Posted February 18, 2017 by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe
I thought it would never get here! Thankfully, there are over 14 national days of the year associated with wine so it shouldn’t be too long before the next one.
First of all, thank you for taking the time to come back. Now, let’s get to it, I’m too excited to hold back and there’s so much ground to cover.
There won’t be too much about this flavour of grape or white vs red vs rose. Anyone who knows me, knows I gravitate to the unusual and unconventional so that’s where I’ll go with this.
Working from the outside in, take the wine bottle itself. Why are some of them green?
To protect the contents from light which can damage the wine. If it wasn’t stored in a cellar, it could be exposed to harmful lighting. Previous to the invention of the dark wine bottles in the 1600’s, goat skin bags were used. Darker green bottles are used for red wines and lighter green bottles are used for whites.
Now for the indentation at the bottom of your bottle, called the Punt. Glassblowers form the glass this way so it will stand up straight. Not like us once we drink the contents of one! The depth of the punt does not indicate a good quality wine or cheap wine. It varies on the desires of the producer.
Ah the Cork. I have a box full of these little babies. Sadly, we take them for granted. We tend to smell the cork, after opening, but why? And why should we?
Check it for cracks, dryness, breaks or mold. If it smells musty, like wet cardboard, toss it. Yes, the wine, too.
On the other hand, it can be used as a fabric dye or as a fruit fly trap. Removing a red wine stain with white wine seems a tad wasteful to wine lovers but if you’re going to toss it, use it as a cleaner, too.
Below are 2 different videos, one short and one a little more in depth. In a rush? Click the first video which is 2 1/2 minutes. It shows how cork is harvested from trees in Portugal in huge pieces.
If you’ve already cracked open a bottle, you might have a few extra minutes to watch this video showing you the process from bark removal to the cork’s finished product:
Both are very interesting and well worth the few minutes. It depends on how much time you have on your hands right now.
Where did it all begin?
The origins date further back than what is currently documented. However, this might give you an idea as to how ancient wine is:
Georgia, in The Caucasus region, mountains that span from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea with Russia to the north – as far back as 6000 BC!
Armenia – just south of Georgia – 4100 BC – where the oldest winery to date was discovered.
Myth or Truth? This story is from 7000 BC in Persia: A young princess, despaired over her rejection by the King, decided to commit suicide by drinking the spoiled residue left by rotting grapes. After experiencing the effects of intoxication, she passed out. The next day, she realized life was worth living and reported her discovery to the King who rewarded her find.
In Iran – 5000 BC – Pottery vessels found at excavation sites in the Zagros Mountains in Iran, dates back to 3100-2900 BC. Studies determined them to contain tartaric acid which would indicate the presence of wine. How ironic that there is a city, in Iran, called Shiraz! It is formerly the capital of Iran.
The World’s Oldest Wine Bottle dates to AD 325 which was found inside one of two sarcophaguses near Speyer, Germany. It is now displayed at Historiches Museum der Pfalz.
In Greece – 4500 BC
Of course, as a wine lover, I have to mention Dionysus, the Greek God of Wine, Fertility of the land, and Ecstasy, pictured above, in the gardens of Versailles, France. Ah, to have wandered the earth, spreading the love of wine and sharing the art of viticulture as he did…..
Henry Carter discovered his tomb in 1922 in the Valley of Kings. Various pitchers located in King Tut’s tomb are now known to be wine decanters. They had been labelled with Year 5 and the name of the vintner, Khaa. Tutankhamun, born in 1341 B.C, had reigned from 1332 B.C. to 1323 B.C., and died at the age of 19. Some say he died of gangrine.
Also in King Tut’s tomb, residue found in other jars previously indicated a drink, called Shedeh, made from pomegranates. Recent methods discovered by scientists suggest this residue is from red wine made from grapes, not pomegranates.
All contents of his tomb are on display in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. It is currently under construction so maybe wait awhile if you plan to go.
Oldest wineries, still producing wine:
Chateau de Goulaine, The Loire, France, since the year 1000 – Believed to be the oldest known wine business still in existence, today it produces a Muscadet, Sancerre and Vouvray.
Schloss Johanisberg, Germany, circa 1100 – bombed in 1942 but now restored by Princess Tatiana and her husband, Paul Alfons Fürst von Metternich.
Schloss Vollrads, Rheingau, Germany, established in 1211. Best known for Riesling. The winery and castle are open to the public.
Barone Ricasoli, Tuscany, the oldest winery in Italy, 1411. Best known for Chianti. Not in Italy? Get the flavour of Tuscany at your local LCBO.
Boschendal Winery, Franschhoek, South Africa began in 1688.
Rustenberg, Stellenbosch, South Africa, established in 1682.
With this new knowledge, I know I’ll be taking tours of at least one of these wineries the next time I get to Europe.
Also, worth mentioning are the castles, among all these vineyards, transformed into hotels along the Rhine River in Germany. The website pictures of Shoenburg are breathtaking…..just for fun, have a look! To get a feel for the surroundings, go into the rooms section. My favorites are Turmzimmer (Tower Room) No.22 and No.23. There are other castle hotels, at a lesser cost, here and all over Europe, but Schoenburg has amazing appeal and charm.
If you’re vacationing in northern Mexico this winter, visit Casa Madera, the oldest winery in the Americas. It is situated in Parras de la Fuente which was established in 1568 in the state of Coahuila, in northern Mexico.
Or, in August, plan a trip to Parras for it’s annual Grape Fair. Casa Madera is not the only winery in this area. Hint, hint: Wine Tours.
Codorniu, Spain, 1551 – “the Codorníu cellars at Sant Sadurní d’Anoia were declared “a National Monument of Historical and Artistic Interest” by King Juan Carlos I”.
If you’re suffering a good old Canadian winter like me, our options:
Visit the local LCBO.
Make your own, there’s a wealth of wine-making shops across the city. I’ve been privileged to be offered a few different ones over the years and J & J Wines, on Walkley Road, in Ottawa, has great tasting red wine, in my opinion, and a good reputation.
Book your own wine tour in Ontario. Choose from Lake Erie, Prince Edward County, and Niagara On The Lake. Use the route planner to choose the wineries you wish to visit plus your accommodation destination and they map it out for you.
The Largest Wine Vat, of its time, sits in the Heidelberg Castle in Germany. Built in 1751, it holds 221,726 litres but is rarely used for wine. It stands approximately 6 metres high and 8 1/2 metres wide. Green people, please skip this next sentence. It is said 130 oak trees were used for it’s construction. A dance floor was built over top of it. When Napoleon’s army invaded, the soldiers thought it was full of wine. Their hatchet marks are still visible on the bottom section. If the angle of my shot had been from the front, you would see them better. If I spoke or read German, I would also have known what to photograph when I was there. Such as this little guy. It seemed picture worthy but I really didn’t realize his importance. Perkeo, the Eternal Keeper of the Tun, was once a court jester and master of the castle’s spirit production. The only liquid he poured down his throat was apparently wine until the age of 80 when his doctor advised him to stop. When he did and tried water, he died. Google the Heidelberg Tun to see more. Being the most famous castle in Germany, the massive ruins attract millions of tourists per year. The only way to access the castle is through a guided tour, done in German and in English and run all year. Specialized tours and events run regularly. Today, if you’re in Heidelberg, take part in Life At Court. The whole family can dress up in costume.
Note: The Tun was the largest in the world until 1934 when a larger barrel was built in Bad Durkheim, Germany which sits at 13.5 metres in diameter. It is located on the edge of the German Wine Route. Go figure.
There is another barrel, recently built in Languedoc, France, that outsizes both of these but, in my opinion, lacks the Old World charm. The owner claims it will never be filled but may be used for special events and perhaps a shop.
Onto Other Parts of the World
The custom of bumping glasses is an Ancient Roman greeting. The wine would spill from one glass into the other. It seems this method assured no one is trying to poison the other. In my opinion, if your wine glass is clean and it’s “bumped” by a medieval knight, I’m not drinking it anymore.
The first recorded toast in England took place in 450 CE, at a feast given in honor of British King Vortigern by Hengist, the leader of his Saxon allies.
Offer your glass up and, literally, a piece of spiced, charred or stale toast would be dropped into your wine. Apparently, it soaks up some of the acidity and it made the wine taste better. It could be an h’or d’oeuvre since they were not in the habit of wasting food.
In Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, he mentions putting toast into spiced wine.
A Toast, To Your Health!
In those times, The Host would have to drink first to prove the wine he served was not poisoned. Thus, drinking to your health!
Wine as Income
Churches and Monasteries earned income from wine but did you know hospitals and universities did as well?
The most famous Hotel-Dieu in Beaune, in France, is a hospital, museum and a vineyard. Built by Nicholas Rolin, in 1443, it was intended for the poor and disadvantaged after living through the 100 Years War. Also on the estate grounds is a 60 hectare vineyard. It’s world famous wine auction takes place every third November of each year. There’s lots of time to book your tickets for the festival this year! The proceeds from sales are used to improve hospital equipment and maintaining the Hotel.
Regarding Monasteries, there’s a cool story about Champagne coming up later in the year.
During Prohibition years, concentrate manufacturers put warning stickers on their product:
After you mix the concentrate with water, please do not keep the mix in a barrel longer than 20 days-it will turn into wine.
If wine has a low sugar content, it will be a dry, or very dry wine. Labels at the LCBO display the sugar content so you can determine it’s dryness. For example 4g will be dry and 14 will be much sweeter.
An individual who is afraid of wine has oenophobia.
Oenology is the study and science of wine and wine-making. Algonquin College and Brock University offer this course.
Sulphites do not cause headaches. They can, however, cause asthma symptoms. You may want to consider natural/organic wines as they have a lower sulphite content. To avoid a vino headache, stay away from the sweeter wines. The sugar depletes the liquid in your head which causes your headache.
Only the men of Ancient Rome were allowed to drink wine. If they caught their wife partaking, he was allowed to kill her.
For those vampiric types, order a Cobra Wine in Vietnam. They will serve you rice wine topped with the blood from a freshly killed cobra.
Germans invented Eiswein (sound familiar?), wine made from frozen grapes.
Doc Hendley founded the company Wine to Water, an organization that uses wine tastings to improve the quality of water in under developed countries. What an inspirational story, check it out sometime.
Wine instead of gas? Prince Charles converted his vintage Aston Martin to run on surplus English wine. He cut carbon emissions by 25%!
How Healthy Is Wine?
One ounce of red wine contains:
2% potassium – for heart health ; smooth muscle contractions, digestion.
2% iron – helps to carry oxygen to your lungs
5% vitamin B-6 – brain, cardiovascular, digestive and muscular health
2% magnesium – nerve transmission, muscle contraction, blood coagulation, energy production, nutrient metabolism, and bone and cell formation.
Hmm, not bad, there’s more….
Some doctors believe one glass of red wine per day can lower the risk of alzheimer’s disease, cancer and diabetes, and you’ll look better.
Wine drinkers (1-2 4oz glasses per day) have a 34 percent lower mortality rate than beer or spirits drinkers. Taken from a Finnish study of 2,468 men over a 29-year period, published in the Journals of Gerontology, 2007.
Red-wine tannins contain procyanidins, which protect against heart disease. Taken from a study at Queen Mary University in London, published in Nature, 2006.
Must I go on?
Anti-Aging Face Mask
WebMD states the reservatrol in wine is great for anti-aging!
1 tablespoon red wine (reservatrol, see below)
1 tablespoon honey (reduces blemishes and redness)
1 tablespoon greek yoghurt (for the probiotics)
Pour a glass of wine. Mix the 4 ingredients in a bowl. Spread on face and neck using a cotton ball. Enjoy your glass of wine for 15 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water. Apply your usual face cream.
I would love to hear if anyone tried this and what your results were! As an eczema sufferer, I was very excited to try it. It seemed a little watery but actually stuck to my face, no problem, only a couple of drips. Keep a towel handy (preferably a wine colored one!). It tingled my skin and smelled delicious. Yes, I licked the spoon. You probably will. too. Soon I could feel it tightening. After rinsing and applying moisturizer, my skin was so soft! There may not be a noticeable difference after one application but after a month, who knows?Pictures are below because I don’t want to scare anyone off by having them right here. Beware, glamour pictures they are not!
Deciphering Your Wine
European wines are named for their region, such as Bordeaux, France or Sancerre, which is also in France. Even though they use the same grapes as Americans might use. They don’t put the name of their grape on the bottle either.
Whereas, non-European wines are named for their grape variety, such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon.
Red vs White
Ok, I lied. Let me make one comparison.
Darker shades of reds and yellowish white wines come from warm climates and have a lush body to it. Lighter colors are from cooler climates and will taste lighter.
Why is red wine known to be heart healthier than white? The grape skins are rich in antioxidants. Red wine is fermented with the skin. White is fermented without the skin. A few studies I looked at are actually showing an increased risk of contracting cancer, especially of the digestive tract. This is if you are indulging in more than 2 glasses per day.
All the more reason to come to the dark side………
Since I’m on the topic of antioxidants, I learned something new. You’re probably way ahead of me on this. Polyphenal and Reservatrol, the antioxidants found in the grape seeds, prevent oxidization. Oxidization (the loss of electrons) occurs when an element, that loses electrons more easily (an apple, for example), is exposed to another element, that is reluctant to lose electrons (oxygen is one of these).When the insides of the apple are exposed to the air, it turns brown almost instantly. An antioxidant will slow this process. Oxidization can cause cell damage, even death.
Therefore, to help your wine last longer, transfer it into a smaller bottle and re-cork it. You’ve now eliminated that damaging oxygen in your bottle. For those who don’t polish off a bottle in one sitting.
Women get drunk faster than men because of their water to fat ratio, even if they are of the same weight and size. Sorry, ladies, it seems we have a higher fat content; men have more blood and water volume. Fat does not absorb alcohol so it spreads, in it’s highly concentrated form, throughout our body resulting in a higher blood alcohol concentration. It’s not all about the fat! Apparently, we have lower amounts of dehydrogenase, an enzyme in the lining of our stomach, men have more of this to help break down alcohol.
Just For Fun….
What do you call someone who talks about the wine he or she will open but never does?
The answer is hidden in the “tags” section. Unless you’d rather cheat and google it.
If you made it this far, I’m flattered. Thank you for taking part! See you soon…..
PS: I Hate Selfies!