8 curious facts about the world of wine

Where is the oldest winery in the world? How many grapes go into a 75 cl bottle? What gives wine its color? Here are 8 curious questions about the world of winemaking.

Where did wine originate?

All legends aside (whether true or not), everything points to Asia Minor and the Near East as being home to the earliest grapevines. Backing the theory are fossil remains of Vitis Vinifera found in the area, which date from the third millennium B.C.

The first written record goes back to Ancient Egypt. Evidence also exists of winemaking on the Greek islands during the first millennium B.C. From there it presumably made the leap to mainland Greece, subsequently spreading throughout the Mediterranean thanks to the Roman Empire.

Why do wine bottles come in different types of glass?

This basically has to do with light exposure and the level of protection the wine needs. The different shades—clear, green, dark, etc.—block different kinds of radiation. Generally speaking, whites, rosés and young reds are bottled in clear glass, whereas aged wines are often in green bottles. The darkest glass is saved for wines intended for long-term cellaring. But as with everything, this isn’t a hard and fast rule.

How many grapes go into making a bottle of wine?

You need approximately one kilo of grapes to produce a 75 cl bottle of wine.

And speaking of bottles, what is the oldest one still in existence?

It dates from the year 350 A.D. and was found in 1867 in the tomb of a Roman nobleman. The bottle is on display at the Historical Museum of the Palatinate in the German city of Speyer. Given the wine’s color, only the truly adventurous would dare taste it…

What about the oldest winery on record?

The most recent discovery in 2013 revealed not only the oldest, but also the largest winery found to date. It lies amid the ruins of Tel Kabri, a town in northern Israel. At the site, archaeologists found a stock of about 40 large jars that could have held a combined total of 2000 liters. An analysis of the organic residues in the jars led to the conclusion that winemaking during this period used flavor additives like honey, mint, cinnamon and juniper.

Did you know that white wines could be made from red grapes?

Some of these are also known as blanc de noirs. They are made from red grapes, but without skin contact (maceration), which is what gives red wine its color. This technique is particularly common in making champagne, which uses Pinot Noir.

Likewise, a small amount of a white variety is often added to high-quality red wines. In the DOC Rioja, for example, some red blends contain a tiny percentage of Viura (Macabeo).


Phylloxera reduced the number of Spanish vineyards by half

The epidemic that swept Europe completely changed its vinicultural map. In Spain, the first warning signs appeared in 1878 in Malaga.  In 1899, the first outbreak occurred in La Rioja. By 1902, phylloxera had struck all of the vineyards in La Rioja Alta. By 1904, it had spread across the entire La Rioja region. Before the epidemic, the winegrowing area in Spain comprised about two million hectares. During the first decade of the 20th century, this number was cut in half.

Que no te la den con queso (Don’t let them serve it with cheese)

This popular saying, which basically means, “don’t let them fool you,” also has a connection to wine. A strong cheese can easily fool the senses, concealing the flaws of a low-quality wine.  This is how wine dealers palmed off their low-end goods on wine shop owners, who in turn did the same to their customers. That being said, wine and cheese have proven an excellent gastronomic match.  Even so, like with every pairing, there are a few tricks to getting it right. For example, sharper cheeses do better with sweeter wines, white wines pair well with intensely flavored soft cheeses, and reds combine nicely with mildly flavored hard cheeses.

8 curious facts about the world of wine

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