More than just a relaxing drink to enjoy with friends, wine is a fascinating elixir with an expansive, and sometimes quirky history spanning countless cultures across the globe. From adorable harvesting machines to snake blood blends, join us on an adventure through some of the most fascinating facts about wine:
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1. Many grapes are machine-picked
Since the 1960s, grape harvesting has gradually been taken over by machines. Grape harvesters work in a violent yet oddly adorable way. The driver’s cab is high and aligned so the machine has a wheel on either side of the row. As they drive along straddling the grapes, the machine beats the vine with rubber sticks to make it drop its fruit onto a conveyor belt that carries it into a holding bin. Though these machines save time, they can be tricky to maintain, and grape harvester parts don’t come cheap.
2. Climate change is affecting harvests
Global warming has shifted the harvest season in many regions. As these climatic changes continue, it’s expected that some vineyards will lose the ability to maintain the quality of their yields. However, other parts of the world that were previously unfit for grape-growing may become optimal. A century from now, wine aficionados will likely be visiting entirely different regions than the ones frequented today.
3. Cars can run on wine
Prince Charles has a vintage Aston Martin that was gifted to him by Queen Elizabeth when he turned 21. Though he loved the car, Charles has always been environmentally-minded, so he hated the fact that it was such a gas guzzler. In 2008, he approached Aston Martin with his concerns and they teamed up to convert the old beauty to run on wine. Charles says it smells delightful.
4. Toasts and cheers
You have the ancient Greeks and Romans to thank for all the boring toasts you’ve had to sit through at weddings and work events. However, back then, they actually used to drop a toasted bit of bread into the wine. Apparently, it softens any acidic or unpleasant tastes, so feel free to give it a whirl the next time you pick a less than stellar wine.
Many people believe the glass clinking “cheers” tradition arose as a way to ensure you weren’t being poisoned. By bumping cups, your drinks would mix, so the perpetrator would be poisoned too. However, this is only a theory – there’s not a spot of tangible evidence for it. Most historians believe the tradition is actually far more recent, and the reason for it? People just enjoy that cute little clinking noise.
5. Snake wine is a thing
Vietnam is home to possibly the craziest wine in the world. Known as snake wine or cobra wine, this rather vicious drink is created by infusing a whole venomous snake in a bottle of rice wine. Another variation of this wine that can be made on the spot for you (if you know the right establishments to visit) is snake blood wine. Your server will slit the live serpent’s belly open and drain its blood into your glass of wine. If snake blood isn’t your thing, you can order snake bile wine instead. Or if you’re truly metal, you can have them put the still-beating heart of a freshly slaughtered serpent into your wine. Yummy…
Before we say goodbye, here’s a bonus mini-fact: enough people are pathologically afraid of wine that the condition has an official title – “oenophobia.” Having just learned about the existence of snake bile wine, this fear is a whole lot more understandable. However, don’t let that stop you from enjoying your well-earned tipple. Cheers!