Alcohol found to improve memory

Far from impairing your memory, drinking moderate amounts of alcohol in later life could actually help improve it, according to a recent study.

Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, University of Kentucky, and University of Maryland found that for people aged 60 and over who do not have dementia, light alcohol consumption during later life could actually help them to remember events.

More than 660 patients were monitored as part of a study to determine the link between midlife and late-life alcohol consumption, cognitive functioning and regional brain volumes in older adults without dementia or a background of alcohol abuse.

The findings revealed that light and moderate alcohol consumption in older people was linked to the ability to recall memories of events better and a larger “hippocampal” volume – a part of the brain responsible for short and long term memory.

Furthermore, the results showed alcohol had no significant impact on executive function or overall mental ability.

Brian Downer of the University of Texas who headed the study, said: “There were no significant differences in cognitive functioning and regional brain volumes during late life according to reported midlife alcohol consumption status.

“This may be due to the fact that adults who are able to continue consuming alcohol into old age are healthier, and therefore have higher cognition and larger regional brain volumes, than people who had to decrease their alcohol consumption due to unfavourable health outcomes.”

Despite their positive findings, scientists warned that long periods of alcohol abuse – defined as consuming more than five alcoholic drinks in one sitting – is harmful to the brain.

The findings were published in the American Journal of Alzeimer’s Disease and Other Dementias.

Moët sparkles in China

Moët Hennessy has launched wines from their Chandon winery in Ningxia, the first Chinese winery focused exclusively on sparkling wine.

According to International Wine and Spirit Research (IWSR), consumption of sparkling wine has rocketed in China over recent years, from 3.7 million bottles in 2009 to over 13 million last year.

Speaking to the Boston Globe, Shen Yang, director of Moët Hennessy’s Chandon winery in the Ningxia region of China’s northwest, explained some of the reasons behind the growth in sparkling wine demand: ‘‘More and more young people, more and more white-collar employees, office ladies, enjoy wine and also sparkling wine.”

‘‘We will bring this wine to the dinner tables, into the home, and into the life of these young and energetic people,’’ said Shen.

Shen said sparkling wine sales have also been given a boost from an unlikely source in the Chinese governments austerity measures that have hurt sales of high end spirits but focused the attention of more sophisticated drinkers on wine.

China is the fifth biggest consumer of wine in the world and, while red wine still dominates the market, according to Jim Boyce, a China-based wine blogger, sparkling wines are seen as contemporary: ‘‘When you look at what people actually like to drink, what they enjoy, white wine does very well, and increasingly sparkling wine does very well.’’

In an unusual step the Chinese government has allowed Moët Hennessy full ownership of the winery where foreign producers are usually forced to work through joint ventures with local partners.

But, in an effort to promote growth in the wine industry, foreign companies who build wineries are allowed to own them for 70 years under a new initiative.

The Boston Globe reported Moët Hennessy has plans to sell around 70,000 bottles of its 2012 vintage from Ningxia this year.

They intend to increase production to meet predicted demand of 250,000 bottles next year and 300,000 bottles in 2016.

The Chinese made sparkling style has been altered slightly and made with less acidity than normal to suit the local pallet according to said Gloria Xia, a winemaker at the Ningxia winery: ‘‘We would stress the aroma and the texture would be very fresh and more balanced.”