The first production of the beverage dates back 8,000 years ago in Georgia, and made its first appearance in the Balkans in 4500 BC.
Currently, some of the most popular wines found on Canadian restaurant menus are Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and Pinot Noir. These wines are produced by fermenting grapes with deep red and purple skins. After the grapes are crushed, the juice is left in contact with the skin to give the wine its rich red color and taste.
However, not all wines are grape based. There are also wines made from fruits, starches, flowers and weeds. one can find wines produced from apples, elderberries, rice, dandelion and even marijuana!
California vintners began experimenting with marijuana wine in the 1980s. “It had a pungent herbal aroma that called to mind a college dormitory on a Saturday night” wrote Michael Steinberger in the The Daily Beast, the wine columnist of the Internet magazine Slate.
The original marijuana wine of California vineyards blended the bud with rosé. To produce such a delicacy, winemakers use a pound of marijuana per cask of wine, ferment it for nine months, and voilà! Perhaps a more refined alternative to the weed brownies?
Wine is also an important cultural aspect in the Eastern Hemisphere. The most popular rice wine is the Japanese sake. Made from rice and water, sake brewers use a process that is similar to the production of beer. Winemakers are highly selective of the water they use, as water is very important to the taste and the final result of the sake. Although made from rice, there are over 50 different rice varietals, giving a range of distinct flavors, just like red wine.
Sake can be consumed warm or cold, but if you are in Japan, do not be rude by drinking sake and pouring it only in your cup! In Japan, it is polite to pour sake into each other’s cup.
Speaking of traditions, for the traditional St Patty’s day in Ireland, not everyone drinks beer. Some opt for a love affair with mead, a honey wine consumed for centuries by Celtic nations. Discovered by Irish monks in the medieval times, Mead was believed to enhance virility and fertility. Hence, consumed at Irish wedding ceremonies, it is believed to have given birth to the term “honeymoon” when for Irish tradition the newlyweds would drink Mead for one full cycle of the moon.
In many areas of the world, there are other traditions and sanctions surrounding the beverage. In the European Union the word ‘wine’ is protected by law and defined only as fermented juice of grapes. The legal definition has been the cause of a few verbal wars in the European world of wine. The French refused to acknowledge Germany’s alcoholic beverage made from pressed apples, Apfelwein, as wine and opted for its exclusion from the definition.
The main difference between the grape-based wines and the fruit wines like Apfelwein, apart from the different ingredients, is that fruit wines do not improve with bottle age and unlike grape-based wines, are meant to be drunk within a year.
However, apples or grapes do not seem such distinct ingredients when compared to some of the following wines that used to be on the market. Fish was the main ingredient used by the Chinese who attempted to make fish wine in the 21st century. If that sounds odd, some of the American winemakers used army worms to produce their wine. While in the past and still today, poisonous snake wine can be found in Thailand, Vietnam, Japan and Korea.
How do you make poisonous snake wine, you ask? Simply catch a poisonous snake, put it in rice wine, and add a pinch of herbs. There is no danger in consuming such wine, as the venom is dissolved by ethanol.
Even if made from grapes and not poisonous snakes, not everyone enjoys sipping wine. Consequently, there are things that people do to make it taste better. Jancis Robinson, a wine critic and author told CNN her experience of wine tasting in Shanghai, China. "In Shanghai wine is completely misunderstood and something people feel like they ought to taste because it’s fashionable," said Robinson. “People with a lot of money here buy very expensive French wine, but don’t really like the taste, so they pour something like Coca Cola or Sprite into it.”
While others might think that mixing two good things cannot be wrong, French, Italians, Portuguese and Germans might criticize such practice as a blatant breach of tradition, or putting new wine into old bottles, so to speak. What cannot be doubted is the evolution of modes, methods and preferences in the world of wine.