1. Australians are the English-speaking world’s biggest wine drinkers, consuming 21.1 litres each annually – but we rank 16th overall.
2. We tend to drink our white wines too cold and our reds too warm. Serving a wine too cold suppresses its fruit flavour and exaggerates oak character and tannin. Serving it too warm exaggerates alcohol but softens tannin – the stuff that causes red wine to have a puckering effect in the mouth. A good rule of thumb is 15 to 18 degrees for reds (cool room temperature) and eight to 12 degrees for whites (moderately chilled).
3. Letting wine breathe releases all of its flavours, but it doesn’t happen if you simply draw the cork and let the bottle stand. You must aerate the wine, which is best achieved by decanting – pouring it into another container.
4. About two million bottles of wine leave Australia every day heading for 111 international markets – about 60 per cent of our wine production. Australia is the fourth biggest exporter of wine in the world but only the sixth-largest producer after France, Italy, Spain, Argentina and the US.
5. Our most popular grape, shiraz, was once thought to have originated in Iran – a Muslim country where few people drink wine. France’s Rhone Valley is considered the more likely source.
6. Grape varieties do not determine sweetness: winemakers do. Any grape can be made into sweet or dry wine.
7. Most wine bottles have a punt – the indent on the bottom. There are many theories as to how the punt originated and what it’s for, such as: it facilitated stacking in olden times; the earliest bottles were more stable upright if they were punted than if they had a flat base; and the punt collects the sediment in old reds and makes decanting easier.
8. The most valuable Australian wine of any vintage is the original 1951 Penfolds Grange. A bottle sold for $56,977 at an Oddbins auction in June 2003.
9. Swirling wine in the glass is not just an affectation – it helps you smell it better. Swirling coats the inside of the wine glass with liquid which increases the surface area, giving off more aroma.
10. About 52 per cent of the Australian wine consumed here comes in a bag and a cardboard box. Twenty years ago it was 64 per cent.