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Wine trivia

One of the great advantages of wine (apart from drinking it) is the amazing amount of information available on the subject. It's not surprising given there is at least a thousand years of history behind it. 

Here are a few items to start your collection of wine facts and trivia…


Wine and food tips
  • Sauvignon Blanc is one of the few wine varieties that complements fresh asparagus.
  • You can add leftover white wine to pasta sauces.
  • The traditional order of service of wines during a meal was sparkling, white, rosé, red and dessert.
  • Cheese and a versatile white wine, like Chardonnay, can be a great combination.
  • If you taste Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in black glasses (so you can’t see the wine’s colour), it’s often difficult to pick the difference. Try serving Chardonnay with dishes traditionally matched with Pinot Noir. 
  • Tomatoes, with their high acidity, are often difficult to match with wine but work well with Rosé. Think Caprese salad.
  • For an unusual but refreshing summer combination, pour Cabernet Sauvignon over fresh strawberries.
  • Eating an olive between tasting big red wines removes the tannin build-up in your mouth.
  • Chocolate is a hard taste to marry with wine, but a rich red wine will often work.
  • In summer try adding a couple of frozen blueberries to the wine to keep it cool – the blueberry flavour won’t be released until you bite into the fruit. Wine tasting
  • When tasting wine, first impressions are often the most revealing.
  • As a general rule of thumb, the longer the aftertaste or finish, the better aging potential of the wine. 
  • If Chardonnay has the aroma of vanilla, you can safely assume it has either been stored or fermented in oak barrels.
  • Different oaks produce different flavours in wine. USA – coconut; France – cedar or pencil shavings; Slovenia – high tannins; Canada – fennel and liquorice; Germany – nutty and toasty.
  • Sediment in a wine is natural and harmless. Careful pouring or decanting will eliminate the problem.
  • Over-chilling white wine closes down the flavour – the ideal white wine serving temperature is around 10-12 degrees.
  • To chill wine quickly, wrap in a wet tea towel and put in the freezer for 20 minutes.
  • To chill a bottle outdoors, wrap in a wet towel and leave standing in the breeze to let evaporation do the chilling.
  • A silver teaspoon in the neck of a bottle of sparkling wine won’t stop it from going flat.
  • To indicate how sweet or dry a Riesling is, producers will add a “dry to sweet” scale on the back label.
  • Store wine glasses upright, with bowls facing up, to avoid them developing a dusty odour.
  • The best sparkling wine glasses to use are a tulip shape: they allow you to smell the aromas without losing too much of the sparkle.
  • To remove red wine stains from clothes, remove excess moisture with a dry cloth, then cover with either milk or salt and allow to stand before washing. 
  • Screw-caps don't make a wine cheap, but make each bottle consistent
Types of wine 
  • Vintage is the year the grapes were picked.
  • Tannins in red wine give the wine ageing potential and great stability.
  • Aromatic wines are so-called because the smell of the wine is from the grape’s aromas, not winemaking techniques.
  • Gewürztraminer is very similar to Riesling with its ability to age gracefully over a very long time, particularly the sweeter examples. 
  • White Burgundy wine is made from Chardonnay grapes. 
  • Red Burgundy wine is made from Pinot Noir grapes.
  • Pinot Noir is a big component of Champagne and Methode Traditionelle, along with Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.
  • Claret, as it was known in the UK, was a blend of predominately Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from the Bordeaux region of France. 
  • Riesling has great aging ability: there’s still some existing sweet Riesling from the 18th Century.
  • White wines, like Champagne, can be made from black grapes by fermenting the juice separately from the skins.
NZ wine trivia
  • In New Zealand, large isn’t necessarily bad – some of our largest producers produce great Sauvignon Blanc.
  • Over 90% of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is grown in Marlborough, with the Hawke’s Bay and Nelson being the next two largest producers.
  • New Zealand produces 285 million litres of wine a year – about the same amount as Hungary and a tenth of the volume of Spain.
  • In the last 10 years New Zealand Pinot Gris has doubled its production to 22,824 tonnes in 2018.
  • In New Zealand, Sauvignon Blanc is the most planted grape variety and last harvest (2017) Sauvignon Blanc grapes were 72% of the total harvest. 
  • Our largest grape growing area is Marlborough which includes the Awatere Valley, followed by Hawke’s Bay. If you removed the planted area of the Awatere Valley from the Marlborough total, then Marlborough would still be the largest grape growing area, followed by the Awatere Valley then Hawke’s Bay!

  • James Bond’s favourite Champagnes were Taittinger Blanc de Blancs vintage followed by Bollinger RD.
  • The original Champagne glass was a shallow coupe said to have been modelled on the breast of Marie-Antoinette, Queen of France and Navarre from 1744 to 1792, and held almost half a bottle.
  • A standard wine bottle holds 750ml, a Magnum 1.5L, a Jeroboam 3L and a Methuselah 6L.
  • An average glass of wine has around 85 calories.
  • The first known patent for a corkscrew was in 1795.
  • There are over 10,000 varieties of wine grapes that exist in the world today.
  • The first winemaking took place at least 8,000 years ago by Mesopotamians.
  • Worldwide, new regions are being planted with grapes for wine, including countries not generally associated with viticulture, such as Thailand.
  • The oldest bottle of Australian wine is a bottle of 1867 Tintara Vineyard Association Claret owned by Hardy's, presumed to be made from Cabernet Sauvignon. 
  • Chateau Tahbilk’s Old Vine Shiraz is made from un-grafted vines planted in 1869. 
  • Harry Waugh, an English wine writer, said, “The first duty of wine is to be red and the second is to be Pinot Noir.”
  • “Wine without alcohol is like music without bass”, said prolific Dutch wine writer Hubrecht Duijker.
  • Twenty years ago, white wine grape varieties were the most planted grape vines in the world. However that’s changed as drinking preferences change. Red wine grape varieties now total 55% of all grapes planted and Cabernet Sauvignon now has the most plantings in the world.
  • The majority of red grapes have ‘white’ or clear juice. The red colour is in the skins, so it’s possible to make white wine from red grapes by separating the juice from the skins before ferment. A good example of this is Champagne which is made from one wine variety (Chardonnay) and two red varieties (Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier).
  • The three largest wine producing countries in the world are France, Italy and Spain and between them they produce almost half (49%) the world’s wine.