All posts by gaudetfinewines

Canadian sommelier, educator and wine enthusiast.

Coffee reduces alcohol-related cancer risk

A study has found “strong evidence” to suggest that coffee can help reduce the risk of liver cancer in people who drink three or more alcoholic beverages a day.

A total of 8.1 million men and women, 24,600 cases of liver cancer and 34 studies from across the world were analyzed as part of a study carried out by the World Cancer Research Fund.

It revealed “strong evidence that consuming approximately three or more alcoholic drinks a day is a cause of liver cancer”.

But also said there was “strong evidence” that coffee was capable of counteracting this risk, reducing the risk of developing liver cancer in people who consumed at three or more alcoholic beverages.

It’s thought that compounds in coffee kick-start the body’s defences and can reduce inflammation, prevent damage to DNA, increase the capacity for DNA to repair itself and improve sensitivity to insulin, which protects against typ-2 diabetes and extreme weight gain.

Ricardo Uauy, professor of public health nutrition at the University of Chile and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, a member of the independent panel of scientists that reviewed the research, said was a “significant finding” that he hopes will help reduce the global number of cases of liver cancer.

“However, there are still many unanswered questions around the findings on coffee for us to give definitive advice on this”, he said. “For example we don’t know how many cups should be consumed and how regularly, what effect adding milk and/or sugar has, and whether the coffee drinking reported in the research was caffeinated or decaffeinated, instant or filtered.

“But it’s a future area of research World Cancer Research Fund International is interested in, especially as its report on womb (endometrial) cancer shows strong evidence that coffee consumption also reduces the risk of womb cancer.”

Chinese world’s third biggest drinkers

The Chinese are fast becoming the world’s biggest drinkers outpacing Brits, Americans and the Irish in terms of per capita consumption, new research has revealed.

Alcohol consumption in China has risen from an average of 4.9 litres per capita from 2003 to 2005, to 6.7 litres over the following five years, as reported in The Lancet based on data from the World Health Organisation.

However when you exclude non-drinkers, which make up 56% of the Chinese population, per capita consumption changes significantly rising to 15.1 litres of pure alcohol each year – higher than the UK, America and Ireland. The only countries that consume more alcohol per head than China are Tajikistan and Russia.

In comparison, consumption of alcohol by Brits fell from 11.9 to 10.9 litres per person between 2005 and 2010. When you remove the 16% of the population who abstain from alcohol this rises to 13.8 litres. For Ireland per capita consumption was 14.7 litres, Australia 14.5 litres, the US 13.3 litres, France 12.9 litres and Italy 9.9 litres.

“In the past three decades, along with rapid economic growth in China, there has been a striking increase in alcohol consumption, greater than in most other parts of the world”, the report said.

It added: “Given the dramatic increase in alcohol consumption and alcohol-related social and health problems in China, both policy attention and policy and cultural changes are needed. Although there had been Government mono polisation of alcohol in ancient China and in modern times since 1915, this ended during the 1980s, allowing uncontrolled expansion of production, without substantial attention to limiting adverse eff ects on public health. Re-establishment of a monopoly is one potential instrument for public health purposes, as is done for instance in several Nordic countries and Canada.”

The report also noted the effects of varying alcohol taxation in the country which it said had had “significant effects on the levels of alcohol-related mortality”, and should be considered an “effective means to reduce rates of alcohol-related health and social harms.”

Explaining, the report said: “Although European-style beer and wine have gained footholds, China is primarily a spirits-drinking country. In 2001, a volumetric tariff of ¥0·5 per 500 g or 500 mL was added onto the existing alcohol tax as a means of raising government revenues, leading to dramatic decrease in alcohol production and consumption after the tariff’s initial announcement in 2000. In 2006, the central government lowered the tax again on spirits, introducing a unified tax rate of 20% of the value. This resulted in a steep rise in alcohol consumption again.”

Chinese investor buys Swartland Winery

Chinese investors are seeking wineries outside of France with tech entrepreneur William Wu buying a controlling stake in the Swartland Winery in South Africa.

As reported by Bloomberg, Wu, who has lived in South Africa since the ‘80s, has acquired a 51% share in the winery in the country’s trendy Swartland region for an undisclosed sum.

Wu will be made chairman of the 64-year-old winery in Malmesbury, which produces 24 million bottles of wine a year from grapes sourced across 3,600 hectares.

“The market is in China where I have a ready demand for the quality and volume of wine Swartland produces,” Wu said in the statement.

Having originally favoured the classic Old World regions of Bordeaux and Burgundy, Chinese investors are developing a thirst for South African wineries.

In addition to the Swartland Winery, Wu has a stake in Veenwouden winery in Paarl. He is keen to focus on red wine production to cater to Chinese palates.

Poor vintages force château sale

A Chinese buyer has acquired a Northern Médoc property from its French and Dutch owners who decided to sell following recent difficult vintages, especially this year when hail decimated its crop.

The estate, Château Preuillac, is a 30 hectare cru Bourgeois property which is 50% owned by the Mau family, former owners of Bordeaux négociant Yvon Mau – acquired by Freixenet in 2001 – and the Dirkzwager family, Yvonne Mau’s distributor in The Netherlands.

Speaking to the drinks business this morning about the sale, Richard Bampfield MW, who acts as a marketing consultant for the Mau family, said that recent growing-season conditions in the northern Médoc had encouraged Preuillac’s owners to re-think their investment in this part of Bordeaux, as well as focus their efforts on Château Brown in Pessac-Léognan, which is also owned jointly by the two families, and is fast-gaining a reputation for its high quality white Bordeaux.

“It’s fair to say that the last 2-3 vintages have been difficult in the northern Médoc, and after this year particularly, when the property was hit by hail, they [the two families] thought they should concentrate on Château Brown,” he said.

Furthermore, in a previous discussion with the drink business, Jean-Christophe Mau, who has been managing both châteaux, said that “the sale was a good price for us and a high price for the Médoc.”

Although neither the sale price nor the buyer of the Preuillac property has been disclosed, the estimated value of a good cru bourgeois property in the Médoc is around €50,000 per hectare, suggesting that the estate would have changed hands for at least €1.5 million.

According to Bampfield, the buyer from China would prefer to remain anonymous, partly because he does not intend to live at the château and partly because he is keen for Jean-Christophe Mau to continue to manage the estate as before.

Indeed, Jean-Christophe told db that he would stay on as manager of Château Preuillac, but also said that its sale would allow him to focus on renovating the vineyards at Château Brown, where he said he was even considering opening a restaurant.

News of this latest Bordeaux acquisition by a Chinese national follows the announcement earlier this month that New Century Tourism Group, which claims to be among the 20 largest hotel operators in China, has agreed to buy Cadillac estate Château de Birot.

Martell launches Premier Voyage in Asia

Martell Cognac is to celebrate its 300th anniversary in 2015 with the launch of a new limited edition blend “Premier Voyage” which will debut in Hong Kong.

A total of four limited editions will be unveiled for next year’s celebrations including “Martell Assemblage Exclusif de 3 Millésimes”, “Martell XO Exclusive Tricentenaire Edition” and “Cordon Bleu ‘A Tribute to Martell’s 300th Anniversary’”.

The key expression though will be the Premier Voyage (pictured above), a blend of 18 eaux-de-vie dating back to 1868 and aged in 300-year-old casks in Martell’s cellars.

Only 300 decanters have been made and each comes with a stand designed by French conceptual artist Bernar Venet. Its retail selling price reference is HK$99,888.

Benoît Fil, Martell’s cellar master, commented: “I have had an incredible journey retracing Jean Martell’s footsteps 300 years ago to create the Martell Premier Voyage blend. This new blend takes the best things from the past of Cognac and Jean Martell’s vision, and makes them something that we can enjoy today.

“We know that Martell Cognac has a special place at tables in Asia. We hope these limited edition blends that have been designed especially for this landmark occasion for the House of Martell will be part of important moments in people’s lives.”

Talking to the drinks business, Fil explained that he and his team had selected “several hundred” spirits from Martell’s selection of over 3,000 before finally settling on the final blend of 18, a process that was begun in 2011.

Martell’s brand development manager, Jeremy Oakes, told db that Hong Kong had been chosen as the launch pad for the celebrations for two reasons.

To begin with, “it’s an important regional market for us,” he said but added that there was a long-term historical link too with Martell’s archives showing shipments to Hong Kong as early as 1848, six or so years after the British takeover of the island.

Hong Kong international airport will host a Martell 300th Anniversary pop-up next year from 7 January to 25 February, where travellers will be able to “immerse themselves” in the Martell world with tastings, an “olfactory workshop” and learn about the region and how Cognac is made.

Hong Kong airport will feature Premier Voyage as will Beijing International, Shanghai Pudong and Singapore Changi, while the 300th anniversary XO will be available in airports around the region including, Beijing, Shanghai, Incheon, Kuala Lumpur, Changi and Bangkok.

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.”

WSET student numbers hit new high

The Wine & Spirit Education Trust has broken a new record for student numbers in the latest academic year despite a slowdown in growth rates within China.

According to figures released on Friday, as many as 56,215 candidates took one of the WSET’s examinations in the academic year ending last month, representing a 16% increase on the previous academic period.

“WSET continues to go from strength to strength, and a figure in excess of 56,000 students clearly makes WSET the biggest organisation of its kind in the world,” said Ian Harris, chief executive of the education provider.

Continuing he said, “Much of our growth in the five years up to 2013 was driven by the boom in Greater China, but along with many of the multinational wine and spirit companies, we have seen a slowdown in the growth rate – particularly in mainland China.

“I am therefore particularly pleased that the student numbers in all of WSET’s top 10 markets, including China, showed double-digit growth in 2013/14 versus the previous year, demonstrating the universal appeal of WSET programs, both for professionals within the global industry and also for consumers who are keen to learn more about the wide variety of wines and spirits being produced around the world”.

The Wine & Spirit Education Trust is the largest global provider of qualifications in the field of wines and spirits, with courses available in 62 countries and in 18 languages.