Savor These 24 Facts About Wine

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Hi, I'm Craig. Welcome to the salon. This is mental_floss on YouTube.

1. Did you know that wine has been around for at least 9000 years? Historians say that this was when the earliest vineyards were arranged in the Middle East, which spread around the Mediterranean through the Phoenicians and the Etruscans. The French soon started copying the wine-making process, which is why they sometimes get credit for inventing wine. And that's the first of many facts about wine that I'm gonna share with you today. I'm gonna do this without being pretentious at all! I am wine-drunk though.

2. The world's oldest bottle of wine is over 1600 years old and can be found at a museum in Germany. It was buried nearby in 350 CE and was found again in 1867.

3. Prince Charles has an Aston Martin that runs on biofuel made out of wine. Queen Elizabeth gave Charles the original car when he turned 21. Then in 2008, it was converted to run on old wine.

4. Some historians believe that the Roman Empire fell thanks in part to lead poisoning. If that's true, wine probably had a lot to do with it. The Romans cooked grape juice in lead pots to sweeten their wine ...and to poison their wine.

5. According to the Wine Institute, where I would like to work, Vatican City drinks the most wine per capita at 74 liters of wine per person per year. That's a full two times more wine per capita than Italy.

6. If California was its own country, it would be the fourth largest producer of wine after only France, Italy, and Spain.

7. Speaking of which, in 1976, there was a blind wine tasting in France which has been dubbed the Judgment of Paris. Nine French wine experts judged a bunch of wines from both California and France, and wound up rating Californian wine as best in both the white and red wine categories. And after the results were published in TIME magazine, the French wine industry banned the event's organizer from participating in their wine tasting tour.

8. Plato wrote that wine should only be allowed in moderation between the ages of 18 and 30. After he hit 40, it'd be a free-for-all because he believed wine was rejuvenating in older people. I'm looking forward to 40.

9. When the movie Sideways was released, consumers started buying according to the main character's taste. Less people bought Merlot than usual, and more people bought Pinot Noir. Experts call this the "Sideways Effect." No word yet on whether Titus Andromedon has a similar effect on wine drinkers. "Pinot Noir/Mid-sized car/Pinoooooooooooot Nooooooooooir!"

10. In 2003, a man named Richard Juhlin shocked the wine tasting world at a blind tasting competition for champagne in Paris. At the event, Juhlin was able to identify the brand, producer, and year of 43 out of 50 different champagnes. The person who came in second place was only able to identify 4.

11. It's a misconception that Charles Shaw wine, a.k.a. Two Buck Chuck, is so cheap because airlines needed to dispose of their wine after corkscrews were banned. It also has nothing to do with him trying to ruin his ex-wife's winery business. The boring truth is, people were drinking less wine in America, so Shaw was able to sell his for cheap. And nowadays they produce it in huge volume and keep all their prices down.

12. It only costs two dollars, but in 2004, Two Buck Chuck won the top prize at the 28th annual International Eastern Wine Competition. It beat out 2300 wines.

13. Hippocrates, who's known as the father of western medicine, recommended wine as a treatment for many ailments, including diarrhea, lethargy, and labor pains. He's my favorite doctor.

14. In a 1997 experiment, researchers alternated German and French music in a supermarket for two weeks. They found that customers were more likely to buy French wine when they were listening to French music and were more like to buy German wine when listening to German music.

15. White Zinfandel was discovered by accident in 1975 by someone working at Sutter Home. According to the company, a worker took some less concentrated Red Zinfandel grape juice and let it ferment because he was trying to make a stronger flavored Zinfandel. He failed.

16. Some people enjoy mixing red wine and Coke together. In Spain, the drink is known as Kalimotxo. I learned this from the Real Housewives of New Jersey. As I learn everything.

17. Speaking of wine and Coke, Michael Jackson used to drink wine in Diet Coke cans because he didn't want his children to see him drinking.

18. OK, I'm gonna finish up by telling you some differences between red wine and white wine. Red wine's red, white wine's white. According to a study done by Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab, wine drinkers typically pour 9 percent more into a glass when the wine is white rather than red—also learned that from the Real Housewives.

19. The general rule you may know is that red wine goes with red meat like beef, lamb, and venison.  And white wine goes well with white meat like poultry and fish. Then a sweeter wine works with dessert, so wine experts recommend you pay attention to the sauce and flavoring in a dish because those rules can change.

20. White and red wine are actually supposed to be served at different temperatures too. White wine is best at 45-55°F. If it's a fuller white wine though, 55-60 degrees is better. Red wine, on the other hand, should be at room temperature, so 59-64 degrees. Or when I'm in the room, 90 ... cause it's hot.

21. A red wine glass should actually have an edge that's angled slightly inward. This is supposed to make it easier to smell the wine's aromas.  

22. As for how it's made, both red and white grapes produce the same colored juice—clear. The grape's skin is the reason that red wine is red. Red grape skins have several thousand times the anthocyanin pigments, which turn the wine red in production.

23. Another notable difference, according to the Mayo Clinic, quote, "The alcohol and certain substances in red wine called antioxidants may help prevent heart disease." It's believed that drinking red wine in moderation might increase levels of HDL cholesterol, which you might know as the good cholesterol. And by moderation they mean up to one glass of wine per day for women and up to two for men.

24. Finally, I return to the salon to tell you that in 2001, an experiment was conducted with 54 undergraduates who were studying wine tasting and wine making at the University of Bordeaux. The researcher asked them to describe one glass of white wine and one glass of red wine. They didn't know that the glass of red wine was actually white wine dyed red. Not one of the 54 students realized they were drinking white wine. They described it as having all the features of red. At least they weren't graduate students.

Thanks for watching mental_floss on YouTube, which is made with the help of all these winos. As we say in my hometown, DFTDR: Don't Forget to Drink Responsibly. Or drink red. I like red wine better than white. Bye!

Keystone/Getty Images
84 Years Ago Today: Goodbye Prohibition!
A huge queue outside the Board of Health offices in Centre Street, New York, for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of prohibition. The repeal of prohibition was a key policy of Franklin Roosevelt's government as it allowed the government an opportunity to raise tax revenues at a time of economic hardship.
A huge queue outside the Board of Health offices in Centre Street, New York, for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of prohibition. The repeal of prohibition was a key policy of Franklin Roosevelt's government as it allowed the government an opportunity to raise tax revenues at a time of economic hardship.
Keystone/Getty Images

It was 84 years ago today that the Twenty-First Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, repealing the earlier Amendment that declared the manufacture, sale, and transport of alcohol illegal in the United States. Prohibition was over! Booze that had been illegal for 13 years was suddenly legal again, and our long national nightmare was finally over.

A giant barrel of beer, part of a demonstration against prohibition in America.
Henry Guttmann/Getty Images

Prohibition of alcohol was not a popular doctrine. It turned formerly law-abiding citizens into criminals. It overwhelmed police with enforcement duties and gave rise to organized crime. In cities like Milwaukee and St. Louis, the dismantling of breweries left thousands of people unemployed.

Photograph courtesy of the Boston Public Library

Homemade alcohol was often dangerous and some people died from drinking it. Some turned to Sterno or industrial alcohol, which was dangerous and sometimes poisoned by the government to discourage drinking. State and federal governments were spending a lot of money on enforcement, while missing out on taxes from alcohol.

New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach (right) watches agents pour liquor into sewer following a raid during the height of Prohibition.

The midterm elections of 1930 saw the majority in Congress switch from Republican to Democratic, signaling a shift in public opinion about Prohibition as well as concerns about the depressed economy. Franklin Roosevelt, who urged repeal, was elected president in 1932. The Twenty-first Amendment to the Constitution was proposed by Congress in February of 1933, the sole purpose of which was to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment establishing Prohibition.

American men guarding their private beer brewing hide-out, during Prohibition.
Keystone/Getty Images

With passage of the Constitutional Amendment to repeal Prohibition a foregone conclusion, a huge number of businessmen lined up at the Board of Health offices in New York in April of 1933 to apply for liquor licenses to be issued as soon as the repeal was ratified.

The Amendment was ratified by the states by the mechanism of special state ratifying conventions instead of state legislatures. Many states ratified the repeal as soon as conventions could be organized. The ratifications by the required two-thirds of the states was achieved on December 5, 1933, when conventions in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah agreed to repeal Prohibition through the Amendment.

Workmen unloading crates of beer stacked at a New York brewery shortly after the repeal of Prohibition.
Keystone/Getty Images

A brewery warehouse in New York stacked crates past the ceiling to satisfy a thirsty nation after the repeal of Prohibition.

Keystone/Getty Images

Liquor wouldn't officially be legal until December 15th, but Americans celebrated openly anyway, and in most places, law enforcement officials let them.

Courtesy New District
Say ‘Cheers’ to the Holidays With This 24-Bottle Wine Advent Calendar
Courtesy New District
Courtesy New District

This year, eschew your one-tiny-chocolate-a-day Advent calendar and count down to Christmas the boozy way. An article on the Georgia Straight tipped us off to New District’s annual wine Advent calendars, featuring 24 full-size bottles.

Each bottle of red, white, or sparkling wine is hand-picked by the company’s wine director, with selections from nine different countries. Should you be super picky, you can even order yourself a custom calendar, though that will likely add to the already-high price point. The basic 24-bottle order costs $999 (in Canadian dollars), and if you want to upgrade from cardboard boxes to pine, that will run you $100 more.

If you can’t quite handle 24 bottles (or $999), the company is introducing a 12-bottle version this year, too. For $500, you get 12 reds, whites, rosés, and sparkling wines from various unnamed “elite wine regions.”

With both products, each bottle is numbered, so you know exactly what you should be drinking every day if you really want to be a stickler for the Advent schedule. Whether you opt for 12 or 24 bottles, the price works out to about $42 per bottle, which is somewhere in between the “I buy all my wines based on what’s on sale at Trader Joe’s” level and “I am a master sommelier” status.

If you want to drink yourself through the holiday season, act now. To make sure you receive your shipment before December 1, you’ll need to order by November 20. Get it here.

[h/t the Georgia Straight]


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