Incredible – But True
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Aging reds and whites
Red wines lose colour as they age and white wines gain colour. In theory, they might eventually meet in the middle, but in practice all but a few high-quality sweet wines like Sauternes would be dead by then.

Steady hand required
A porrón is a Spanish vessel used both for holding wine and for drinking. It is large and bulbous, usually made of earthenware and has a spout from which the drinker pours wine into his mouth at arm’s length. The drinker has to swallow constantly in order to avoid choking ­ it requires considerable skill.

What’s in wine?
Between 70 and 87 per cent of wine is water. Alcohol usually comprises 12 or 13 per cent. The rest is made up of residual sugar and other substances. The actual flavour elements are thus only a tiny part of the whole.

Foreign bodies
Common methods used by English vintners in the 17th century for treating wines included the addition of beetroot, raw beef, herring roes, ginger, elderflowers, lavender, cinnamon or cloves. All were supposed to remedy faults in the wine. In the early days of the port trade, elderberries were frequently added for colour, and dried pimentos for flavour.

All that glisters...
Schist soil is desirable for growing port; granite soil is not. If a port shipper wants to buy a vineyard he therefore goes to see it by moonlight, when the granite soil will glitter and the schist will not.

Classical glass
Cork stoppers were first used by the Romans. They were not used again for wine until the 17th century, by which time glass bottles were in use. The very first glass bottles, however, had stoppers made from glass.

Tasting types
A blind tasting is one in which the tasters are not told what the wines are. A vertical tasting involves a series of vintages of the same wine. A horizontal tasting is a comparison of the same vintage of different wines.

Ancient wine-drinkers
The earliest cultivated grape pips (seeds) found by archaeologists date from between 7000BC and 5000BC and were found in what is now the Republic of Georgia in south-west Asia. Accumulations of wild grape pips (taken by archaeologists as evidence of the likelihood of wine-making) have been found from even earlier times ­ c. 8000BC ­ in Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.

First on the market
The first wine to be on sale nationwide in the US after the ending of Prohibition was Virginia Dare, a blend of grapes native to the US, such as Scuppernong, with wines from California.

Healthy tipple?
Sales of red wine in the United States increased by nearly 40 per cent after the broadcast of a ‘60 Minutes’ TV programme in 1991 that claimed that red wine helped keep the French healthy, despite the large amounts of dairy products in their diet.

Little old wine-drinker...
France is still the world’s biggest overall consumer of wine in the world. In 1991 it polished off 429 million cases, compared with just 139 million cases in the United States and a puny 61 million cases in the United Kingdom. But when it comes to Champagne consumption, the United Kingdom has the lead over the United States, with 1360 thousand cases in the UK beating hands down the US’s 865 thousand cases. They are both put into the shade, however, by the French, whose 11,565 thousand cases wins the crown.

The price of fame
The yield of wine at Château d’Yquem is just one glass per vine. Little wonder then that it is one of the most expensive wines in the world.
Supply and demand
While wine consumption per person remained almost constant in the United States between 1991 and 1992 (around 9.5 bottles per person per annum), France had a slight drop ­ from a potent 90 bottles to an almost-as-hearty 86 bottles (that’s still over 500 glasses a year). Figures for the United Kingdom show an increase of almost three bottles per person (from just over 13.5 bottles in 1991 to 16.5 bottles in 1992).
The appliance of science
The study of vines is called ampelography.
Sticky customer?
A collector of wine labels is called a vintitulist.
The appliance of science
The study of vines is called ampelography.

White juice
The colour in red wines comes from the skin. All noble black grapes have white juice. The few grapes that have red juice are called teinturiers, or dyers, and are usually of poor quality.

Best bubbles
To obtain the best mousse from Champagne, choose flutes that have been slightly roughened on the inside, at the base. A tiny roughened area here helps the release of the carbon dioxide in the wine. A glass that is perfectly smooth on the inside, with no imperfections, will produce much less sparkle.

Home cooking
In Austria, a fir branch decked with ribbons hung outside an inn means that the owners have their own wine to sell. Such inns are called Heurigen or Buschenschenken, and usually serve home-made food as well. In fact, they are not allowed by law to purchase wine from outside at all, and may only buy in certain basic foodstuffs. Even sausages and ham must be home-prepared.

What a waste!
The man who introduced the idea of aging wine in wood to Rioja was Luciano de Murrieta. He learned about it in Bordeaux and brought barrels from Bilbao to use in his winery (called, after he was ennobled, Marqués de Murrieta). Before this, wine was not stored from one vintage to the next and Riojans simply poured away any surplus at the end of the year.

Old method
The use of sulphur dioxide as a preservative in wines is not a modern practice. It has been employed for that purpose in Germany since the 15th century and in France since the 18th.
Safe cellars
For four years during World War One the front line was so close to the city of Rheims that Pommery’s cellars ran into no-man’s land. Bombardments forced the people of Rheims to live in the Champagne cellars, and they often stayed below ground for months at a time. Several concerts and, on one occasion, an entire opera, were performed underground.

Caution: corks!
The average speed of a Champagne cork leaving a bottle is a perilous 13m (42 feet) per second.

Bursting bottles
Until the Champagne method became sufficiently controlled and reliable, exploding bottles were a constant hazard. In 1828, 80 per cent of the bottles in the cellars of Champagne burst, and workers in the cellars had to wear wire masks to protect their faces.

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