Wine World: Did you know? (Part 3)

Statue of Dom Pérignon at the Moët et Chandon winery. (Photo: Victor Grigas)

Wine played a significant role in ancient Egypt. When the tomb of Tutankhamen (1342-1325 BC) was opened in 1922, wine jars were found, labeled with the year of manufacture along with the wine-maker’s name.

Plato believed that the minimum age for wine-drinking should be eighteen and people should drink moderately up to the age of thirty-one. In later life, one can drink as much as one wants, to avoid becoming cantankerous in old age.

In 1000 AD the Vikings first visited what is now North America. They named it Vinland (vine land) on account of the profusion of grape vines.

Effervescence has been observed in wine throughout history and was sometimes attributed to phases of the moon. In 1662, the English scientist Christopher Merret published the first correct explanation of how the presence of sugar in wine causes it to sparkle.

Some writers claim that the first sparkling wines were made not in France but in England, where tougher glass and air-tight corks had been developed. The original French Champagne was a non-sparkling wine.

Champagne was not invented by Dom Pérignon. On the contrary, his original task was to get rid of the bubbles in wine. Even so, this 17th century Benedictine monk improved vineyard practice and the techniques of wine production. Some of his innovations are still in use today.

Madame Clicquot (KLEE-koh), also known as Veuve Clicquot took on her husband’s Champagne company after he died. She revolutionized the wine-making process and developed novel ways of improving Champagne, especially its appearance.

It has been estimated that every bottle of Champagne contains about forty-nine million bubbles.

Unlike beer, wine does not produce a “beer belly”. A recent study has revealed that the occasional glass of wine might assist weight loss rather than weight gain.

Younger red wine is thought to be better for health than older. Young reds are often richer in tannin (a natural antioxidant) than older ones. Red wine contains more antioxidants than white wine.

Studies have shown that moderate consumption of red wine might lower the chances of a stroke and also lessen the chance of Type 2 diabetes by 30%. However, it might increase the risk of certain kinds of cancer of the digestive tract, particularly the esophagus.

Wine bottles fitted with corks should never be stored upright, as the cork might dry out and allow air into the bottle. Specialist dealers store wine horizontally or inclined downwards to ensure that the corks remain moist.

The texture of wine gives clues to its origin. Lighter textured wines tend to come from cooler regions, while heavy wines are usually from warmer regions.

Oenophobia is defined as an irrational dread of wine. The name comes from the Greek word oeno (“wine”) and phobos (“fear”).

Wine enthusiasts usually “swirl” the wine in the glass to encourage air contact and release the aromas. Quality wines should occupy only a third of the glass, to allow swirling without spilling.

All wine, irrespective of colour, age or origin should be stored at the same temperature. Most experts agree that the optimum temperature is a constant 50-59° Fahrenheit or 10-15° Celsius.

White wine tends to become darker with age, whereas red wine usually becomes lighter.

The word “Hock” has been used in Britain since the 17th century and describes white wines from the Rhine. Nowadays the term is obsolete and appears only on wine gums. It originates from the town of Hochheim-am-Main, from which German wine was exported. The word “hock” is never used in Germany.

The British have used the word “claret” for centuries, though it was never used in France. Since the mid-12th century vast amounts of Bordeaux wine were shipped to Britain. The word “claret” comes from the French word clairet, meaning “light red”, the colour of Bordeaux wine at the time.

The inspiration for Coca Cola came partly from a popular tonic wine called Vin Mariani, created in the 1860s by the chemist Angelo Mariani. It contained a mixture of red Bordeaux and ground-up coca leaves.

The words “aroma” and “bouquet” mean different things. The primary (or varietal) aroma comes from the grape and usually smells of fruit, flowers or herbs. The secondary aroma is produced by the wine-making process and the tertiary aroma comes from ageing with more subtle smells of caramel, nuts or spices. The “bouquet” comes from both the secondary and tertiary aromas.

It’s thought that the standard bottle is 750ml because this was the average lung capacity of a glass blower, thus enabling a bottle to be created in one blow.

Vintage ports are aged in barrels or stainless steel for a maximum of two and a half years. After bottling, they usually need another ten to forty years of aging, sometimes even longer.

Some remarkably old vintage Ports are still available. The British company Berry Bros. & Rudd still has some 1866 Adelaide Tributa Port which can be yours for about £2,000 (Bt 80,000) per bottle, but you’ll have to visit their shop to collect it. Don’t forget your credit card.