Tag Archives: Grapes

Ever Had Peruvian Potatoes?

Today Vodka is made from all kinds of starches like rye, wheat, corn, peaches, grapes, and Potatoes to name a few. Have you ever been lead to believe that it was the Potato that served as the original ingredient in making Vodka?

Vodka has been around since at least the early 1500s. Unfortunately for purveyors of this myth, Potatoes actually originated in Peru (South America). They would not cross the Atlantic and become a mainstay in Europe until the mid 1700s.

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Yay, Wine Math!

Have you ever ridden on a city bus in traffic? Imagine an enormous city block. On all four sides of this block there are exactly 1,089 buses parked bumper to bumper. This square is how big 1 acre is.

Any given acre of vineyard will produce between 1,400 – 7,200 bottles of wine. Each plant itself is usually good for 2 – 3 bottles of wine, and it takes 600 – 800 individual grapes to eventually make a single bottle of wine.

Apparently math can be fun! I owe several childhood teachers for a lost bet…

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Grapes Nearly Went Extinct

Over the eons the flux of nature’s climactic patterns have simultaneously eliminated and empowered different species. The rise of mammals is attributed to same conditions that choked the dinosaurs into history.

The last ice age nearly left the human race without wine—as most of the grape’s original habitat was blanketed in ice. This would have driven the plant into extinction.

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Smoke Is Good For Whiskey, But Not For Wine

The California wildfires of 2018 filled the skies of half of the state with smoke. The smoke also filled the renown vineyards of Napa and Sonoma.

When smoke from a wildfire inundates a vineyard the wine made from those grapes can end up tasting of Burnt Bacon or Wet Ashtray.

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DIY Wine

When the dry vail of Prohibition fell over America in 1920 entire industries were sunk. Overnight it had become illegal to 1) make, 2) sell, and 3) transport alcohol.

Wine makers however, discovered an interesting loophole. They sold brick-shaped blocks of compressed grapes along with a packet of wine-makers’ yeast and a warning that combining the two in warm water would result in alcohol—which would technically be illegal.

Since the two separate ingredients (grapes & yeast) were nonalcoholic, there were no legal conflicts. True, anyone who illicitly used the kit to make wine would be breaking the law, but doing so on a small scale in one’s own home could easily go unnoticed by authorities.

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“Vile Rice Wine”

Sake is a wine that is made from fermented rice, instead of grapes. It is about 8,000 years old, having originated in the Henan Province of China.

Contrary to popular belief, Sake does not need to be served warm. In fact, it should not be served warm! This is a marketing gimmick that helps poor-quality sake go down more smoothly—just like the salt and lime with tequila (spoiler alert!).

In 1896 somebody at the New York Times had the pleasure of reviewing Sake for the first time. They described it as a, “Vile rice wine,” with a, “markedly poisonous effect.” It would seem that in the last 123 years we have come quite a ways in appreciating this unique beverage…except for drinking it warm!

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Noble Rot

Fungi benefit our lives in many exciting ways. The yeast that makes our alcohol and the mushrooms that adorn our pizza are fungi. However, I doubt that many of us get excited when we see our fruit rotting from a fungus.

Winemakers, on the other hand, are sometimes blessed when the fungus Botrytis cinerea settles into their vineyard, but only under very specific circumstances. When everything lines up just right the grapes are affected—but not killed—by Botrytis in a unique and very valuable way: this is called the Noble Rot.

Botrytized Wine results from Noble Rot. It is highly sought after, and made possible when a specific fungus attacks the grapes on the vine. Grapes are dehydrated—which concentrates the sugars—when the Botrytis fungus his late in the grape’s growing season; AND temperatures hover between 68°-78° F (20.0°-25.6° C); AND humidity remains very high.

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