Quirky Tales of Wine

Posted on 18 July, 2018 by Alexander Thomson-Mclean | 1 comment

Over the last 2 years I have been immersed in wine, organic wine every day, wine tasting, wine sales, people working in wine. It’s just really always wine, wine and more wine.

But with my life before this I have always had wine as part of life somehow, and you end up collecting funny and quirky stories and wine related topics. So, I thought I’d share some of them. 

Do you know why wine glasses have stems?

Back in Royalist France, the elite had a problem, how do we look different from the paupers in the fields. The ‘paupers’ were obviously tanned from the outdoor labour which is why the aristocracy painted their faces white as a status symbol of their wealth.

But all the white powder made a mess, it got into everything including the wine. So wine glasses were created with stems as something to hold onto so that the wine didn’t spoil with their make-up.

It was the ancient Romans who started the traditions of cheers!

So, for over two millennia we have been drinking wine and cheers-ing. Well kind of. In the beginning to try and reduce the levels of acidity on the wine they drank, the ancient winemakers would dunk toasted bread into the wine.

Why? Well I’ve been told far too many varying reasons, each just as ridiculous as the others.

But people have considered dunking bread into wine over the centuries since. Today we have beans on toast, but in the 14th century the peasants would eat wine-soaked bread, or sop as it was known. Sir Francis Bacon is recorded as mentioning that these sops sometimes were better quality and more potent that the wine itself.

There is also a German Carnevale tradition that I have done probably far too often that involves bread and wine, but it was late in the night. Linguosts and historians believe that this tradition has led to the word ‘Prost’, the German for cheers.

Oenophobia is a real thing

Yes, for some strange reason people have a fear of wine. I understand abstention for pretty much every reason imaginable but being afraid of wine made me curious.

Oeno is from the ancient Greek word for wine, which is coincidental, as it was the ancient Greeks who begun the trend for toasting to one’s health. Mainly this was because the host was hoping that nobody had poisoned the wine and that he was going to live! 

Seriously though, it’s real and it’s crippling for theses unfortunate souls. It’s not just the fear of wine itself, but also the fear of touching wine, spilling wine or someone else spilling white (but we’re all afraid of that) and it can manifest into some irratic and irrational behaviour, sickness and vomiting and extreme stress that can force people into bed for a few days!

For me, I think I’m more of a novinophobic!

You can't have an allergy to sulphites

Well thats strictly not true, you can be allergic, but you wouldn't be able to continue to be alive.

The chemical name for sulphites added comes in various ways, from e-numbers E220-E229, to different spellings like sulphites, sulfites and then there is SO2. Sulphur dioxide is in everything really. Its going to be present in pretty much anything fresh that you eat or drink, the cosmetics you have in your bathroom and most importantly the air that we breathe. 

The consequences of a sulphite intolerance can be severe and we all will have very different side effects. As hard as it is to admit sadly 100% sulphite free wine, or the holy grail of wine lovers, does not really exist. Every wine in the world will contain natural sulphites, which are not really better for you, but at least its natural. 

With the wines in our selection, almost all of these wines have a sulphite count thats lower than 45 mg/l. Although there is no law, it has been proven that if you have an intolerance of somewhere between general level to severe almost all wines with a combined level that reaches the 45 mg/l you should be able to drink and enjoy without the dreaded difficulties which normally include severe migraines with the pain behind your eyes, breathing difficulties through the nose when your awake or trying to sleep and skin irritations. 

If you are looking to explore, its definitely suggestible to start with wines as close to zero sulphites as possible and then work up to try and find out where your magic number is!

Women are better at wine tasting

Despite the strange reason for our gender inequalities this is something thats true, women are better distinguishing aromas and flavours of wine. Theres 2 reasons for this is because women have shorter tongues meaning that the 8000 taste buds are closer together helping to distinguish the flavours quicker and then relaying this to the brain.

Then there is the nose and again women have the edge. Oestrogen causes many imbalances through a womans life, and especially when pregnant, which plays a part. But men are the real cause for this. Evolution has shown that men sweat and smell more than women, so mens nasal glands have enhanced over time so that men cant smell themselves!  

Some other random bits & pieces, or caps & corks,

There is some many other little things, but these are just a few like

  • in Japan you can buy a wine flavoured KitKat
  • in Italy there is an actual wine fountain that runs in Rome 24 hours a day and
  • in Germany the oldest bottle wine is currently on display in Germany which dates back to 325 A.D.

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1 Response

David McLoughlin
David McLoughlin

19 September, 2018

A great article as well as informative and funny.

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