What do Winston Churchill and Pol Roger champagne have in common? Why are roses grown in vineyards? Why can Riesling smell like petrol? Find out all this and more in Drinks&Co‘s compilation of interesting wine trivia to impress your friends and help you win that next pub quiz.
Cabernet: The Superstar of Grapes
Our first piece of wine trivia is about the world’s best-known grape variety, Cabernet Sauvignon. Originally from France, this popular grape variety is a natural cross between red Cabernet Franc and white Sauvignon Blanc. “Cab” – as enthusiasts often call it – is one of the late-ripening grape varieties that contains lots of seeds, colour and tannins. This gives the wine a deep dark colour and a rich tannic structure. This also makes it particularly well-suited for barrel- ageing as well as long-term storage. Typical for Cabernet Sauvignon are flavours of blackcurrant (cassis), green pepper, cedar and granite. Cabernet Sauvignon is cultivated on almost 300,000 hectares around the globe, making it the most widely grown grape variety in the world. Especially in France, Chile and California, it is the absolute superstar of grapes.
Winston Churchill & Pol Roger
The most important British leader of the 20th century loved Cuban cigars and champagne. His favourite was Pol Roger champagne from one of the last great champagne houses based in Épernay. Churchill reportedly drank around 42,000 bottles of Pol Roger champagne in his lifetime – around 31,500 litres or one and a half bottles per day spread over his entire adult life.
Roses in the Vineyard
Roses aren’t just for gardeners, romantics and flower lovers. They can also be seen blooming in the vineyards. But they’re not there for their good looks and floral aroma, they actually serve as a natural early warning system to prevent diseases and pests. Roses need similar conditions to grape vines, but they’re more sensitive to diseases such as mildew. Because of this, they can warn us of pest infestations or diseases before they have the chance to spread to the vines. What’s more, they also serve as a shelter and food source for honey bees, making a valuable contribution to biodiversity in the vineyard.
The Oldest Wine Bottle in the World
During excavations of a Roman grave near Speyer, Germany, in 1867, an unopened glass amphora containing wine was found next to the remains of a man and a woman. It is assumed that the deceased was a Roman legionary and that the wine was given to him on his last journey. The bottle, which holds about 1.5 litres, dates back to 325 to 350 AD, making it the oldest unopened wine bottle in the world. The wine is incredibly well-preserved due to its closure with a seal made of hot wax. Although the wine has lost its alcohol content over the last almost 1,700 years, it is assumed that it is not microbiologically spoiled. Nevertheless, it’s probably not a treat for your tastebuds. The oldest wine bottle is exhibited in the Historical Museum of the Palatinate in Speyer.
The Titillating Origin of the Pompadour Champagne Glass
Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, better known as Madame de Pompadour, was the mistress of the French King Louis XV. She was said to be “educated, clever, amiable, full of grace and artistically gifted […]”. Legend has it that Louis XV was so taken with her beauty and charms that he ordered the production of champagne glasses modelled on Madame Pompadour’s left breast. In the 20th century, the champagne glass experienced its boom, especially between 1930 and 1970. Nowadays somewhat out of fashion, it usually gathers dust in cellars and living room cupboards. In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that the shape of the glass is directly related to the perception of aromas and flavours in still and sparkling wines. Despite its luxurious-looking design, the Pompadour champagne glass isn’t actually recommended for enjoying champagne, as the flat and open shape causes the bubbles to quickly disappear. What’s more, the open shape does not concentrate the subtle aromas and fragrances of the champagne. To make the most out of sparkling wine, it’s always recommended to use tall and slender tulip-shaped glasses.
Riesling that Smells of Petrol
Our final piece of wine trivia is about one of the highest quality and most respected grape varieties in the world, Riesling. Connoisseurs and amateurs appreciate it above all for its lively and varied aromas, which are reflected in the wine. Their high acidity makes Riesling wines particularly long-lived: they are ideal for ageing in the bottle for several years, even decades. Curiously, after a certain storage time, Riesling can develop a petrol aroma.
Riesling from warmer and sunnier growing regions develops a slight petroleum note even after a relatively short storage time. The reason for this is that at warmer temperatures the vine produces carotenoids, which are stored in the grape skin as protection against too much radiation. Since these are not stable, 1,1,6-trimethyl-1,2-dihydronaphthalene, or TDN for short, is formed during bottle storage. This chemical compound smells like petroleum in high concentrations. In young wine, too strong an aroma is often judged a weakness because it masks the delicate aromas typical of the variety. But in older and high-quality examples, the subtle petrol note combines harmoniously with the more mature flavours of dried apricots, honey and beeswax.
That’s a wrap for now. If you enjoyed this wine trivia, please let us know in the comments.
Translated by Chelsea Cummings from Miriam Reis’s original German article: Trivia-Tag: Kurioses zum Thema Wein.