Updated 10 February 2013

Wacky wine wisdom

A good bottle of wine can keep you company while reading the perfect novel or when entertaining a few friends. Here are a few things that you might not have known about wine.


For many, wine is not just a luxury, it’s a necessity. A good bottle of wine can keep you company on a lonely night, while reading the perfect novel and especially when entertaining a few friends. Here are a few things that you might not have known about your favourite bottle of wine.

What the grape?

Ever wondered how many grapes are in a standard bottle of wine? Here is the basic formula:

75 grapes =1 grape cluster
1 grape cluster = 1 glass of wine
4 grape clusters = 1 bottle of wine
40 grape clusters = 1 grape vine
1 grape vine = 10 bottles
12 bottles = 1 case
1200 grape clusters = 1 barrel
1 barrel = about 227 litres or 300 750ml bottles
1 barrel = 30 vines
1 acre = 400 vines
1 acre = 5 tons of grapes
5 tons of grapes = about 332 cases of wine

A tribute to the champagne glass

Many people consider the shape of the shallow, wide-mouthed champagne glass to be a tribute to the breast of Marie Antoinette, but the Greeks believe it to be a tribute to Helen of Troy. (Image by: Kenichi-Nobusue)

Good wine isn’t cheap

According to, the most expensive wine is Champagne from Champagne. A bottle of Heidsieck 1907 champagne will cost you $275,000 or R1,8 million. The high price-tag is based on the wine's original voyage. In 1916 these bottles of wine were shipped off to a Russian Imperial family.

The only problem was, the ship was shipwrecked off the coast of Finland and the wine was never delivered. Fast-forward to 1997 when a group of divers discovered just over 200 of these bottles.

The bottles of Champagne were then auctioned off and are still available at the Ritz- Carlton Hotel in Moscow.

Ageing gracefully

In 1867 the world’s oldest bottle of wine was found during an excavation of a vineyard in Speyer, Germany. The bottle was found in one of two stone Roman sarcophagi that date back to around 325AD, thus making the wine approximately 1686 years old. According to the excavators there were several bottles, but only one survived.  There is a layer of olive oil above the wine which the Romans used to prevent the oxidation of the wine, and this is reason for the wine’s survival.

The bottle of wine is on display at the History Museum of the Pfalz in Speyer, Germany.


Some random wine facts

  • In Ancient Rome it was illegal for Roman women to drink wine. If a husband found his wife drinking, he was allowed to kill her. This law remained until 194 B.C
  • Wine grapes are the top most planted fruit in the world in terms of crops per acre.
  • The right place to hold a wine glass is at the stem and not around the bowl of the glass. The reason being that the hand will raise the temperature of the wine.
  • During ancient times, wine was used as an item for bartering. The Ancient Greeks bartered wine for metals and the Romans bartered wine for slaves.
  • Hippocrates, the Godfather of medicine, used wine in most of his recorded remedies. He used it as a diuretic, anaesthetic, to help convalescence and to help cool fevers.
  • A fear of wine is called Oenophobia.
  • The world’s leading cork producer is Portugal

Origins of certain phrases

There are many phrases that people use daily without knowing their origin. Here are a few of them that relate to wine or alcohol:

  • In ancient Babylon, it was custom for the father-of-the-bride to present his son-in-law with a month’s supply of mead – a drink made from fermented honey. Because the Babylonian calendar was based on the moon, the time of the month the son-in-law got his free mead was called the "honey-month" which is now known as the "honeymoon".
  • The old saying, "mind your own P’s and Q’s" comes from English pubs. In England, the drinks are served in pints and quarters, and bartenders would often tell customers to mind their own pints and quarters.
  • "Rule of thumb" derives from when brewers used their thumbs to tell the correct temperature of a liquid, for adding yeast.

Good wine may also be at risk in the future. The effects of global warming will undoubtedly have an effect on many crops, including grapes, and will directly affect the quality of wine. So protecting your planet means you'll be protecting your wine.

(Health24, Kyle Boshoff, updated June 2012)

Read more:

Red wine for heart health

Many ill-informed about red wine



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