By Derek Lavallee - 12/07/06 12:00 AM EST
With Congress soon to adjourn and the holiday season in full swing, Washington is now consumed with seemingly endless weeks of office parties. What follows is a list of interesting wine “small-talking points” to help fill those awkward buffet table silences when confronted with the boss’s spouse whose name you can never remember.
Chemists estimate there are 50 million bubbles in a bottle of champagne.
It takes approximately 2.5 pounds of grapes to make one glass of wine.
Washington, D.C. leads the nation almost every year in per capita sales and consumption of wine.
The most expensive wine sold to date was a 1787 Chateau Lafite that the late Malcolm Forbes purchased in December 1985 for $160,000. The bottle was from Thomas Jefferson’s personal cellar and had the initials “Th.J” etched in the glass. (Historical footnote: In 1801, when Jefferson’s salary was a comparatively luxurious $25,000 a year, records indicate he spent $6,500 for provisions and groceries, $2,700 for servants ...and $3,000 for wine.)
In the past 30 years, the number of U.S. wineries has increased by more than 500 percent to more than 4,000. There is at least one winery in every state including Alaska.
Why do we raise a glass and “toast”? Ancient Romans often placed burnt toast in their wine glasses to remove undesirable flavors. The charred edges reduced the level of acidity in the wine. The same basic concept is at play in modern day water filters — carbon/charcoal absorbs and masks unpleasant smells and flavors. The Romans believed toast not only improved the taste of the wine, but also inoculated it against hemlock and other poisons.
There are a few theories about why we clink glasses after a toast, also rooted in paranoia rather than good will: Alcoholic beverages were believed to contain evil “spirits” (thus the nickname) that could be scared off by noises before consumption, such as clinking glasses. It was also a medieval tradition for a host to pour some of their guests’ wine into their own and drink it to assure there was no poison in the glass. If the guest trusted the host, they would simply “clink” the host’s glass as a sign of trust and friendship.
It is rumored that a bill for a celebration party of the drafters of the U.S. Constitution consisted of 54 bottles of Madeira (popular fortified wine of the time), 60 bottles of Bordeaux, eight bottles of whiskey, 22 bottles of port, eight bottles of hard cider, 12 beers and seven bowls of alcohol punch large enough that “ducks could swim in them.”
Let’s hope the110th Congress’s accomplishments will be worthy of such a celebration. Perhaps they should begin with a trusting toast.