Admit it, you've wondered. A standard 750-milliliter bottle of wine has 736 grapes, or about 2.6 pounds of fruit. That number may vary depending on the size, type, and water content of the grapes -- and on how much wine you had before you started counting.
It's a process called fermentation. Tiny organisms called yeast eat the sugar in pressed grape juice and make two waste products: alcohol and carbon dioxide. The liquid that results is filtered to get rid of the solid pieces and bottled immediately or aged in barrels. The end result: That waste becomes wine.
White wine is fermented without the skins, and red wine is fermented with them. That gives red wine more antioxidants called polyphenols. They bring bitterness, color, and astringency (the puckered mouth you get from vinegar or lemons), along with some health benefits. Red wine has about 7 times more polyphenols than white wine.
Some of the more expensive wines go through this process. It slowly adds oxygen to the wine and pleasant flavors from the wood. Why oak? It goes back to the Romans, who discovered that oak was easy to bend into vessels to transport wine, and that it improved flavor.
The right amount of wine -- particularly red wine -- may be good for you. This may be because of the ethanol your body makes from alcohol, as well as those polyphenols, which are linked to better heart and brain health. But more than a glass or two a day can increase your risk of stroke, high blood pressure, liver disease, certain cancers, and other conditions.
Red wine may give your sex life a boost -- particularly if you're a woman -- but only if you don't drink too much. In one study, women who had one or two glasses of red wine a day said they had more desire, were aroused more easily, and had more sexual satisfaction than those who didn't drink. But those who drank more than that reported no improvement.
It's probably no surprise that France and Italy are in the top 10 when it comes to how much wine their citizens drink per year (the average citizen of Vatican City in Rome drinks more wine per year than people of any other country in the world). Other top contenders are Switzerland, Portugal, and Luxembourg. The U.S. tops the list in total wine consumed, followed by France, Italy, Germany, and China.
A 5-ounce glass of wine has little more than half an ounce of pure alcohol -- about the same as 12 ounces of beer or 1.5 ounces of liquor. That's the recommended daily amount for a woman and half the recommended amount for a man. And you can't save your weekly drink allowance for Saturday night: Binge drinking can be dangerous, and it's not the best way to enjoy good wine.
IMAGES PROVIDED BY:
- double_p / Thinkstock
- kieferpix / Thinkstock
- alika1712 / Thinkstock
- GeorgiMironi / Thinkstock
- CoppiBartali / Thinkstock
- camaralenta / Thinkstock
- sborisov / Thinkstock
- dmbaker / Thinkstock
- Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: "Conversion Factors: From Vineyard to Bottle."
- Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: "What Is a Standard Drink?"
- National Institutes of Health: "Regular moderate intake of red wine is linked to a better women's sexual health," "Polyphenols are medicine: Is it time to prescribe red wine for our patients?" "Health benefits of wine and alcohol from neuroprotection to heart health," "Effects of Dietary Components on Testosterone Metabolism via UDP-Glucuronosyltransferase."
- U.S. Forestry Service: "Oak Aging and Wine."
- Vinepair: "Why wine is aged in oak. A history lesson."
- Winefolly.com: "The Surprising Truth About Oaking Wine," "How Wine Is Made."
- The Wine Institute: "Per Capita Wine Consumption by Country," "World Wine Consumption."