P’s and Q’s.”
How big can a wine bottle get?
Capacity (Liters) followed by the number of standard size bottles contained:
Standard (.75) 1
Magnum (1.5) 2
Jeroboam (3) 4
Rehoboam (4.5) 6
Methuselah (6) 8
Salmanazar (9) 12
Balthazar (12) 16
Nebuchadnezzar (15) 20
Thomas Jefferson’s salary was $25,000 per year – a princely sum, but the expenses were also great. In 1801 Jefferson spent $6,500 for provisions and groceries, $2,700 for servants (some of whom were liveried), $500 for Lewis’s salary, and $3,000 for wine.”
Thomas Jefferson helped stock the wine cellars of the first five U.S. presidents and was very partial to fine Bordeaux and Madeira.
Cork was developed as a bottle closure in the late 17th century. It was only after this that bottles were lain down for aging, and the bottle shapes slowly changed from short and bulbous to tall and slender.
The Napa Valley crop described in 1889 newspapers as the finest of its kind grown in the U.S. was…hops.
What is the ideal temperature for wine?
Whites: chilled (45-55 degrees F) for a few hours in the refrigerator.
Reds: slightly cooler than room temperature (about 65 degrees); Younger fruity reds benefit from chilling.
Sparkling Wine: thoroughly chilled; refrigerate several hours or the night before serving.
Dessert Wine: room temperature.
Chilling tones down the sweetness of wine. If a red wine becomes too warm, it may lose some of its fruity flavor.
Should I ever use a decanter for my wines?
A decanter is used mainly to remove sediment from older red wines. Also, it can be used to open up young red wines. Otherwise, wine will “breathe” enough in your glass and decanting is not necessary.
Why should I swirl wine in my glass before I drink it?
By swirling your wine, oxygen is invited into the glass, which allows the aromas to escape.
Some of the best-known grape varietals and their characteristics:
Sauvignon Blanc – Sauvignon Blanc is a white wine best known for its grassy, herbal flavors. Sauvignon Blanc is also called Fume Blanc, and is a popular choice for fish and shellfish dishes.
Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio) – The low acidity of this white varietal helps produce rich, lightly perfumed wines that are often more colorful than other whites. The best ones have pear and spice-cake flavors.
Chardonnay – Chardonnay is a white wine which can range from clean and crisp with a hint of varietal flavor to rich and complex oak-aged wines. Chardonnay typically balances fruit, acidity and texture. This varietal goes well with everything from fish and poultry to cheeses, spicy foods and nut sauces.
Muscat – The white Muscat grape produces spicy, floral wines that often do something most other wines don’t: they actually taste like grapes. Muscats can range from very dry and fresh to sweet and syrupy. This varietal is often served with puddings and chocolate desserts.
Gewurztraminer – Gewurztraminer is a white wine that produces distinctive wines rich in spicy aromas and full flavors, ranging from dry to sweet. Smells and flavors of litchi nuts, gingerbread, vanilla, grapefruit, and honeysuckle come out of this varietal. It is often a popular choice for Asian cuisines and pork-based sausages.
Riesling – Rieslings are white wines known for their floral perfume. Depending on where they’re made, they can be crisp and bone-dry, full-bodied and spicy or luscious and sweet. The flavor is often of peaches, apricots, honey, and apples and pairs well with duck, pork, and roast vegetables.
Champagne/Sparkling Wine – These wines are made effervescent in the wine-making process. Champagnes and sparkling wines range in style from very dry (Natural), dry (brut) and slightly sweet (extra Dry) to sweet (sec and Demi-Sec). Many sparkling wines are also identified as Blanc de Blancs (wines made from white grapes) or Blanc de Noirs (wines produced from red grapes).
Pinot Noir – Pinot Noir is a red wine of light to medium body and delicate, smooth, rich complexity with earthy aromas. They are less tannic than a cabernet sauvignon or a merlot. Pinot Noirs exude the flavor of baked cherries, plums, mushrooms, cedar, cigars, and chocolate.
Zinfandel – Primarily thought of as a Californian varietal (though recently proven to have originated from vineyards in Croatia), Zinfandel is a red wine with light to full body and berry-like or spicy flavors. The Zinfandel grape is also widely used in the popular off-dry blush wine known as White Zinfandel. The Red Zinfandel pairs well with moderately spicy meat dishes and casseroles.
Syrah (Shiraz) – Syrah can produce monumental red wines with strong tannins and complex combinations of flavors including berry, plum and smoke. It’s known as Shiraz mainly in Australia and South Africa.
Petite Sirah – Petite Sirahs are red wines with firm, robust tannic tastes, often with peppery flavors. Petite Sirahs may complement meals with rich meats.
Merlot – Merlot is a red wine with medium to full body and herbaceous flavors. Merlot is typically softer in taste than Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s flavors and aromas include blackberry, baked cherries, plums, chocolate, and mocha.
Cabernet Sauvignon – Cabernet Sauvignon is a red wine known for its depth of flavor, aroma and ability to age. It is full-bodied and intense, with cherry- currant and sometimes herbal flavors. Cabernet Sauvignon may have noticeable tannins.