World's Weirdest Wines
Glasses are filled every day, all over the world, with natural elixirs made with some of the most unlikely ingredients, like pumpkins, lizards and tree sap. Each reflects what's locally available and honored—its particular, and often peculiar, terroir—and they make wine tasting an adventure.
Snake Bile Wine (Ruou Mat Ran)
Photo © Tom Martin.
As if Vietnamese snake wine—prepared by steeping a snake (preferably a venomous one) in rice wine—weren't disconcerting enough, there's snake bile wine. The forbidding drink is prepared by mixing rice wine with the greenish-black bile taken from the gallbladder of a freshly sliced cobra.
Birch Sap Wine
Photos © Gunno Rask / Tommy Andersson.
Each spring, the winemakers at Sav in Jämtland, Sweden, start their production process with a highly unexpected first step: They extract the sap from silver birch trees. Their peculiar sparkling wine follows a recipe that dates back to 1785.
Lizard Wine (Hejie Jiu)
Photo © Franko.
For this potent beverage found in China, lizards—traditionally the gecko—marinate in rice wine or whiskey for up to a year. According to (questionable) lore, the amber-hued drink can cure a range of ailments from ulcers to arthritis.
Photo © Robert C. Wallace.
Some considered Retsina the tears of wood nymphs. Others trace its origins to the Roman invasion of Greece, when Greeks added resin to their wine to discourage the invaders from enjoying the spoils of war. Made for more than 2,000 years, Retsina is still fermented with tree resin for a distinctly piney taste.