Trivia

Q: What does the word “sommelier” mean?
A: Sommelier is a old French word meaning butler or an officer in charge of provisions, derived from the Old Provençal saumalier, or pack-animal driver.

toasting glassesQ: Where did the ritual of saying “Cheers” and clinking glasses with our friends and family come from?
A: This ritual started back in the Middle Ages, when poisoning was a favorite way to get rid of an enemy. To be sure their glass was poison-free, drinkers would first pour a bit of wine into each other’s glass, so if there was poison in one, it was now in both.

Q: Did you know that grapevines don’t produce good wine grapes until they are at least three or four years old?

A: As the vine ages, the yield tends to decrease, but the quality may improve.  With proper care and luck, they may continue producing a viable crop for fifty or one hundred years, or more.


red-white-wineQ: Which is healthier for you, red or white wines?

A: The jury is still out on some of the health benefits of moderate wine consumption, but red wine does seem to have a slight edge. It received a lot of attention for its purported benefits in the late 70s, when a book called The French Paradox suggested that red wine helped the French avoid the cholesterol problems that should have gone along with their fat-heavy diet.Studies since report that an antioxidant called resveratrol is responsible. Resveratrol, like tannins and color, comes from the skins of the grapes; since white wines are pressed before fermentation, they generally have little or no resveratrol (Red wines are macerated with the skins to get the color, tannins, and flavors the skins impart).

However, more recent studies suggest that moderate consumption of any wine, red or white, can contribute to lower incidents of heart disease and several other ailments. Research continues, but for now, let’s be glad we can actually enjoy something that’s also good for us.


Q: What are the most planted grapes in the world?

A: Grapes are, in fact, the most planted fruit crop in the world, but not as many as you’d think go into wine. In California, for example, only 47% of the grapes grown are wine grapes; the majority is for table grapes or raisins.

The three most planted white wine grapes are surprising: Airén (756,300 acres), Chardonnay (432,900 acres), and Ugni Blanc (338,400 acres). Chardonnay, sure; there’s some much Chardonnay out there that its detractors have formed groups dedicated to drinking ABC – Anything But Chardonnay. But what are Airén and Ugni Blanc? Airén is Spain’s most planted grape, and given that country’s vast vineyards, it grabs the #1 spot for acreage; however, it is not widely sold in the United States. Ugni Blanc is grown in Italy, Argentina, and France. The former two make it into generally simple white, crisp wines, but in France it is distilled together with a few other grapes to make Cognac. It is very prolific, and despite the smaller acreage, probably produces more wine than even Airén.

Red grapes are less surprising: Merlot leads the way at 647,800 acres, followed closely by Cabernet Sauvignon (633,800 acres), and Grenache (513,400 acres). If the last one surprises you, you can blame Spain again, as well as France and Italy. In the New World it was originally planted as a blending grape for Syrah, but more and more wineries are giving it its due on the label.


wine_grapesQ: How many grapes does it take to make a bottle of wine?

A: About 2-1/2 pounds


Q: What do the different shapes of wine bottles represent? Do they refer to varietal or type in any way?

A: Bottle shapes generally do represent the region or varietal to some degree. A Bordeaux bottle, for example, is narrow and has a defined “shoulder,” where it quickly slopes in to the neck. Contrast that with a Burgundy bottle: fatter and curvier, it gradually slopes into the neck so there’s no definite spot where the neck begins and the body ends.


Q: What does it mean to let a wine “breathe?” Is it important?

A: “Letting a wine breathe” means exposing it to oxygen before drinking. For most wines -especially whites – it’s usually not necessary. However, it sometimes improves young red wines; after “breathing” the wine should be smoother, more aromatic, and even a bit less tannic than if you just poured it into your glass. It’s a little bit like aging the wine in a cellar, but faster.

Q: What is the difference between a sweet wine and a fruity wine?

A: Fruity wines have concentrated flavors that represent the fruit in the wine and are sometimes perceived as sweet. Sweet wines are wines that display and contain a higher level of residual sugar (sugars that did not ferment to dry) and have a sweet to very sweet finish.


Q: What is all that swirling and sniffing about?
A: Though it may look a little silly (or snobby), swirling the wine in your glass actually opens up the wine (that’s wine speak for lets in air) and helps bring out the aromas of your wine. This step is important because so much of tasting wine is about appreciating and identifying the different smells and tastes of each wine.

So go ahead, swirl it around and take a whiff. Do you like what you smell? What does it smell like? Swirl and sniff again. Is it the same or has it changed?

Now, taste the wine. Hold it in your mouth for a moment. How does the taste compare with the smell? Is it what you expected? How would you describe it?


thanksgiving-wineQ: On what holiday do American wine drinkers consume the most wine?

A: American wine drinkers consume more wine on Thanksgiving than any other day of the year.


red & white grapesTrue or False: red wine is made from red grapes, and white wine is made from white grapes?

False; red wine gets its color because the grape skins are left to ferment with the juice. To make white wine, the skins are removed before fermentation.


Q: Where does the vanilla flavor in wine come from?

A: If newer oak barrels were used in the winemaking process, the wines will often have a hint of vanilla in both the aroma and flavor.


corkscrew

Q: When was the corkscrew designed?

A: Mid-1800’s.


Q: How many varieties of wine grapes exist in the world today?

A: Over 10,000!


Q: How many gallons of wine does California produce annually?

A: Over 17 million gallons


Q: What culture invented wine?

A: The French didn’t invent wine; in fact, the oldest known wine making was in Iran back in the Neolithic period. These Zagros mountain villagers were making and storing wine around 5400 B.C. in some of the earliest pottery jars archeologists have found. The Nile Delta established a royal winemaking industry around 3000 B.C., with the Pharaohs of Egypt enjoying wine so much that they took thousands of liters of wine into their tombs with them.


Q: Did you know that it takes three types of grapes to make Champagne?

A: It does! It takes two reds, a Pinot Noir and a Pinot Meunier; and one white, a Chardonnay. The color of a Champagne comes from the pressing, when winemakers decide how much of the grape skin’s pigments to color the wine.

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