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They kill the cobra fresh, just for you

They kill the cobra fresh, just for you

As much as I love tasting new wines, you may be surprised to know I am more passionate about learning about wine than actually drinking the wines. Each time I research wine I come across many wine trivia facts. I hope you enjoy this week’s column filled with great dinner conversation, party trivia and just a few facts you may not have known.

  • The world’s oldest bottle of wine, known as the Speyer wine bottle or Romerwein aus Speyer, dates to A.D. 325 and is on display in the Historical Museum of Palatinate in Speyer, Germany.
  • There is a law about wine given in the Code of Hammurabi (c. 1800 B.C). “If outlaws collect in the house of a wine-seller, and she do not arrest those outlaws and bring them to the palace, that wine-seller shall be put to death.” (109)
  • In Australia, wine labels are required to list the number of servings based on the alcohol content. For example, a bottle of Riesling with 8 percent alcohol by volume has 4.7 servings while a bottle of shiraz with 15 percent alcohol by volume has 8.9 servings per bottle.
  • It takes between three and 10 bunches of grapes to make a bottle of wine, with most bottles requiring about five. A standard wine barrel contains about 295 bottles.
  • The word “sommelier” is an old French word meaning butler or an officer in charge of provisions, derived from the Old Provencal “saumalier,” or pack animal driver.
  • In Vietnam, you can order a glass of “snake wine” made with the venom from the cobra. It is usually served as a shot of rice wine covered with snake blood. Many times, the snake is killed as you order. It’s considered to have medicinal properties. Bottled snake wine — bottles of rice wine or grain alcohol — steeped with whole snakes inside are also available.
  • The average age of a French oak tree harvested for the use of creating wine barrels is 170 years old. Mature trees have a tight grain ideal for barrel usage. Depending on the size of the tree and the size of the barrels, a cooper can make just one to three barrels from a single oak tree. However, the barrels can be used multiple times depending on the type of spirit and if they are being used to impart specific characteristics or simply for storage.
  • Winemaking is a significant theme in one of the oldest literary works known, the Epic of Gilgamesh. The divinity in charge of the wine was the goddess Siduri.
Champagne trivia to impress friends

Champagne trivia to impress friends

It’s becoming somewhat of an inside joke among my friends to exchange tips of our trades. Of course I am one to barter wine information for thought-provoking conversations in medicine, food, agriculture, law, finance and just about all life offers. Over the past several weeks of holiday celebrations, many of the questions asked of me were about Champagne. So, with the celebratory theme sure to be a part of next week’s chats I searched out a few conversation starters involving Champagne that you may want to use.

  • The pressure in a bottle of Champagne is 70 to 90 pounds per square inch. That is three times the average amount of pressure in your car tire. This is not just a notable piece of trivia but a dangerous fact to keep in mind when opening a bottle.
  • Legend has it that Marilyn Monroe at least once took a bath in Champagne, using 350 bottles to fill her bathtub. That’s 262.5 liters, which would fill an average bath of 270 liters to the top. Since the average woman would displace around 50 liters of liquid it would seem either Marilyn wasted 66 or so bottles of Champagne or she was in a very big bath.
  • Gout de Diamants’ Taste of Diamonds Champagne was released with a price tag of $1.8 million. The bottle was adorned with Swarovski crystals in the center of a diamond-shaped pewter design resembling a Superman logo. It was a limited edition bottle designed by Alexander Amosu and was one of the most expensive bottles of bubbly in the world.
  • If you find yourself in need of instructions to build a Champagne flute cascade for your New Year’s party, here’s what you’ll need: Base level — 60 glasses, Level one — 30 glasses, Level two — 10 glasses, Level three (top) — 4 glasses.
  • On average, 28,000 bottles of Champagne are served at Wimbledon each year.
  • How many standard 750-mL bottles’ contents would fit in these unique bottle sizes? Nebuchadnezzar (20 bottles), Balthazar (16 bottles), Salmanazar (12 bottles) Methuselah (8 bottles) Jeroboam (4 bottles) Magnum (2 bottles)
  • For my technically scientific friends: The patterns and bubbles in the glass are a vibration rate of the gas trapped at the nucleation point and the growth rate of the bubbles outside. There are actual teams of experts offering complex equations to explain this differential pattern.

And now here’s what to drink while you’re impressing your friends with your newfound Champagne trivia.


  • NV Lucien Albrecht Rose Cremant d’Alsace, France (about $21 retail)


  • NV Piper Heidsieck Brut Reims, France (about $40 retail)
Wine trivia to use when chatter lags

Wine trivia to use when chatter lags

It’s stressful enough for many of us to come up with the perfect toast at a dinner party.

But I think it’s even more important to avoid the dreaded silences that come with the ebbs in conversation. If you’ve had dinner with me you know I am not one for comfortable silence.

Here are a few wine stories to impress your friends and family and keep the conversation (and wine) flowing at the table.

There’s the ancient Latin phrase¬†in vino veritas, “in wine there is truth.” But it’s always that small step beyond the truth that makes for the best wine legend.

Saying “Cheers!” as we clink glasses with our friends and family was a ritual started in the Middle Ages. Poisoning was considered the normal way of dismissing an enemy and to ensure glasses were poison-free, those at the table would first pour a small amount of wine from their glass into the other glasses at the table. If there were poison in one it would now be in all. Another version says the practice of clinking glasses is to dispel evil spirits in the room. Eventually, the custom transformed to what it is today, a wish of good health and fellowship.

Women have been at the center of the world’s wine legends from almost the beginning. One legend credits a woman with discovering wine. According to lore, the woman suffered from severe migraines. She lived in a harem in the palace of King Jamshid in Persia. One day as she was in severe pain she noticed a spoiled jar of grapes in the process of foaming and fermenting. Her thought was it was poison and she would drink the entire jar. Instead of ending her life she discovered the elixir had miraculously cured her headache. And, again as the story and legend go, the king ordered wine to be served at all royal functions in the future.

And then there’s this famous quotation from Benjamin Franklin. It should be noted that this quotation is often incorrectly attributed to being about beer, but in fact Franklin was writing about rain and wine.

“We hear of the conversion of water into wine at the marriage in Cana as of a miracle. But this conversion is, through the goodness of God, made every day before our eyes. Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, and which incorporates itself with the grapes, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.”

Short version: “Wine is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

Cheers to that.