The Life of Wine

 |  November 30, 2011

I had fully intended to spend this month’s column talking about the fascinating chemical processes involved in malolactic fermentation. Then I thought, bugger that, it’s Christmas! So, instead, I have brought some interesting wine facts into school for game’s-day. Take them away if you wish, memorise them, and then regurgitate them to stunned family members over Christmas lunch.

♦ The history of wine goes back years. Although it was the Greeks who first started making wine in what some people now call Europe, grapes were being used by the Iranians to make plonk in around 6000BC, and the Chinese were necking rice wine for God knows how long before that.

♦ The cork in your bottle probably came from Portugal. As your average cork tree can go on living for around two centuries, and cork can be harvested every decade or so, it is one of the most environmentally-friendly closures yet to be discovered.

♦ John Pemberton, the guy behind Coca Cola, started off by making a sort of cocaine wine, which was understandably quite popular as a tonic in the mid-19th century. Prohibition meant he had to adapt his recipe. Fans of his original brew included Queen Victoria and Jules Verne.

♦ Grapes used in the production of wine are predominantly found in either the northern or southern hemispheres.

♦ Hardly any wines actually taste of grapes.

♦ The term honeymoon is nothing to do with the period when a couple’s happiness is at its sweetest, but rather refers to a whole lunar month when a groom is allowed to demand as much mead – fermented honey – as he can drink from his poor father-in-law. 100% true.

♦ Most wines will breathe adequately in the glass, so decanting is only really needed to sort out a sediment issue in older, red wines. Decanters can also be used by a host to look cool or slightly pretentious. It’s a fine line. A bit like wearing a cravat.

♦ It is tricky to pour a glass of wine from a Nebuchadnezzar.

♦ Around 200 wine bars in Pompeii were calling last orders when Mount Vesuvius erupted.

♦ Bulls’ blood, gelatine and egg whites are excellent at getting rid of suspended particles in wine before it goes into a bottle. Bulls’ blood doesn’t seem to be used so much these days.

♦ According to scientists, whose findings are regularly published in medical journals like the Daily Mail, two glasses per day is the dose of red wine required to cure all known cancers, or cause them.

♦ In 1954, the sensible growers at Chateauneuf-du-Pape, realising there was a very real threat that visiting aliens might trample their vines, decreed that no flying-saucers would be allowed to land, or take off, from the commune.

♦ A study by some Italians in Italy found that Italian women who drink Italian wine have far better sex lives than those who don’t. Commissioned and authored by Berlusconi, no doubt.

♦ Roman men, discovering their wives’ drinking wine on the sly, were perfectly entitled to have them put to death. The most a man can legally do to his wife when he catches her drinking his wine today, is subject her to an extremely disapproving frown.

♦ Wine bottles are often made out of glass, a substance which is made from sand!

♦ The word Symposium roughly translates as ‘bunch of blokes talking bollocks while quaffing wine’. A very popular pastime in ancient Greece. And today in Brussels.

♦ Bruce Willis used to be a bar tender. And probably served wine.

♦ A raisin, when dropped into a glass of champagne, will continue to bounce up and down, forever. Some believe this to be solid proof that perpetual motion is achievable.

♦ Winemakers in Champagne were extremely unhappy when they first discovered bubbles in the booze. The man who saw the potential was Dom Perignon. And he was blind.

Well, I hope that informed you. Have a very happy Christmas, one and all.

CityWine is the new wine initiative by Citylife. During the last quarter of 2010 and the beginning of 2011, CityWine organised a number of wine-focussed events supporting local establishments while stocking up the wine fridges of many wine buyers at well under retail prices.

CityWine welcomes your feedback and suggestions for future events, tastings or anything wine related. Send your correspondence to or visit