For most of us, wine is an indulgence to be enjoyed. Deciding on the brand and variety you’re going to treat yourself to is the only tricky part. We know that each bottle has a story behind it, but if we could see the journey it took to reach our table – from the sunny cradle of nature through the dark underworld of machines powered by intricate grape harvester parts – we’d have a new-found respect for the strange and fascinating life each bottle lives.
If you’d like to know more about the odd adventures of this ancient beverage, the following facts are for you:
1. Toasting used to involve toast
If you’ve ever wondered why we call it a “toast” when someone raises their glass, the answer lies with Shakespeare, bad wine, and stale bread. Though the practice of offering libations to the gods and drinking to the health of your companions has been around quite possibly since prehistory, Shakespeare was the first to call it “toasting.”
Back in the 16th century, wine production wasn’t what it is today. In fact, wine tasted so terrible that many people found a good use for stale bread by dunking it in their wine – improving the flavor of the drink and the texture of the bread all in one go.
2. Wine has been legislated for millennia
When we said wine was an ancient drink, we weren’t kidding. Back around 1755 to 1750 BCE, the Code of Hammurabi was written, laying down 282 rules ancient Babylonians had to live by. Three of these were wine-related, and the punishments were pretty grim.
If a bartender in the modern world pours less into your glass than they should have, your only recourse is to point it out and hope for the best. If we still lived under the Code of Hammurabi, you’d be able to throw them in the nearest river. If the problem was that they let belligerent idiots bother people in their establishment, the bartender would be put to death.
3. Beating prohibition with a clever joke
During America’s prohibition of alcohol (1920-1933), few people actually stopped drinking alcohol. They were just forced to be more creative and clandestine about it. This inspired the birth of speakeasies and other beautiful inventions born of the rebellious human spirit.
One such invention was the grape juice brick. These could be dissolved in water to make perfectly legal non-alcoholic grape juice. On the label, the company warned that if you left the juice in a cupboard for 21 days, it would turn to alcohol – so definitely “don’t” do that.
4. Cocaine wine
If cocaine and alcohol were to meet in your liver, they would form into the compound cocaethylene. Back in the late 1800s, a clever French chemist synthesized this cocaine-alcohol combo and used it to create his own brand of cocaine-infused wine.
Vin Mariani wine was unsurprisingly popular. However, it wasn’t just the cocaine that attracted people to it. Great literary figures like Jules Verne and Arthur Conan Doyle were big fans, adding a touch of class to the beverage.
5. You can relax in wine in Japan
Japan has a retreat that allows you to bathe in wine because of course it does. At the Hakone Gavel Garden YuNessun, wine pours into the pool from a giant bottle, and guests are able to sip on wine while they bathe in the stuff. The retreat also offers a green tea bath, coffee spa, sake soak, and even a ramen noodle spa!
A glass of wine will never be the same again now that you know these strange facts!