A Guide for the Allergy Riddled Wine Lover – Part 2 – Sulphites

Sulphites

You’re drinking a glass of your favorite wine then suddenly your nose is blocked.

Feels like hayfever, doesn’t it?

Crap, now you’re scratching at your skin and notice a rash.

Soon you’re coughing or wheezing or having difficulty breathing.

This example gives wine a bad rap but it’s not as bad as we might think. Do you ever experience these symptoms when you’re NOT drinking wine. Take note of those times and what you had been eating.

What is in the wine that could cause this? A not-so-recent post, Part 1 – The Sweet Factor, tackled the possibility of the sugar content contributing to headaches. If the solutions in that post did not help your case, Part 2 may help you determine if it is the sulphites disturbing your system.

There is a simple test to determine if you are sensitive or allergic but, sadly, it does not involve drinking a glass of wine.

What Are Sulphites?

Sulphites are inorganic salts that are found in the ground. There is a small percentage of the world’s population that is allergic to sulphites while many people just have an intolerance to it. Neither case is pleasant. Believe me, because I experience mild effects at times to sulphites. And probably more often than I realize.

Preservatives, such as Sulphites, are a natural part of grape skins. But why?

Are they seeping into grapevines from the ground?

They occur naturally during the fermentation process due to the yeast activity so it really is hard to find a wine without it.

Some producers do add sulphites, to protect their wine from oxidization, even though it might only be a small amount. These are the ones you may have to steer clear of to keep your intake to a minimum.

Sulphites don’t cause headaches (it’s the sugar content, remember?) but can bring on an attack for those with asthma, or induce asthma-related symptoms.

Now, take a look at the back of your wine bottle. It likely says “Contains Sulphites”. Unfortunately, there is no indication of whether these sulphites are the natural occurring ones or the chemically added ones. It just means there is enough in there to have to put it on the label, by law.

So, if you plan on avoiding them, put it back on the shelf and head to the organic section. Or check the list below for some known Biodynamic / Organic producers who do not add any chemical sulphites.

Here, amongst the natural and organic wines, is where you may find less sulphites.  But not guaranteed. Since sulphites are an organic compound, it falls under the “organic” classification so they are obviously allowed in organic wines. The total amount of sulphites should, however, be lower than some of the other normal wines. A little research on a favorite bottle beforehand could help as well.

When And How Is Sulphur Chemically Added?

♦During harvest, sulphur in the form of metabisulfite is sprayed on grapes to prevent oxidization as soon as the grapes are picked. Otherwise, the grapes might begin rotting by the time they are brought inside to the vats.

♦Before wine enters the oak barrel, vintners burn sulphur inside of each barrel which seals the wood so it is leak-proof. At the same time, it creates Sulphur Dioxide, aka SO2 (the gas form).

♦Fermentation creates sulphur naturally so when the winemaker wants to stop the fermentation process, he will add the chemical version of sulphur.

Natural wines are supposedly sulphur-free (but we know this is not really the case) so he must wait for the natural fermentation process to finish.

♦Aging process in oak – as mentioned above, sulphur is burned inside the barrels so it contributes extra sulphites to the finished product. With the wine now in the barrel, some producers might add sulphur chips which are burned inside to preserve the wine and add flavour. This also creates tannins within the wine.

♦Bottling – there is rumour that the bottles are rinsed with sulphites. The answer to this is very hard to find and will take some actual foot work to determine. This will take up a full blog on its own.

Most wines with added sulfites contain only 20-350 Parts Per Million. Ppm is the equivalent of milligrams per litre, ie: 20ppm=20mg/L.

The legal limit in wine is 350 ppm.

Benefits -Are There Any?

SO2 will ‘eat up’ any oxygen in its path. Oxygen is the chemical that will destroy your wine, like it destroys your fruit – think of the apple you cut and 2 minutes later, it is browning. In this way, SO2 is helpful.

Bacteria and germs don’t like SO2 nearby – they can’t develop in it’s presence.

Thus, SO2 prevents the wine from continuing it’s ‘rotting’ process into vinegar.

Wine is NOT the only culprit. The amount in wine is really not that alarming. Below is a list of items that contain sulphur. Beware, it is a LONG list with many of your favorite foods.

If a food contains more than 10ppm, the label must contain the warning.

Side Effects

As mentioned, these sulphites can cause allergic reactions which can resemble hayfever. In more extreme, perhaps rare cases, it may cause hives, difficulty breathing or swallowing, cramps, low blood pressure, flushed or swelling skin, stomach pain, diarrhea and if your allergy is serious, anaphylactic shock.

Avoiding Sulphites

Your list of what to avoid if you are keeping sulphites to a minimum:

Dried fruit is #1 – for example, raisins and prunes contain anywhere from 500 to 2,000 ppm! A heck of alot more than the max 350 in wine.

This is where the simple test comes in….eat about 4 dried apricots. Now pay attention to your breathing. Has it changed? Are you wheezing at all? If you are, you might be sensitive to sulphites. This does not mean you are sensitive to wine. Just the sulphites. If you are getting a headache, it could be something else you are sensitive to….the sugar perhaps…histamines? (this will be in Part 3 of this series) …or you’re dehydrating. Are you drinking a glass of water with your wine?

…..now, back to the list.

Wine – as you now know contains between 20 and 350ppm.

Beer and hard ciders.

Tea and juice.

Jam and fruit-flavoured breakfasts such as Toaster Strudels.

Salad dressings and condiments.

Vinegar.

Table Salt.

Molasses and gravy.

Dried soup mixes.

Dried herbs.

Canned and frozen vegetables and fruit.

Pre-cut potatoes.

Shrimp – it is used to avoid the black spots.

Processed and Deli Meat, especially sausages.

Bread Dough – it is used as a conditioner.

Cookies, ice cream and yogurt – yup, all the good stuff!

Some pharmaceuticals – to preserve medications.

Interesting to note: The human body produces 1,000 ppm of sulphites.

The closest information I found on the suggested recommended daily intake is 19% of a man’s total dietery intake and 17% of women’s.

Some studies are finding that the levels in young children are quite high and suggest the reason is the processed and packaged foods packed in their lunches. Those dried fruit packets are a favorite – it’s also #1 with the highest levels of sulphites. Moms, can we dial it back a little?

It’s no wonder that ADD and ADHD manifested during the generation that introduced processed foods.

The food industry has a lot more leeway than the alcohol production industry, right?

The US FDA states the food packaging must contain the label “contains sulphites” if the food contains 10ppm or more.

CDN:

Every country will mandate it’s own specific amount that must be labelled.

To combat this, choose natural and or organic foods that do not contain preservatives. Your local health food store might be a good place to start looking.

If after you’ve read the food label, there is no ‘Contains Sulphites’ warning, don’t stop there. Read the ingredients. It could be hidden and referred to as:

Potassium Sulfite

Potassium Bisulfite

Potassium Metabisulfite

Sodium Bisulfite

Sodium Metabisulfite

Sodium Sulfite

Sulfur Dioxide

Sulphites under 10 ppm in the US do not have to be listed but they will all contribute to your sulphite intake.         -The Food Intolerance Network

For example, pizza crust. Your neighborhood Pizza Pizza may not display the content level because it is below 10ppm but it doesn’t mean it’s not there. They are not required to list it unless the level is higher than 10ppm.

My 11-year-old grandson has suffered asthma from about the age of 2 and I often wonder if sudden bouts are related to food. My belief in this is much stronger now due to the research I have put in to this article.

I have also dealt with food sensitivities for years and have learned tonnes of information on how processed food affects us.

Eliminating gluten from my diet has helped but does this mean I have to forever live without a delicious sourdough bowl of clam chowder?

I put it to the test and bought a freshly made sourdough loaf from my local bakery. I expect there would be less preservatives in this. The result? No pains in my stomach.

Maybe it’s the sulphites that are packed in the bread, not the gluten, causing problems?

If we re-program ourselves to eat naturally as our forefathers ate, we just might see a huge difference in our health. Which is why I am on a new kick to make my own sourdough bread and see what happens.

Why are some people susceptible to sulphur and others are not?

Some people lack an enzyme that digests and removes sulfites from the body; in other cases, sulfites may cause an immune response. Another theory is that when digesting these foods, the stomach may produce sulfur dioxide, and inhaling this gas causes adverse effects,                          -The University of Florida Extension.

Unfortunately, processed food is here to stay because everyone loves it so, for it’s taste and convenience.

It’s an uphill battle but not impossible.

The company, morethanorganic.com, may be able to help:

“We want to give them (unsulphured wines) the publicity they deserve.”

Probably time to get back on track….

Red vs White

There are antioxidants in all grapeskins. Since the skins ferment longer in the production of red wine, reds have higher levels of antioxidants. Producers rely on this and do not have to add as much SO2.

If the vintner can keep the tannin levels up, he will require less chemically added sulphites.

While White wines have antioxidants, the levels are lower since the skins don’t ferment as long. Producers generally have to add sulphur so whites contain higher levels of it.

Wine Producers Who Don’t Add Sulphites

Frey Vineyards, – Redwood Valley, CA

Cascina Degli Ulivi FilagnottiPiedmont, Italy

Donkey & Goat – Berkley, CA

Badger Mountain – Kennewick, WA – “We ensure that our customers are getting chemical-free products by constantly testing the soil, and we send wine samples to a lab for testing before bottling.”          – Marlisa Lochrie, Tasting Room Mgr.

Domaine Valentin ZusslinFrance

Château le Puy – France

Personally, I think sulphites in wine alone is not quite the culprit it is made out to be. Processed food, with the high content, is certainly a concern. Put all of your consumption between food and alcohol together and your intake could be astronomical.

Rule of Thumb I plan to undertake: Minimize my intake of processed food and drinks. Opt for natural….if it is man-made, I’ll avoid it.

For example: Fruit is natural. Fruit juice/snacks are modified by man.

A good read that contains some common sources.

A lot of ground was covered here but I still have one question. If sulphites are a natural salt found in the ground, why is it so bad for us?

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on April 6, 2018

 

How Many Merlot Facts Are You Aware Of?

The home of Merlot, the territory of Bordeaux, France, is considered the wine capital of the world.

Merle is French for blackbird. It seems blackbird love these grapes.

The aroma and flavours of Merlot are generally composed of black cherry, berries, plum, chocolate, and herbs. They are an easy wine to drink due its medium body, smooth acidity and low tannins.

Merlot grapes, vitis vinifera, prefer a clay soil.

Merlot can be found in a white version which is produced in the same fashion as rose wines or Zinfandel. The grape skins are in contact with the grape juice for a very short time, just long enough to give it a blush colour.

It pairs well with salmon, shellfish, mushrooms, camembert and gouda cheese. Personally, I think red wines in general pair well with chocolate.

HISTORY

The first mention of Merlot is from 1784 in the Bordeaux region of France.

A severe freeze practically wiped out the Merlot and Malbec grapes in France.  Viticulturalists attempted to produce a new crop every year after this, without success.

In 1970, the French Government placed a ban on the growth of new Merlot grapes since there had been so much financial ruin.

Then other countries were becoming successful with the grapes so, to get back into the game, they lifted the ban.

Predominant regions to produce Merlot are Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Chile, Australia and, of course, Bordeaux, France, the home of this grape.

BEST YEARS

Some say 2013…but it depends on who you talk to and the origins of the Merlot you are drinking. For an extensive list by region, this might help.

One thing I have learned is Bordeaux’ best year is 2015. I’ve tried it and it is devine!

HARVEST WORLDWIDE

Harvest occurs in California in July or August.

Ontario as late as October.

Western Canada might start in September and continue as far as November.

France’s Grape Harvest can start as early as August and continue into October.

Harvesting in Spain ranges between August and October.

Australia harvests from January to March.

In Chile, harvesting begins in the spring, March to May.

It all depends on the orchard and what flavour they are trying to produce. Ice wines are typically harvested in January.

Contact an orchard near you. Many of them welcome volunteers to help harvest. You’ll be glad you did!

Happy National Merlot Day!

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on November 7, 2017.

 

 

 

The Long Awaited National Wine Day

Yet another day to celebrate wine. Why not? Everyday is a day to celebrate wine! I will try to encompass all wines here.

Not only is there the common red, white and rose wines but if you look a little deeper, you’ll find ice wine, fortified wine, sake (rice wine), Lille, sparkling and mulled wine (this has already been covered).

Of the common reds and whites, you probably know of a few types within each, probably your favorites.

A Wee Quiz

Can you figure out which is red and which is a white wine? Hint, there are a few pink ones in there, too.

Zinfandel                           Grenache                      Chardonnay

Pinot Grigio                       Madeire                        Gruner Veltliner

Riesling                               Pinot Noir                    Sauvignon blanc

Syrah                                   Burgundy                     Carmenere

Cabernet Sauvignon        Merlot                            Cabernet Franc

Gewürztraminer                Sparkling                      Port

Bordeaux                            Blaufrankisch              Malbec

Gamay                                 Barbera                        Chenin Blanc

Gewurztraminer               Merlot                          Petit Sirah

Moscato                              Nebbiolo                      Rioja

Shiraz                                 Sherry                           Rose

Sake                                    Marsala                        Chianti

Sancerre                            Tempranillo                 Semillon

Viognier                             Schiava (sorry, not found at LCBO)

Too easy?

Muscadelle                        Auxerrois

Romorantin                       Godello

Negrette                              Lagrein

Touriga Nacional

Agiorgitiko (don’t ask me to pronounce this please)

See Quiz Answers – I’ve made note of the wines with low tannins or acidity for those with sensitivities.

Wine Sensitivities

White wines tend to be higher in acid levels especially ones from Europe and Canada, cool climate regions.

Warm climates produce low acid wines such as California, Argentina and Australia.

Tannins

Ways to avoid tannins:

Wines aged in oak barrels will have tannins so find wines that are aged in stainless steel vats or clay pots. One example is Azienda Agricola found at our LCBO. Believe it or not, concrete is now being used as well. On the other hand, tannin can come from the seeds of the grapes as well.

Tannins leach from the grape skins and thick skinned grapes will create an even higher tannin level so look to purchase light bodied wines as they spend less time in contact with the skin during fermentation.

New Oak Barrels Are ‘Toasted’.

The inside is torched with fire to carmelize the oak and, if burnt long enough, will turn it to charcoal. The longer it sits in the barrels, the bolder and higher level of alcohol in the final product.

Gluten is also created when wine is placed in oak barrels to age. Until this point, it is gluten-free so again, stainless or clay are the way to go when it comes to sensitivities.

A wine with less than 12.5% is considered a light bodied wine.

Medium-bodied wines fall between 12.5% and 13.5%

Wines over 13.5% alcohol are considered full-bodied. Surprisingly, Chardonnay can be a full-bodied wine with a few brands at the 13.5% mark because they are aged in oak. Ususally, whites are not. Many of the California Chardonnays are full bodied at 13.5% but Chilean Bonterra at 13.6% was the highest content I found at LCBO.

When purchasing, check the labels or bookmark this handy chart I found displaying the lightest to the heaviest wine before heading to the store.

You can avoid red wines altogether (ugh) since whites and roses do not have much contact with the grape skins either.

If it is sulphites you want to avoid, stay away from whites.

Rose wines are made from red wine grapes and exposed to the skins for only a short time to acquire it’s pink color.

Sparkling wines are bubbly due to the second fermentation process.

Fortified wines are made from a still wine with alcohol added to it so that the alcohol percentage is raised to 17-20%.

Examples of fortified wines are the all-familiar port and sherry, which were very popular during our parents generation. Marsala and Madeira are also fortified wines.

Mulled wines are brilliant! Mix and match opened, older wines and simmer with your favorite spices for a delicious way to enjoy wine!

So many varieties, so little time in this 24-hour period but do your best and enjoy it the way that is meant for just you!

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on May 25, 2017

 

 

It’s National Mimosa Day!

The Mimosa, that delicious breakfast drink that is so popular on holidays, special family events or any old Sunday brunch, and is so easily prepared with equal parts champagne, or sparkling wine, and orange juice.

Champagne and sparkling wine are really  the same. If this wine is made in Champagne, France then it can be labelled as Champagne. If it is produced anywhere else it gets titled sparkling wine.

Many accounts name Frank Meier as the inventor of The Mimosa in 1925 while he worked at the Hotel Ritz in Paris, France. Meier tended bar at the American Bar, preparing cocktails, one being his signature drink, the Bees Knees. Perhaps you know his published book The Artistry of Mixed Drinks.

It has been recently discovered that Frank had become a spy for the French Resistance yet continued working at the bar during WWII while Hitler Occupied France. Many of The Ritz’s staff doubled as spies for the French and British. He fabricated false documents for Jewish individuals, staying at The Ritz, to avoid concentration camps, passed notes for the attempted assasination of Hitler. He later disappeared when he was caught embezzling money.

A surprisingly captivating book I read not too long ago, The Last Time I Saw Paris, is a story about the French Resistance set in and around the Hotel Ritz during the 40’s. If you’re interested in reading this great book, I would be happy to loan it to you. (If you are in the Ottawa area, of course).

If you’re in Paris, seek out these interesting sights:

Pere Lachaise Cemetery

Pere Lachaise – an estimated 300,000 to one million people are buried at this cemetery and park. Visit the graves of Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde and Chopin.

Of course, another story exists. Captain Herbert Buckmaster opened a gentleman’s club, Buck’s Club, in 1919, to rival the other “stuffy” bars, and is famous for Buck’s Fizz which debuted in 1921. The bartender at the time, McGarry, created the more potent drink with 2 parts champagne to 1 part orange juice.

A Gentleman’s Club is a members only establishment. By the 19th Century, over 400 of these clubs were in operation in London. They provided an escape for the British elite from their ‘open book’ lives to relax, gamble, socialize with friends, play parlour games, such as charades, or get a good, hot meal.

Interesting to note, Buck’s Club usesjosper grill  It is an oven and grill in one unit and is soley powered using charcoal. To experience this, you can find them at 18 Clifford St., London, England. Good luck finding much information on this club. Their ‘website’ offers only an address and contact information as they are by invitation only.

While in London, tour the reconstructed outdoor Shakespeare Globe Theatre. The original was demolished due to a miss fired cannon during a Henry VIII performance.

I made an exciting discovery! The Torchlight Shakespeare Festival will be playing here in Ottawa this summer. I have never experienced an outdoor play and now have the chance to see one. Plays will be featured at various parks throughout the city each night this summer from July 3 August 19 at 7pm. Believe it or not, this company has been setting up their plays in parks for the last 15 years and have never charged a dime, only asked for donations (suggested amount $20). Use the link if you want to receive emails on locations or even if you want to join their ranks as an actor. I actually did.

Got a little off topic.

Meanwhile back in London, the obvious places to see are, of course, Westminster Abbey, the Thames River and Kensington Palace. However, here are a few unusual things to see and do in the London area.

Perhaps, the Frank Meier concoction was truer to today’s equal parts version, and less intoxicating. Also worth mentioning, Alfred Hitchcockcock claims to have popularized drinking mimosas as a brunch specialty in the 1940’s.

In Ottawa, you can enjoy a Mimosa at The Red Lion, in the Byward Market, or the Wellington Diner at 1385 Wellington Street and at Stoneface Dolly’s on Preston St., just to name a few. You may have to wait for the weekend breakfast to get one, though.

Made in Germany

I found these handy single serving bottles at the LCBO for $12.95. Great for those days when you only want one Mimosa instead of feeling pressured to polish off a full champagne bottle because now you’ve opened it!

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on May 16, 2017.

 

National Moscato Day aka Heidi’s Day

No wonder Heidi loves Moscato..she’s part Swiss!

Everyone probably knows someone like my dear friend, Heidi, who LOVES Moscato. I’m proud to say she is spreading her wings and enjoys white wine and even a red now and then. That would be my influence, good or bad, you be the judge.

A couple days ago, I brought up The Cosmopolitan and it’s popularity in the 90’s. Past tense. Replacing it in popularity is Moscato which can be found in 3 different colors.

White, Pink and Reds are usually made from Muscat grapes. They are grown in Piedmont, France which borders Italy and Switzerland. It is the only wine grape that is also produced as a table grape and some are made into raisins.

In some cases, a splash of red wine is added to white moscato to create the pretty pink shade.

A slightly different version is Moscato d’Asti, a sparkling white wine and is commonly made using Muscat Blanc grapes in the province of Asti, in the northwest hills of France in Montferrat.

If you browse your nearby LCBO, you will notice variations of the name but they are referring to the same beverage. There’s Muscatel (Spanish), Muscat Blanc, Muscadel, Muscandeni.

30% of Moscato consumers are Millenials. It is a sweet, lightly bubbly drink low in alcohol and high on flavour, making it very drinkable. Twitter averages 250 tweets per hour of people drinking it.

Popularity for Moscato boomed, in 2009, when Drake quoted it in on of his songs. Was it for the sake of a rhyme or does he actually drink it?

“It’s a celebration – clap clap bravo. Lobster and shrimp and a glass of moscato.”                                                                                                                                         – Drake

But he’s not the only one.

“Still over in Brazil sipping Moscato, ya must have forgot though, so I’mma take you back to the block yo.”                                                                                – L’il Kim

Origins of the Muscat name could be Persian: muchk or Greek: moskos or Latin: muscus or Italian: mosca which means fly since these grapes’s sweet scent attracts many fruit flies.

Ancient Romans referred to it as apiana and early documents date back to the 14th Century.

As with regular wine, it is possible Moscato came from ancient Egyptians but there is no documented proof.

Would you believe a search in LCBO brings up 386 different bottles of Moscato?

Here are a couple ideas for each color type to get you started.

White

Barefoot from California

Bartenura from Italy

Madria Sangria – California – Ernest & Julio Gallo Winery – yummy recipes using Moscato

Pink

Forward from Ontario

Jeunesse – USA

Jacob’s Creek – Australia

Ascheri Grappa from Greece – a vintage at $42.75 per bottle

Red

Barefoot – California

Yellow Tail – Australia

Due to it’s sweetness, any type should pair well with spicy food. Summer is coming and it’s a perfect time to sip on a refreshing glass of chilled Moscato.

Or drop in to the Wine Rack in the Byward Market and ask to sample a couple blends. They are usually pretty accommodating.

For a twist, let’s find out some things NOT to do in France. Normally, I throw some ideas of things TO DO in the city/country of origin or places to see locally. Not this time.

You know those annoying slide shows that take 12+ pages of refreshing just to find out the next tip or fact? They can take 10-15 minutes!

Skip the slideshow. Here is a condensed list from destinationtips.com:

Keep your hands on the table. If you think you’re being demure and lady-like by keeping them in your lap…forget it. Your companion will be wondering what you are doing down there.

Don’t assume the shops will be open like they are here in North America where the consumer is catered to. In France, shop owners take long 2 hour lunch breaks, 2 or 3 week summer holidays in July or August, and then there’s the strikes. Don’t expect them to be open Sundays either.

Don’t expect the dog owners of France to pick up after their pets. They are not on the same page of ‘poop and scoop’ as the rest of us. Please don’t suggest they do either. Just leave your good shoes at the hotel, or watch where you walk.

Please don’t squeeze the produce! Fruit and vegetables in France markets sure look appealing but it’s a big No-No to poke, prod, touch, squeeze or to pick it up to smell it. Ask the vendor to bag it for you. Just point to it!

Don’t order the salad as an appetizer. In France, it is meant as a digestive and palate cleanser to be eaten after your main meal, before the cheese or dessert.

Save the hugs for your lover. When greeting your friends and acquaintances, please air kiss both cheeks. You might think a great big bear is a good sign of friendship but you’ll startle them, especially if it’s your boss. They will misunderstand your intentions! Yikes.

It’s not BYOB! If you’ve been invited to a dinner party, do NOT bring a bottle of wine as a friendly gesture. The host will be offended. He/She knows how to select the proper wine for their own fete. And let the host do the pouring, too.

Recently, I tried a mix of gin, moscato, lemon and cranberry juice which wasn’t too bad. Add a couple splashes to your favorite summer cocktail to liven it up. Any cocktail will do!

Try a Honey Bee (from Stella Rosa Wines) using 3 oz white moscato, 1 oz rum, lemon slices and little honey, shaken and poured over ice. I used rye since I had no rum on hand to attempt this.

Vive la France!

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on May 9, 2017

 

It’s National Drink Wine Day!

Posted February 18, 2017 by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe

Vino

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.

Harvesting Cork Bark

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:

5-Minutes Video

Both are very interesting and well worth the few minutes. It depends on how much time you have on your hands right now.

Statue of Dionysus in the Gardens of Versailles, France.
Statue of Dionysus in the Gardens of Versailles, France.

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…..

Tutankhamun

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.

One of many vineyards along the Rhine River in Germany.
One of Many Vineyards Along the Rhine River in Germany, taken from Rhenus Cruise Ship.

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.

Castlehotel Schonburg - Price Range: 120-330 euro/night
Castlehotel Schonburg – Price Range: 120-330 euro/night

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

Cheers!

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.

A Toast!

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.

Cool Facts

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?

Read all 8 benefits

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!

Soy Sauce Healthier Than Red Wine?

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.

Ok, two.

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…..

Before
Before
During
During

 

 

 

 

After - Redness Gone!
After – Redness Gone!

PS: I Hate Selfies!

Happy Irish Coffee Day!

Welcome to the Debut of Travel By The Glass!

Posted January 25, 2017 by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe

Nuts & Bolts

If curiosity got the better of you, you’ve landed on Travel By The Glass. It’s fun, informative and will take you to quaint, off-the-beaten-path places. On your next vacation, add a little spice to your trip with interesting detours to your travel itinerary. Mingle with the locals. Discover a whole new world while you’re globetrotting.

In the months to come, this website will showcase unique, maybe even unheard of, places. The country of choice will depend on what is the national “drink” of the day. I’ll even attempt to make the drink, too! (Scroll further or use the Facebook link in sidebar.)

Happy Irish Coffee Day!Who Concocted the First Irish Coffee?

To celebrate National Irish Coffee Day, we discover the origins of this scrumptious drink all the way to, of course, Ireland.

Foynes to be exact, a small village near Limerick. It’s considered a fairly new town, being less than two centuries old. The Foyne’s Air Base, in affiliation with Shannon Airport, handled many passengers, including political VIP’s and celebrities, on their Flying Boats to and from Canada and the United States.

In 1942, a flight bound for North America had to return to Foynes due to extreme winter weather which was not an uncommon occurrence. The restaurant, located at the Foynes terminal, had just acquired a new manager, Joe Sheridan. Faced with these chilled, travel-weary passengers, Joe created a special drink. As the story goes, a hush fell as they tasted it for the first time. It became the main staple included on Joe’s menu for travelers in Foynes.

Travel writer, Stanton Delaplane  brought the recipe back to America to Jack Koeppler, a bartender at the Buena Vista Hotel in San Francisco. Their early attempts to recreate the brew saw the cream sinking to the bottom of the glass. Jack traveled to Foynes to catch up with Joe to learn the proper method. He eventually found him at Shannon International Airport.

In 1952, Buena Vista Hotel offered Joe a position. Joe’s popular story is commemorated in the Foynes Flying Boat Museum.

Today, the Buena Vista proudly makes 2,000 Irish Coffees daily.

Watch To See If My First Attempt Was Successful.

I would love to see your picture posted having an Irish Coffee! A follow up post will feature your photos.

Flying through San Francisco on February 25? Stop in for a brew at the newest location of the Sheridan at the San Francisco airport.  The original is at the Buena Vista in the fisherman’s wharf area in San Francisco where it’s made to classic perfection. This is on my agenda next trip to Cali!

View the events from 2016 Foyne’s Flying Boat and Museum and to plan your visit for 2017. Be sure to watch the 10 minute video for a taste of what’s in store – the music finishes about the 3 minute mark then gets into the commentary. 

For a more adult geared excursion, download the free app for Ireland’s Whiskey Trail available at Google Play Store. The tour guides you to Ireland’s distilleries, the best whiskey pubs and shops.

The Irish Based Flight Company, Ryanair has some exciting offers for it’s passengers:

Ryanair Flights for Free In Europe?

An Example of a Recent Ryanair Special

If you’re in Ireland this time of year, re-live the past at the Sheridan Food Pub, named after you-know-who.

A wealth of Irish pubs are in the Ottawa Market and downtown area. All priced the specialty coffees around $6.95. I visited a few, including the following:

The Aulde Dubliner makes 2 versions of Irish Coffee. Barman Luc made the Bushmill’s Irish Coffee with flair and so generously gave his attention to all of my questions. Ask about the new drink menu geared for Winterlude. If the Carrot Parsnip soup is on tap, I strongly urge you to have one, it’s out of this world! Kudos to Chef Dave Rosa.  

The Irish Village consists of 4 pubs meandering from the front of the Heart and crown to Mother McGinty’s at the back. The specialty coffee selection is the same as the Aulde Dubliner so I if you’re in the market tonight, you’ll find one, no problem.

Patty Boland's

Patty Boland’s, in the market, hosts great music almost every night of the week so check out the dj tonight for some mid-week dancing. I consider myself somewhat of a poutine connoisseur and theirs is definitely a 10!

The newly opened Starbucks on York Street sadly is not yet equipped to make today’s national drink; they do serve beer and wine. If we all request a specialty coffee, they may come around!

Lunergan’s Pub in Ottawa East, made a lovely Irish Coffee with Kahlua. Yum. Ask for the Irish stew either today or on St Paddy’s Day, they make it fresh on site.

Connor’s Gaelic Pub, on Bank Street, provided me refuge on a freezing rain evening. They offered a good variety of coffees but I opted for a soup for some reason. Was I missing that carrot parsnip soup? For a pea soup non-lover, it was quite good! Served in a giant bowl, it seemed quite thin which I discovered is the correct way.

Quinn’s Ale House, in the Glebe, has a lively, intimate atmosphere. The lovely Alli informed me they don’t make Irish Coffees but I could slip across the street, purchase a fresh brew and bring it back for a shot of rye. Voila, makeshift Irish Coffee!

Celtic Cross, two blocks away, is back on Elgin Street! The week kicks off Wednesdays for Open Mike so drop in for your specialty coffee tonight and catch the entertainment. Into Trivia? Every week, they host a trivia night and music Fridays and Saturdays. Each Sunday, they present a different movie, unless there’s a big game on. Planning your own event? Inquire within. The cool picture of the cross and Irish flag I give credit to Dave, the bartender with the most awesome hairstyle! Without his help, I wouldn’t have achieved that angle.

Woody’s on Elgin has a beautiful fireplace tucked away at the back surrounded with 4 comfy chairs. A great place to enjoy an Irish Brew.

Fireplace

Wherever you are, find your local Irish pub, preferably one with a fireplace to cozy up to, for a tasty, hot drink on this cold winter day. Distracted by delicious soups (Hey, if it fits in a glass, I’ll include it!), I still managed to visit 10 Irish pubs and feel I accomplished my goal.

If you enjoyed this bit of information, at least found it interesting and know someone who has a passion for airplanes or coffee, Irish style, share this piece with them.

I invite your feedback to help grow this site. Feel free to make requests. I’ll dig and research the hell out of anything (I live for this!) to bring to future posts. All suggestions welcome.

Most of all, please return for the next National Drink Day! Stay Tuned!

Respect Your Brothers and Sisters…     Please Drink Responsibly