Q. Which was the first law to regulate the retail trade of wine?
A. The Code of the Babylonian King Hammurabi (1750 BC).
Q. Where were the first hollow glass drinking vessels, which developed into modern-day wine glasses, developed?
A. Egypt, around 1500 BC. These drinking vessels were later widely made and used by the Romans.
Q. Name the Roman Emperor who forbade the planting of any more vines in Italy to save land for grain cultivation.
A. Emperor Domitian, in AD 92. The ban was in force till AD 280.
Q. Which legendary eighth-century emperor was responsible for codifying rules covering the planting of vines and wine-making in France and Germany?
A. Charlemagne (around 750 BC). He was reputed to have planted white wine grapes in a red wine vineyard because red wine would stain his beard.
Q. Where were the first modern wine bottles developed?
A. In Newcastle, England, in the 1630s. By the early 1700s glass was strong enough to be used for transporting, storing and aging wine.
Q. Which action of the English Parliament was the cause of the rise in popularity of port from Portugal’s Douro Valley?
A. In 1679, the English Parliament banned the import of French wine. The 1703 Treaty of Methuen between England and Portugal helped by establishing a discriminatory taxation system that favoured Portuguese wines (mainly port) over their French competition.
Q. Who was the Dutch doctor who first brought vines to South Africa’s Cape in 1655?
A. Jan van Riebeeck of the Dutch East India Company. But it was the Dutch commander, Simon van der Stel, who established the roots of the South Africa’s wine-making industry with his experiments in Stellenbosch (1679) and Constantia (1686). He was responsible also for creating Constantia’s famous dessert wine, Vin de Constance.
Q. Name the American President who was an active promoter of wine in his country.
A. Thomas Jefferson, an architect of the American Constitution, who developed a taste for fine wine during his stint as his country’s ambassador in Paris (1784-89).
Q. What’s common to the celebrated artists Salvador Dali, Henry Moore, Joan Miro, Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol and Francis Bacon?
A. All of them have painted labels of Chateau Mouton Rothschild, the prestigious and pricey Bordeaux wine. Each of them got cases of the famous wine as payment.
Q. A famous Hollywood actor and director, and talented watercolourist, painted the label for the 1982 vintage of Mouton Rothschild. Who was he?
A. John Huston (1906-87), director of classics like Maltese Falcon and African Queen.
Q. Who was the legendary Bordeaux professor who established modern wine-making practices like temperature-controlled fermentation?
A. Professor Emile Peynaud.
Q. Which famous wine-producing district in Bordeaux was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1999?
A. St-Emilion. Situated on the right bank of the River Gironde, St-Emilion has 5,500 hectares under wine production. On the quality scale, the AOC St-Emilion Grand Cru wines are a notch higher than the AOC St-Emilion wines. To be eligible for the latter classification, the requirements are a higher minimum alcohol content, lower grape yields, and the approval of two tasting panels.
Q. Name the two top wine labels from Bordeaux owned by the luxury empire, LVMH?
A. Chateau Cheval Blanc, the premier grand cru wine from St-Emilion, and Chateau d’Yquem, the world’s best-known dessert wine from Sauternes.
Q. Name the three Champagne brands that are universally regarded as the icons of excellence. (One of the brands, incidentally, is the favourite of rappers.)
A. Dom Perignon, Krug Grand Cuvee and Cristal (earlier served in the court of the Tsars of Russia, it is now widely known as the favourite brand of rappers).
Q. Which Champagne brand has become associated with James Bond?
Q. What was Sir Winston Churchill’s favourite Champagne?
A. Pol Roger. During World War II, Churchill would work all night, sustained by a diet of Pol Roger and oysters.
Q. Name the five largest-selling non-vintage Champagne brands?
A. Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial; Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Yellow Label; Lanson Black Label; Mumm Cordon Rouge; and Piper-Heidsieck Brut.
Q. Which is the only major wine-producing region in France that labels its wines by grape variety, as they do in the New World?
A. Alsace. Located on the border with Germany, Alsace was at the centre of territorial disputes between France and Germany for 400 years. It was even occupied by Germany between 1871 and 1918, and again during World War II. Today, it’s firmly under French rule, but the German influence on its wine industry is widespread. It is the only region in France where Gewurtztraminer and Riesling – the two major grape varieties associated with Germany – are allowed to be grown.
Q. Why do top Bordeaux wines spend up to two years in a barrique – or oak barrels?
A. The slow absorption of tiny amounts of oxygen through the wood helps to soften tannins, stabilise colour and increase the wine’s aromatic complexity. The barrique normally holds 225 litres of wine and measures 95cm in height. It is made from oak staves that are 20 to 22mm thick.
Q. Why do top Bordeaux estates use new oak barrels for fermenting, maturing, or conditioning wine before bottling?
A. New oak barrels are microbiologically more stable than old ones, and give additional aroma and flavour to wines.
Q. Which is the most widely planted red grape variety in Italy?
A. Sangiovese. It is the backbone of Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino, the best-known Tuscan wines.
Q. Name the grape variety that makes the legendary wines of Barolo and Barbaresco.
Q. DNA studies have proved that the birthplace of Gewurtztraminer, the grape variety linked with Alsace, is an Italian village (or commune). What is the name of this village?
A. The village, located in Italy’s northernmost wine-making region of Alto Adige, is called Termeno, but its original name was Tramin. It was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire till 1919, which explains the strong Germanic influence visible in this part of Italy. For a week in July every year, Termeno hosts a Gerwurtztraminer symposium, which is a hedonistic celebration of the spicy white wine and fine food.
Q. What is the origin of the term frascati, which is the name of a popular wine-producing region in Central Italy?
A. It comes from the tradition of ancient Roman taverns of hanging a leafy branch called a frasca on the door to mark the arrival of a new vintage. Rome has a hearty tradition of taverns – a census in 1425 pegged the number of taverns at 1,022 – and these institutions were the forerunners of today’s wine bars, which are variously known as osteria, vineria or enoteca.
Q. Name the Italian wine that topped a historic tasting of the world’s leading Cabernets in London in 1978 and went on to be regarded as Italy’s greatest wine.
A. Sassicaia. It was the brainchild of the Tuscan aristocrat landowner Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, who, in the 1950s, took Cabernet Sauvignon cuttings from Chateau Lafite in Bordeaux and planted them in his estate at Tenuta San Guido in Bolgheri to make wine for the family. It was his nephew, and Italian wine tycoon, Piero Antinori, who urged Rocchetta to promote the wine commercially. He also sent his uncle his oenologist, Giacomo Tachis, to help with the wine-making.
Q. Which is the most famous South African wine-producing region?
A. Stellenbosch, in the Cape Peninsula, which is also a famous university town founded in 1679. The town has close to 100 wineries that are open to the public.
Q. Under European Union rules, the word Champagne cannot be used to describe the sparkling wines produced anywhere else in the world. What is the name used by South African sparkling wine producers to brand their product?
A. Methode Cap Classique.
Q. Give the abbreviation by which the giant cooperative that regulated every aspect of the South African wine industry till 1997 is known as.
A. KWV, which stands for Kooperatiewe Wijnbuwers Vereniging. The South African government had created it in the 1950s to control sales and stabilise prices.
Q. Name the New Zealand winery that was responsible for the rise of Marlborough as the world’s premier region for the production of Sauignon Blanc?
A. Montana, which arrived on the world’s wine scene in 1973. The company was started in 1944 by Croatian immigrant Ivan Yukich (montana means ‘mountain’ in Croatian). Even though Montana produces about 35% of New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blanc wines, Cloudy Bay, now a subsidiary of the LVMH luxury good empire, stole much of its thunder by unveiling a style in 1985 that is much copied all over the world.
Q. Name the associate professor of neurology who doubles as the owner and wine-maker for Pegasus Bay, the popular New Zealand wine brand.
A. Ivan Donaldson.
WINE SCIENCE & TERMINOLOGY
Q. What are the four building blocks of wine?
A. Grape sugar: Fermented into alcohol, it gives the wine its richness and its fruitiness.
Acidity: It keeps the fruit lively on the palate, especially in a white wine. Without it, a white wine becomes limp and bland. It gives structure to reds to age well.
Tannins: They help red wines last long and mature with age. And they keep a good wine lingering on the palate.
Alcohol: It gives a wine weight on the palate – a German wine with 7% alcohol will taste light, but a chunky Californian Zinfandel with 17% will be more than a mouthful. In a good wine, alcohol should never leave a burning sensation.
Q. What is botrytis?
A. Brotrytis, or botrytis cinerea, is a fungal spore that reduces the water content of wine grapes, effectively increasing their sugar levels, acidity, viscosity and flavour to yield luxuriously sweet and deliciously aromatic wines that are responsible for the special position enjoyed by the Bordeaux village named Sauternes. Chateau d’Yquem is the Sauternes dessert wine that commands the highest prestige and price.
Q. Which are the latitudes where the world’s vineyards are concentrated?
A. The vineyards are mostly located between 32 degrees and 51 degrees in the northern hemisphere, and between 28 degrees and 48 degrees in the southern hemisphere. The Old World wine-producing countries – France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Austria – are all in the Northern Hemisphere. The Southern Hemisphere is where the top New World wine producers – Australia, South Africa, Chile and Argentina – are thriving. The only New World wine-producing regions in the Northern Hemisphere are California, Oregon and Washington in the United States.
Q. What are the natural acids that appear in wine?
A. Citric, tartaric, malic and lactic acid. Wines from hot years tend to be lower in acidity, whereas wines from cool years tend to have higher levels of acidity. Acidity in a wine preserves its freshness and keeps it lively.
Q. What is aftertaste?
A. It is the taste left in the mouth after one swallows the wine. The word is a synonym for length or finish. The longer the aftertaste lingers in the mouth (assuming it’s a pleasant taste), the finer the quality of the wine.
Q. What are tannins?
A. Tannins are the drying compounds that come from grape skins, pips and stalks. Rarely noticeable in white wines, they give reds their all-important structure, helping them to last and mature with age. Tannins give a wine firmness and some roughness when it’s young, but they gradually dissipate or mellow down. A tannic wine is one that is young and not yet ready to be drunk.
Q. What is balance?
A. One of the most desired traits in a wine is good balance, where the concentration of fruit, level of tannin and acidity are in total harmony. Well-balanced wines tend to age gracefully.
Q. What is the red grape variety known as Syrah in France called in the New World?
A. Shiraz. As Syrah, this grape variety provides the backbone to full-bodied, perfumed and age-worthy wines in the Rhone Valley (France). It figures in blends in the South of France. As Shiraz, it is the signature wine of Australia, where the warmer climate paves the way for an altogether riper and more powerful, blockbuster-style wine, especially in the Barossa and Hunter valleys and McLaren Vale.
Q. What are the grape varieties that are together responsible for the creation of Pinotage, the famous South African wine grape?
A. Pinot Noir and Cinsault.
Q. Which is the most planted wine grape variety in the world?
A. Cabernet Sauvignon, the red wine grape that originated on the Left Bank of the River Gironde in Bordeaux. It is planted in about 615,000 hectares around the world. It is followed by Chardonnay, which is planted in about 412,000 hectares.