There's the ancient Latin phrase in vino veritas, "in wine there is truth".
But it's always that small step beyond the truth that makes for a colorful wine legend.
For a drink that's been around as long as wine, it seems only natural that there have been the number and variation of legends that have surrounded it.
The Egyptians, Greeks and Romans had gods of wine that were credited with inventing the elixir. Legend also has it that the first wine glass was molded from the breast of Helen of Troy.
Later, it was the Marie Antoinette shapely bosom which became the model for French wine glass shapes in the 18th century. Or so the story goes.
In fact, woman have often been at the center of the world's wine folklore from almost the very beginning.
As the tale is told, the inventor of wine was a woman who suffered from severe migraines. She lived in a harem in the palace of King Jamshid in Persia. One day, in severe pain, she happened upon a spoiled jar of grapes that had begun to foam and ferment. Thinking it was poison, she drank the whole jar, but instead of ending her life she discovered the elixir had miraculously cured her headache. (Alas, there's no telling how the woman felt the following morning -- but the king ordered wine to be served at all royal functions thereafter.)
During the Dark Ages, in another royal court, it was Charlemagne who was said to have commissioned the invention of white burgundy after the traditional variety constantly stained his beard a deep red.
Later, at the height of the medieval period, monasteries had the lock on wine production throughout Europe. Ostensibly, wine was used in the celebration of the Holy Mass. But that monks were perhaps more interested in celebration than in the Mass was a hot topic of discussion in village squares.
The gossip of the day even later gave rise to the popular expression "as drunk as the Pope" after Clement VI made several notable and very slurred public appearances.
In a related legend, it was medieval French monk Dom Perignon who exclaimed, "Come quickly, I'm drinking stars!" after having invented champagne. Yet the bubbly concoction had been around for years before the immortal quote was uttered.
Modern day wine myths & urban legends
Fast forward to modern day urban legends about wine and one of the most persistent is that Chianti is a "low class" Italian wine. In truth, Chianti Classico is usually considered one of the premiere wines of Tuscany -- it all depends on who makes it.
Then there is the oaky taste of Chardonnay. It's a turn off to some people because of its heavy taste. But today, non-oaked varieties are on the market that bring the fruit to the fore. Try them, and you, too, may finally stop giving credence to the age-old saying, "anything but Chardonnay."
Another popular misconception are the tenets of food and wine pairing -- with white wine strictly reserved for chicken and fish and red wine for meats and stews. Today, wine enthusiasts are happily rewriting the rules and giving a new spin to wine and food pairing that their ancestors never knew.
More about wine myths, fun facts, and urban legends around the Web:
Lore and Laughter - Wine through the ages, beginning with
the Egyptians followed by quotes from the Bible, literature, songs,
cartoons, quotes and stories courtesy of the State Library, South
Australia and don't miss the
rest of the collection for more entertaining wine lore and
Trivia - Rainy day fun facts and arcane information on
wine, beer and other alcoholic beverages told in a long, long
Virtual Corkscrew Museum - A fun, educational and sometimes
downright bizarre-o tour of cork extractors featuring extensive
photos, histories and corkscrew trivia, with advice on starting
your own collection.