How does it feel to be the smartest person in the room?
Now you can find out for yourself because 10 Things You Might Not Know About Nearly Everything: A Collection of Fascinating Historical, Scientific and Cultural Trivia about People, Places, and Things is now available at your local bookstore, online, and anywhere else you buy books!
We think it’s pretty cute, but don’t take our word for it:
This delightful and carefully curated collection by Mark Jacob, Stephan Benzkofer, and the Chicago Tribune staff provides well-researched, obscure facts on a variety of topics such as arts, culture, money, food, politics, war, science, technology, language, and more.
Here are two of our favorite lists, for your reading pleasure. Tweet us the best thing you learn!
10 things you might not know about Wine
1. Wine was first produced about 8,000 years ago in the South Caucasus, according to scientists who tested residue from an ancient pottery shard dated to about 6,000 B.C. Which means history waited about 2,500 years before it saw its first drunken driver. The wheel wasn’t invented until about 3,500 B.C.
2. Even in his wine drinking, President Richard Nixon was sneaky. He would offer run-of-the-mill wine to his guests while servers poured Chateau Margaux into his glass from a bottle wrapped with a towel or napkins to hide the label.
3. Wine grapes are a finicky bunch. A superb vintage requires a perfect mix of sun, soil and rain, which is why scientists say you’ll be saying bye-bye to Bordeaux and Napa wines by as early as 2050 because global warming will push prime growing conditions elsewhere—to such wine hot spots as Britain, the Netherlands and the Yellowstone National Park area of the American West.
4. What do you call a leprechaunlike creature that likes to drink? It’s a clurichaun. According to an Irish folk legend, clurichauns are fairies that hang out around the wine cellar, either guarding the stock or raiding it or both.
5. In the mid-1980s, about 36 million bottles of wine went undrunk, with their contents used instead to cool the ovens of a cement factory. Why? Because Austrian producers had adulterated their wines with a toxic substance, diethylene glycol, to sweeten it so it was more valuable. They got caught, and the wine was banned. No one died in the scandal, but the Austrian wine industry was badly injured.
6. Benjamin Franklin famously wrote in a lighthearted letter to a friend that wine is “a constant proof that God loves us.” Later in the same letter, to further his point, he raises a toast to the elbow, so ingeniously designed as to allow the arm to bring a goblet of wine “exactly to the mouth,” a sure sign of God’s “benevolent wisdom.”
7. Many people have likely seen or heard of a magnum of wine, equal to two regular bottles. But how about a Jeroboam (six), Salmanazar (12), a Balthazar (16) or the Nebuchadnezzar, the equivalent of 20 bottles? The larger bottles are prized for their rarity and also because the wine ages more slowly.
8. It wasn’t William Sokolin’s night. At a gathering of wine enthusiasts at the Four Seasons in Manhattan in April 1989, he was showing off a bottle of Chateau Margaux 1787. That vintage is worth a mint, but this bottle, etched with the initials “Th J,” was believed to have come from Thomas Jefferson’s own wine cellar. Sokolin said it was worth more than $519,000. Unfortunately, he accidentally hit the bottle against a table, breaking two holes into the back of the bottle. Wine gushed out. Horrified, he bolted from the restaurant with the broken bottle and went straight home. But his bad night wasn’t over. He had attended the event with his wife, who was left behind. She had to borrow taxi fare to get home. (It was later discovered the Jefferson link was most likely faked.)
9. Before early Champagne bottlers perfected the use of the cork, the drink was called the “devil’s wine” because the bottles were prone to shatter if jostled—or even explode without warning if gas built up in a defective bottle.
10. Ludwig van Beethoven, on his deathbed, accepted a parade of well-wishers bearing pastries and drink. But the arrival of a case of Rudesheimer Berg inspired his last words: “Pity, pity—too late!”