Samui Wining & Dining
The Line on Wine

Wine’s history goes back thousands of years and so do the facts about it.


The Line on WineThere’s something about wine that suggests an air of worldliness and sophistication. However, this may recede somewhat on the sixth glass when you’re eyeing the table as a possible tap-dancing surface. But, in general, wine has a noble and ancient history going back thousands of years. And, as anyone who’s had that sixth glass can testify, it should also be treated with the utmost respect.


Here are 50 facts about this grapey goodness.


1) The oldest wine in the world was discovered in China and is dated to be over 9,000 years old. (I’d still drink it.)

2) Closer to what we’d consider modern wine with a larger grape concentration, wine jugs have been found in Iran dating from around 7,000 years ago. (Should be mature by now.)

3) The oldest wine bottles found intact and with wine still inside them were found in two Roman tombs in Germany, and date back to around 325 AD. (This is remarkable, not for the fact that the wine is so old, but that they’d left some in the bottle.)

4) Lead was used in wine in ancient Rome to help preserve it, meaning many Romans must have died of lead poisoning. (They were world leaders, after all.)

5) In ancient Egypt, the ability to store wine until maturity was considered alchemy and was the privileged drink of the pharaohs only. (They probably built the pyramids to store it in.)

6) Wine didn’t originate in Europe, as many people think. It took thousands of years after the first development of wine for it to make its way to French and English soil, mainly after the expansion of the Greek civilisation. (Don’t tell the French this.)

7) The Romans (who else?) were the first people to start documenting winemaking and spread the basis of modern day wine. (Fine people.)

8) The first written reference to a specific wine was made in 70 AD, when the Roman historian, Pliny the Elder, rated a wine from 121 BC as a vintage ‘of the highest excellence’. (Wonder if it had 121 BC on the bottle?)

9) In King Tut’s Egypt, around 1300 BC, the commoners drank beer whilst the upper class drank wine. (Nothing much changes.)

10) Old world wines from Europe use the wine’s region to denote its name, such as Bordeaux, whilst new world wines use the grape’s name, such as Pinot Noir. (Wouldn’t fancy an Old World wine from Pratts Bottom, Kent, or from North Piddle in Worcestershire.)

11) Wine grapes are the world’s largest fruit crop, based upon the number of acres planted. (That makes sense.)

12) The number of acres planted in wine production around the world is 20 million. (That’s a lot of wine.)

13) A wine must contain 75 per cent of the main grape to avoid being labelled as a blended wine. (Couldn’t you just drink three-quarters of the bottle?)

14) In Bali, the Hatten Winery lists not only the year of the vintage but also the month, so there are twelve or more vintages each year. (Why not daily?)

15) There has been divided opinion in recent years over the effectiveness of using screw caps instead of corks in bottles of wine. But a winery in France has started bottling wine with stainless steel caps normally found on beer. (They can use whatever they want, as long as the damned things come off quickly.)

16) Cabernet Sauvignon is the most planted red grape in the world. (And most picked, I presume.)

17) Thirty million gallons of wine were lost in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. (Do you think we should start a search party?)

18) An opened bottle of wine stored in the fridge lasts at least six times longer than a bottle stored at room temperature. (That’s if you can keep your hands of it.)

19) There are more than ten thousand grape varieties used in wines around the world. (I’m willing to volunteer to try them.)

20) Almost 20 billion bottles of wine are produced worldwide each year. (Only enough for three each.)

21) It takes four to five years to fully harvest a crop from newly-planted vines. (Well worth it chaps – keep up the good work.)

22) The top five wine-producing countries in the world are France, Italy, Spain, the USA and Argentina. (Thailand and the UK are both catching up fast.)

23) More than 90 per cent of vintage wine is intended to be imbibed within three years of production. (Leave it with me.)

24) Wine in a box was first marketed by the Australians in the 1970s. (How did they manage to get the cork to stay in?)

25) The dark green wine bottle was first developed in England around 1650 – before which time, wine was stored in goat- or pig-skin bags. (Doesn’t have the same element of romance, somehow.)

26) Ninety-five per cent of wine drinkers in the USA drink a bottle of wine within 48 hours of opening the bottle. (I can’t believe that they’re so slow.)

27) If choosing between two vintage wines, don’t pick the oldest – the more recent wine will have retained its flavour better. (Sure 150 instead of 152 years old makes all the difference.)

28) One acre of grapevines produces five tonnes of grapes and 3,985 bottles of wine. (That’s decided me, I’m reorganising my garden.)

29) One bottle of wine is produced using 2.4 pounds of grapes, and allegedly a glass each for four people. (Unless you use one of my wineglasses.)

30) Red wine will give you more of a headache than white wine if you’re sensitive to histamines, found in grape skins. (Are you sure that’s true? I had 5 bottles of white last night and I’ve got a huge headache.)

31) In days gone past, the Irish believed fairies were fond of good wine. Royalty would leave a keg of wine out for them at night and, without fail, it was gone the next morning. (Goodness, I must try that.)

32) Half of all corks used in wine bottles around the world come from Portugal. (I’m happy half the wine doesn’t.)

33) Before cork was used, wine bottles were sealed with oily rags. (Didn’t know they had garages in those days.)

34) The Bible has several references to vineyards and wine, with the first being in Genesis which records that Noah planted a vineyard ‘and that he drank of the wine and was drunken’. (He probably loaded his ark one by one, but was seeing double.)

35) The Book of Jonah is the only one in the New Testament not to mention vines or wines. (It was probably deleted.)

36) The Code of Hammurabi from 1800 BC includes a law that punishes fraudulent wine sellers; they were to be drowned in a river. (That’s definitely one law that should be reinstated.)

37) Winemaking is a significant theme in one of the oldest literary works known, the Epic of Gilgamesh. (It obviously gave the writer inspiration; I’ll have to try it.)

38) A wine glass should always be held by the stem and not the bowl, as the heat of your hand will raise the temperature of the wine. (That’s if you don’t knock it back to quickly.)

39) A bottle of wine should be stored on its side rather than vertically, as this keeps the cork wet and less likely to shrink and let in air. (That’s probably why you find winos laying on their sides after a few bottles.)

40) Cream of tartar is a residue left on the sides of wooden wine casks after fermented grape juice is removed from the cask. (I never realised that it took so much effort to create something to go with fish and chips.)

41) Oak is the most common wood used for wine barrels throughout the world. (How long does it take for an oak tree to grow?)

42) Wine kept over a very long period (as is done by as by wine producers) has the bottles’ corks replaced every 25 years or so. (I hope they can trust the chap who does it not to try a little along the way when no-one’s looking.)

43) Hippocrates, widely considered to be the ‘Father of Medicine’, includes wine in almost every one of his recorded remedies. (Now that man was a true genius.)

44) Oenophobia is an intense fear or hatred of wine. (I bet there aren’t any known cases.)

45) Copies of Little Red Riding Hood were banned for primary school children in Empire, California, because the tale recounts that the girl took a bottle of wine to her grandmother. (They didn’t worry about the bit telling of her getting eaten alive though.)

46) Ernest Hemingway called wine ‘the most civilised thing in the world’. (A true gentleman and scholar.)

47) The wreck of the Titanic holds the oldest wine cellar in the world. Many of the bottles are still intact. (I’m booking an Open Water PADI class with Easy Divers next week.)

48) In ancient Greece, a person hosting the party would drink the wine first just to make sure it wasn’t spoiled – or poisoned. (What, all of it?)

49) It takes around $2.64 worth of grapes to make a $20 bottle of wine. (I’m sure there’s the odd expense in the other processes involved.)

50) Old wine almost never turns to vinegar, but is spoiled by oxidation. (If it tastes like vinegar, you probably paid $2.64 for it and should put it on your French fries.)


Laura Canning

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