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There is something about wine…

Wine? Wine. I like it. Some days love it even, smooth, rich, fruity, refreshing, cold, warm… even had thoughts about making wine myself… – did you know that you can make your own wine even without owning a winery, growing no grapes, with no fancy cellars and stuff?.. (I will get back to this, this is an ongoing project for me still 🙂 )

So today, just something I have never known about wine before, some fun facts.

Theme Wine TBC… 🙂

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More than 5,000 varieties of grapes grow all around the world – there are however only two major families: Vitis Vinifera, prevalent in Europe, and Vitis Lambrusca, native to Canada and eastern U.S. This had me surprised, for I associate Lambrusca with Lambrusca wine we get here in Lithuania imported from … Italy, mostly. Huh, what an un-educated me… a lot, a lot of space for improvement there… So there is no surprise there now, that most modern European wines are derived from American vines. And there is more to that story, though. 

The English passion for botany in Victorian times led to the importation of American grapes to botanical gardens. Those cuttings contained an insect that attacks the roots of grape vines. The bug spread throughout Europe and destroyed nearly all native vineyards. Soon after the blight started, a botanist from Texas suggested grafting roots of American vines that are resistant to the pests onto the European vines. By some accounts, every plant in Europe was grafted. Of course, those vines also imported non-native mold and fungus to the European plants, and some native species went extinct. So, there you go: American roots, European bottled, oh the glory of globalization.

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Colours. You thought there are white grapes and red grapes right? Me, too. If if were that easy, though… White are namely those beige, yellow, and gold in colour, while red ones are actually red, blue, purple, or even black. Moreover, you thought red grapes to make red wine? Nope, they can still produce white wines from red grapes. Smart smart inventive people, or just maybe colour-blind…. 🙂

In fact: Red wines are red because fermentation extracts color from the grape skins. White wines are not fermented with the skins present.

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Another thing. Grapes may not need input from people to turn into wine, actually. They did that pretty well on their own in the pre-historic times, scientific minds claim, stating that grape juice squeezed in a jar and kept warm would turn into wine all by itself: yeast that lives on grapes skins is so irrepressible that it produces wine automatically. Cool skins, aren’t they, wicked little thangs…

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Something about ‘terminology’, a.k.a. fancy things to insert to your clever talk while discussing wine:

Balance: Term used to describe the harmony of fruit, acidity, alcohol, and tannins, which can develop with age, but should be evident in a wine’s youth.

Bouquet: The “nose” of a mature wine, often made up of several separate aromas.

Corked: Unpleasant, musty smell and flavor in a wine, caused by mold in the cork.

Dumb: Term as in “dumb nose” to describe a wine with little bouquet. This is not a negative term as many great wines go through a dumb phase.

Finish: The taste left in your mouth after swallowing the wine.

New World: Informal category including the wines from North America, South America, Australia, and New Zealand but also represents and up-front style of winemaking, characterized by up front flavor and fruit.

Nose: Term used as a synonym for aroma and smell in wine tasting.

Steely: Flavor description usually applied toward Chablis and dry Sauvignon (as a good trait), but usually indicates evident acidity.

Vegetal: A flavor description that can be positive (as in meaning “grassy” in a Suavignon Blanc) or negative to mean unripe or “leafy” taste.

Vintage: The year in which a wine was produced. A vintage wine is the product of a single year’s harvest, while a non-vintage wine is a blending of wines from two or more years.

Young: A fresh, fruity, unoxidized, wine with possibly very slightly yeasty odor.

So if you here somebody talking about bouquets of vintage wine with steely aftertaste, you will have a pretty clear understanding about the topic in the future. Hopefully 🙂

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So you bought a perfect bottle, perfect vintage wine for the perfect evening…. there are still SO SO many things that can impair ze wine drinking pleasure you are so eagerly anticipating… here are some of those:

wrong glassware (pass me the jar, will you?); incorrect serving temperature (don’t you just love this bloody ice-cold something?…); competing odours (smell this wine? no, all I can smell is your bloody aftershave!) – and of course there are those ‘other things’ like having to drive, or being alone, or just plain knowing this is the last bottle. Oh, and don’t forget being cold: heavy cold = time to abstain 🙂 or just switch to tea for the time being. And it’s therapeutic also!

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They claim also that wine is a life-saver! The first clear health benefit of wine was that it saved growing populations from the diseases caused by bad water. Any time large groups of people settle in an area, the water, left untreated, goes bad. People start dying of dysentery, cholera and botulism as more people move in and contaminate the water supply. The high alcohol content from natural fermentation kills bacteria very efficiently. You can get 15 percent alcohol by volume in your wine without really working at it, and that’s a life-saving formula. Need any more reasons to why you like wine?…

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And now, what do you do with that cork?.. The wine cork is not for smelling. The cork is actually for examining. If you have the good fortune to sit down in a restaurant with a wine steward, you’re not going to make a great impression by sniffing the cork when he hands it to you.In truth, he’s presenting you the cork to examine. Check to see if it’s all in one piece; a fragmented or moldy cork might mean a lower quality wine. With the best wines, the cork will display the date and other information, as well.

Ever been to a place where you were handed the cork? Me – not yet, apparently they keep corks for their own private smelling there… 🙂

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I drink to your health… why? In ancient Greece, a dinner host would take the first sip of wine to assure guests the wine was not poisoned, hence the phrase “drinking to one’s health.” “Toasting” started in ancient Rome when the Romans continued the Greek tradition but started dropping a piece of toasted bread into each wine glass to temper undesirable tastes or excessive acidity.

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Food + wine = ain’t that divine?

Richer, heavier foods usually go well with richer, heavier wines; lighter foods demand light wines. Additionally, red wine typically is served with red meat, white wine with white meat and fish, and sweet wine with desserts. It is traditional to first serve lighter wines and then move to heavier wines throughout a meal. Additionally, white wine should be served before red, younger wine before older, and dry wine before sweet.

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Oh, and something for the road. Wine for Orthodox Jews must be kosher, meaning it must not be touched at any point in its process (from picking of the grapes to bottling it) by either a “Gentile” or non-observant Jew and it must contain only kosher ingredients. How could they tell that, I wonder? I smell a non-believer in my wine glass?…. oh boy, those noses….

More wine coming up.