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9 Cool, Weird, and Wacky Wine Varieties

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Wine can get weird. When planning your next soiree, skip the conventional vino varieties and opt for a type that’s made from unconventional (or straight-up wacky) ingredients or a unique hue. Sip on some inspiration below.

1. ROSE PETAL WINE

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Located in West Sussex, England, the small, family-run Lurgashall Winery produces wines, spirits, and meads from fruit and natural ingredients like birch sap, brambles, honey, and walnuts. The Royal National Rose Society, a specialist plant society in England that focuses on rose care and cultivation, commissioned Lurgashall to make a rose wine from handpicked flower petals. The pink-hued vintage is reportedly aromatic and medium-dry. No word, however, on whether it tastes as fragrant as its parent plant smells.

2. METEORITE WINE

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In 2012, Ian Hutcheon—who then worked as manager of Tremonte Vineyard in Chile's Cachapoal Valley—merged his love of wine and astronomy: He released a Cabernet Sauvignon that was fermented in a vat with a 4.5-billion-year-old meteorite, believed to have crashed into the Atacama Desert around 6000 years ago. Fittingly, Hutcheon named the vintage "Meteorito."

Originally, Hutcheon only sold the wine at his observatory, Centro Astronomico Tagua Tagua, which he opened in 2007. “The idea behind creating the wine was to blend astronomy with winemaking, and offer the wine as an entertaining product visitors to our observatory could take home as a souvenir,” Hutcheon told The Drinks Business in 2013. But the space-inspired wine ended up garnering international attention, and wine lovers from other countries—including the U.S.—clamored to try the celestial drink for themselves.

3. BLUE WINE

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Wine is typically red, white, pink, or yellow. But thanks to a start-up composed of six young Spanish entrepreneurs, we'll soon be able to drink a blue variety. The company—and its wine—is called GIK, and its founders (who have no prior wine-making experience) partnered with the University of the Basque Country and the food research department of the Basque Government to make the cerulean beverage.

Gik's wine is made from a red-and-white grape blend, with a non-calorie sweetener added to the mix. Surprisingly, its vivid hue doesn't come from dye—it reportedly is the result of a natural pigment found in grape skin, combined with indigo from the Isatis tinctoria plant. You can buy Gik online in Europe, and it's also available for pre-order in the U.S.  

4. COFFEE-FLAVORED WINE

Know that feeling near the end of the day, when you're not sure if you need a cup of coffee to perk up or a glass of wine to unwind? Friends Fun Wine certainly does. The Florida-based company sells different types of canned wine, including what they bill as the world's first coffee wine. Currently, it offers Cabernet Coffee Espresso and Chardonnay Coffee Cappuccino, as well as non-coffee beverages like sangria and moscato.

5. PUMPKIN WINE

Not into pumpkin spice lattes? Give its alcoholic cousin—pumpkin wine—a try. Maple River Winery in Casselton, North Dakota, makes the seasonal drink from local pumpkins. According to staff, the autumnal drink is so popular that it sells out quickly each fall (hence it's not listed on their website). However, vineyard visitors can still sample other unusual flavors—including apricot, gooseberry, lilac, and strawberry-rhubarb—depending on their seasonality.

6. CAKE FLAVORED WINE


Birthday Cake Vineyards’ name gets straight to the point. The New York-based company makes wine that, according to them, tastes like birthday cake. Customers can choose among a variety of white wines that taste like strawberry shortcake, cheesecake, and cake batter, and reds flavored like coffee cake and black forest cake.

7. JALAPENO WINE

Cardinal Winery

Brave enough to eat a jalapeno pepper whole? Try drinking an entire bottle of them. Located 30 minutes north of Philadelphia, Cardinal Hollow Winery in West Point, Pennsylvania makes more than 25 different types of wine—including strawberry, blackberry, and dandelion—but one of their best-selling creations is jalapeno wine. If the idea of sipping alcohol made from fiery chili peppers seems more terrifying than tasty, you can still cook with it. Cardinal Hollow Winery recommends using it to marinate meat, sprinkle on salads, and adding it to other types of wine for an added kick.

8. BEER-WINE HYBRIDS

Dogfish Head

Drinkers typically identify as either “wine” or “beer” people, but a handful of breweries have blurred this line (and confused everyone’s taste buds) by creating a variety of unique beer/wine hybrids. Brewers will add grape juice, whole grapes, and must (a blend of skins, seeds, stems, and other grape products) to their product, or ferment beer using wine yeasts.

One notable example is Dogfish Head Brewery, the craft beer heavyweight in Milton, Delaware. One of their beers, called Noble Rot, contains two white wine grapes: pinot gris and viognier grapes. (The latter are infected with a "benevolent fungus" called botrytis, a.k.a. “noble rot,” to reduce their water content and maximize their sweetness.) Another brew, Sixty-One IPA, is made with Syrah grape must. And Midas Touch is a hybrid wine/beer/mead beverage inspired by ingredients found in 2700-year-old drinking vessels that archaeologists discovered in the legendary King Midas’s tomb.

9. VODKA WINE

In 2012, Absolut Vodka launched Tune, a sparkling Sauvignon Blanc spiked with vodka. (It reportedly had a 14 percent ABV, which suggests that the drink had relatively little actual hard alcohol in it.) The following year, Tune was recalled in 10 states after it was discovered that the brand didn’t disclose whether the wine contained sulfates. Eventually, Tune was discontinued, but a few online retailers still appear to sell it.

BONUS: WINE MADE FROM GRAPES GROWN IN SPACE (FORTHCOMING)

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In the future, humans may enjoy wine made from grapes grown in a plant growth chamber on the International Space Station. In 2015, officials announced that the commercial spacecraft SpaceX Dragon would deliver wine grape seeds to the habitable satellite on its upcoming commercial resupply mission that April. Turns out, wine grapes are perfect for space travel: they don’t require much water, they produce strong fruit, and they yield little waste.

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Big Questions
Why Do People Drink Mint Juleps at the Kentucky Derby?
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Whether you plan to enjoy the race from Churchill Downs or don an elaborate hat in the comfort of your own home, if you're watching the Kentucky Derby, you may find yourself sipping on a refreshing mint julep this weekend. But, why?

The drink—a cocktail traditionally composed of bourbon, sugar, water, and mint—has been a Kentucky favorite since long before Churchill Downs came into play. In fact, in 1816, silver julep cups were given as prizes at Kentucky county fairs (a change from the stuffed animals they offer today). And before that, a “julep” was considered medicinal, “prescribed” for stomach problems and sore throats.

Though mint juleps have likely been enjoyed at the Kentucky Derby since the beginning—legend has it that founder Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr., planted mint for cocktails when he founded the track in 1875—the cocktail wasn’t declared the “official” Derby drink until 1938.

It was just a few years ago that the Derby switched to a more “authentic” version of the mint julep. For almost two decades, the 120,000 mint juleps served at the races were made with Early Times. Based on the aging process, Early Times isn’t considered bourbon (just “Kentucky whisky”) in the U.S. In 2015, they switched to Old Forester, which is also owned by the Brown-Forman Corporation.

Even with the switch to “real” bourbon, what most revelers actually get is the Old Forester Ready-to-Serve Cocktail mix, not a handcrafted mint julep—unless you’re willing to pony up $1000. For the past 13 years, Brown-Forman has served a special version of the drink made with Woodford Reserve small batch bourbon. It’ll set you back a grand, but hey, you get to keep the pewter cup—and proceeds benefit the Jennifer Lawrence Arts Fund (yes, that Jennifer Lawrence). In 2016, the Oscar-winning actress—and Louisville native—founded the organization "to assist and empower organizations that fulfill children's needs and drives art access to positively impact the lives of young people."

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Animals
The Surprising Role Bats Play in Making Your Margarita
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The next time you have a margarita, raise your glass to the humble bat. Long-nosed bats are the main pollinators of agave, the plant used to make both tequila and mezcal. (Tequila is specifically made from blue agave, or Agave tequilana, while mezcal can be made from any species of the plant.) These agave plants open their flowers at night, attracting bats with their sugary nectar, and in turn, the bats help spread their pollen.

One of those bats, the lesser long-nosed bat, just got off the endangered species list in April 2018, as The Washington Post reported. It's the first bat species ever to recover its population enough to be taken off the Endangered Species List. Its revival is due, in part, to tequila producers along the bat's migration route between Mexico and the southwestern U.S. making their growing methods a little more bat-friendly.

While the relationship between bats and agave might be mutualistic, the one between bats and booze isn't necessarily so. Typical agave production for tequila and mezcal involves harvesting the plant right before it reaches sexual maturity—the flowering stage—because that's when its sugar content peaks, and because after the plant flowers, it dies. Instead of letting the plants reproduce naturally through pollination, farmers plant the clones that grow at the agave plant's base, known as hijuelos. That means fields of agave get razed before bats get the chance to feed off those plants. This method is bad for bats, but it's not great for agave, either; over time, it leads to inbred plants that have lower genetic diversity than their cross-pollinated cousins, ones that require more and more pesticides to keep them healthy.

Rodrigo Medellín, an ecologist who has been nicknamed the "Bat Man of Mexico," has been leading the crusade for bat-friendly tequila for decades, trying to convince tequila producers to let some of just 5 percent of their plants flower. The Tequila Interchange Project—a nonprofit organization made up of tequila producers, scientists, and tequila enthusiasts—led to the release of three bat-friendly agave liquors in the U.S. in 2016: two tequilas, Siembra Valles Ancestral and Tequila Ocho, and a mezcal, Don Mateo de la Sierra.

In 2017, when Medellín and his team visited the agave fields of Don Mateo de la Sierra to gather data, they discovered that the project was even more bat-friendly than they thought. The Mexican long-nosed bat, another endangered species, was also taking its meals at the field's flowering plants.

This weekend, raise a glass of tequila to all the bats out there—just make sure it's a bat-friendly brand.

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