29 bizarre facts that will make your friends think you are a wine expert

As The Wine Show team travel the world we pick up all sorts of facts, figures and fun trivia about wine. We thought you might like to hear them too. These aren’t the sort of things you’ll learn about in wine text books. But they’re the sort of things you might share over a bottle of wine with friends.

We’re always on the lookout for more too. Send us your most surprising wine trivia to [email protected] and we’ll share it with Wine Show fans around the world.

So for starters… how do you find out what sort of wine your friends will like?

  1. The easiest way to find out what wine someone will like is ‘the coffee test’. Ask what coffee someone likes. Espresso and black coffee drinkers tend to like full-bodied reds like Barolo, Chianti Classico and Barossa Shiraz or oaky Chardonnays. Cappuccino and Flat White drinkers tend to like mid-weight Merlots, Malbec, Burgundy and Sauvignon Blancs like Sancerre. Latte drinkers like lighter reds like Beaujolais, light Valpolicella or soft whites like Pinot Grigio. Tangerine Mocchalatta frappucino drinkers like sweeter, fruity styles like White Zinfandel and Moscato. You can even do the test for yourself here
  2. The grape variety Merlot gets its name from the French word for blackbird, merle. It’s because blackbirds know merlot ripens early and so it has softer, juicier grapes for them to peck at.
  3. A “punt” is the dimple in the bottle of a wine bottle. But it’s a myth that a deep punt means the wine inside will always be good. It just means that the wine maker has bought some expensive bottles with deep punts in them.
  4. Wine professionals judge the quality of wines using a scale called “the BLIC”. They compare the Balance of fruit sweetness and acidity. Then assess the wine’s Length, prizing wines that linger on the palate. They look at the Intensity of the fruit characters, for instance, assessing if it’s merely fruity, or distinctly strawberryish, or even like fresh Alpine strawberries. And finally they judge the wine’s Complexity. Complex, multi-layered wines are favoured over simpler wines.
  5. If you ever want to sound like a wine expert, just rattle off the BLIC acronym. “This wine is beautifully balanced with great length on the palate. The fruit is deliciously intense and so complex on the finish”. You sound like a great wine expert without having to know much about the wine.
  6. A “prunt” is the name for a glass seal on the shoulder of a wine bottle. Some wines like Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Picpoul de Pinet must have a prunt on the bottle by law. Sometimes individual producers have their own prunts.
  7. A Champagne bubble bursts open at roughly the same speed Usain Bolt runs the 100m, about 10m/s
  8. The oldest evidence for winemaking come from Georgia around 8000 years ago. They still make wine in buried “kvevri” or earthenware pots that probably reflect the way the first wines were made.
  9. Humans can detect up to one trillion aromas, but in any glass of wine our brains will only ever being able to reliably identify three.
  10. “Sommelier” is the French word for a wine waiter. It comes from the original job which involved managing the “betes de somme” or pack animals like donkeys that transported goods between noble households.
  11. The pressure inside a Champagne bottle is the same as the tyre on a London double-decker bus, when filled with passengers.
  12. Every state in the USA produces wine commercially. Even Alaska. The only place in the USA that doesn’t have a commercial winery is Washington DC.
  13. Wine is the most complex drink on the planet.
  14. The world’s highest commercial vineyard is said to be Bodegas Colome in the Andes in Argentina. Their Colome Altura Maxima wine comes from vines over 3,000m high.
  15. Always store bottles stoppered with a cork on the sides. This way the cork won’t dry out and will keep a tight seal.
  16. Champagne and sparkling wine makers will often claim that smaller bubbles are an important sign of quality in their wines. But in tests people prefer the aroma of sparkling wines with larger bubbles.
  17. Wine labels really do make a huge difference to the taste of wines. In one wine competition a producer entered the same wine under several different labels. One bottle was judged “undrinkable” whilst a bottle of the same wine with a different label won a double gold medal.
  18. The only book of the Old Testament that contains no reference to wine, grapes or vines is the Book of Obadiah. It’s also the shortest book in the Bible.
  19. Dominique Auroy owns arguably the world’s most remote vineyard, He has been growing vines in Tahiti since the 1990’s. The vineyard makes over 40,000 bottles a year, just 400m from the Pacific Ocean. But over 5,000 kilometres from the nearest continent.
  20. A “corked” wine isn’t one that has bits of cork in it. It’s a wine that’s been tainted by a musty smelling odour that sometimes appears in corks called 2,4,6 trichloroanisole. The odour can also come from winery equipment. As a result, it is possible (although rarer) for wines sealed with screwcaps or plastic corks to be “corked”.
  21. It is possible to have a “corked” gin and tonic, as sometimes the “corked” odour can come from the skin of waxed lemons.
  22. DNPIM is an acronym wine writers sometimes use to be diplomatic on tasting notes. It stands for “do not put in mouth”.
  23. The world’s smallest vineyard is said to be in Les Amis de Farinet in Switzerland’s Valais region. It contains just three vines and is owned by the Dalai Lama.
  24. Before it was launched into space in 2013, the Mars Organic Analyzer (MOA) was used by researchers to study hangover-causing amines in wine, beer and sake.
  25. In research with 15,000 people, the most popular words people said would make them buy a bottle of wine were “fruity”, “smooth”, “full-bodied”, “dry” and “fresh”.
  26. Nobody has ever found any evidence that putting a teaspoon in an opened bottle of Champagne helps it keep its fizz. It’s unclear why people started doing this, as there’s no reason to think it would either.
  27. If you are ever given a glass of cheap red wine at a party, try adding a very small amount of salt to it. Salt mutes the bitterness, and can make the wine smoother and fruiter.
  28. There are scores of different grape species in the world. But we only generally drink wine from one – vitis vinifera. Although almost all these vines are grown on the roots of other species to protect them from infestations from a small insect that nearly wiped out vitis vinifera in Europe in the nineteenth century.
  29. There is a vineyard in the grounds of the Olkiluoto nuclear power station in Finland. The grapes are warmed by hot water from the station. It is believed to be the northernmost vineyard in the world. Although the Lerkekasa Vineyard in Telemark, Norway claims the title of the world’s most northerly commercial vineyard.