Counterfeit Wine???

I think there’s a statement that people will agree with me to some extent: China is known for counterfeiting products, from fake brand-named bags to ‘fake powder milk’ for infants, to believe it or not, WINE! Ever since the Fall of 2010, there have been reports on China counterfeiting goods such as wine. You’re probably wondering how is that possible?

I know I’ve mentioned this really briefly in a previous blog that was on the credibility of a wine blogger, but I wanted to go further in depth on this issue.

In late December, several corporate accounts were frozened and any tainted wines were pulled off the shelves after they had been made in Hebei Province. These wines were both chemically altered as well as falsely branded as a higher quality product; the irony of it all was that China produces a third of their local grape wine and was nicknamed as ‘China’s Bordeaux’.

CCTV’s footage showed a local sales manager admitting that some wines made in the coastal city of Qinhuangdao contained only 20 percent of fermented grape juice, with the rest being composed of sugar water mixed with chemicals, including coloring agents and flavorings.

With all the publicity and buzz around the wine scandal in China, many esteemed members in the wine industry, such as Zhang Yongjian (the executive director for the development and regulation of the food and drug industry), are afraid of the destructive effects to the wine industries in China.

“It will be hard for the county to restore its current status or gain recognition among nationwide consumers,” Zhang said.

Even as a person who is proud of my Chinese heritage, I was extremely disappointed in China. I’m not going to lie, I’m one of the people who’ve bought fake brand-named purses when I’ve gone to visit China, yet you may call me hypocritical when I’m against the issue of counterfeiting wine. I would argue however, that this is a totally different ballpark. Purses are merely things that we carry, clothing are merely fabrics that we put on our bodies, but wine is something we drink. Just like food, it can be affect our bodies negatively if too many chemicals are added. Anyone who counterfeits food should receive SEVERE PENALTY because you’re harming someone else by producing an impure product. I’m furious that any decent human being could allow such corruption – allowing products to be ‘altered’ so you can earn money faster is purely selfish. Unfortunately, I could find reports as to what happened to those who were caught counterfeiting wine but I do hope in the future, stricter policies can be regulated.

This poses a question I have for you, which I hope you can share with me your thoughts: how do you go about changing people’s view on counterfeited items in China?

Anyone that I know of who goes to China to buy goods is always cautious of it being a counterfeit item. From a poll that was done on 1,365 people, 99.5% of them said that they had experienced with forgeries at some point in their lifetime – this, in my perspective, is not only shocking, but also sad that people just accept it for the way it is.

Wine of the Day: Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Incanto (2007)

Trader Joe's $9.99


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Can Alcohol Be Good for You?

A little humor.

So you’ve probably heard from somewhere that red wine is beneficial for our health, but is it really?

I know I’ve heard this ‘rumor’ many times now but I never researched it myself. So I have decided to look online at scholarly articles (usually research based articles) to see what they say.

From the American Journal Of Epidemiology, a research was done on a control group where subjects drank no wine to an experimental group where subjects were given 1-4 drinks of wine. If you may not have known, experts describe the relation between alcohol consumption and mortality as J-shaped, where the abstainers and heavy drinkers have a higher mortality rate than moderate drinkers. This research was trying to figure out whether the subjective health correlates to the intake of alcohol and the frequency of alcohol intoxication. Even though most of the research was through self-report, which can give rise to certain biases, there was still a significant amount of evidence to conclude that moderate wine drinkers have on average, a healthier lifestyle.

Another article is published through the MedlinePlus, the National Institute of Health’s website. With the given information and research that we have now (since more research is still being done in regards to the health benefits of red wine), there is evidence that moderate wine drinkers are less likely to develop heart diseases than those who drink too much or none at all. Some studies have suggested that even though alcohol may raise the ‘good cholesterol’ (HDL), it also increases a type of fat (triglycerides) in the blood that cannot be easily broken down. Cardiac experts along with the American Heart Association have offered other ways, besides drinking wine, to prevent heart disease such as not smoking, exercising, and maintaining a healthy weight (BMI – body mass index). What makes red wine as a possible ‘health benefit’ candidate are the antioxidants found in red wine called flavonoid (they can also be found in grapes and red grape juice).

Keep in mind – this is NOT to say go drink all the wine you want. With anything, you MUST DRINK IN MODERATION. For women, it should be no more than 1 drink per day while for men, it should be no more than 2 drinks per day.

“A drink is defined as:

  • 12 oz of beer
  • 4 oz of wine
  • 1.5 oz of liquor or 80-proof spirits”

For those who think that “Drinking is the worst thing in the world to do” or “Drinking is bad. Don’t do it” – I hope this can prove you guys wrong. I’m not saying drinking is good and everyone should do it, but when it comes to DRINKING WINE, it’s okay to have a small glass a day. Of course don’t abuse drinking to the point where you start getting addicted or be under the influence when driving. We DO NEED to be responsible beings. If you can’t drink a small glass a day, it’s okay. Don’t think just because studies have shown moderate drinkers to be ‘healthier’ that you need to make sure you drink a glass a day. If you want/like to drink red wine, then go for it but if not, don’t force yourself. Red wine, as I keep emphasizing, should be something relaxing and enjoyable, not something done out of obligation. So instead of taking that beer or that shot of hard liquor, think about exchanging it for a small glass of red wine.

It might do some good.

Wine of the Day: 2001 Barbera del Monferrato “Valpane”

:)

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Skepticism Towards the Blogging World

As I was scrolling through my blogroll, I was reading a blog that was rated as one of the top seven wine blogs according to Food&Wine Magazine. Alder Yarrow, owner of this popular blog, is one of those people who consider blogging as their second job. A recent post that he made was on the trust that people have on bloggers. According to a press release article conducted by an organization (Wine Intelligence)  that surveys and analyzes the wine industry, independent bloggers are one of the least trusted wine information sources in the UK, the US, and France. However, despite the skepticism, the study finds that consumers still turn towards the Internet for information about wine. Alder Yarrow agrees that at the end of the day, those who are interested in learning more about wine will turn to the Internet.

The Internet, nowadays, seems like the automatic go-to place to look up information – whether it’s through Google or any other search engine websites. Ever so popular, local merchants and wineries are making their own websites in order to get the word out more as well as advice. Even France, who banned any wine advertising through the Internet in 2008, is on this trend. Although Yarrow’s brief survey may not have painted the exact scenario of who people go to for help in regards to wine, he does make the point that people go to WINE BLOGS for advice on wine buying. So here comes the question, if research is saying wine bloggers are the least trusted source of information, why do so many people still go on? This is not to say that Yarrow’s survey was not biased – for people who go on blogs are usually those who have a blog of their own. However, my theory as to why people still go on blogs as a source of information lies within 3 reasons:

1) More perspective. Going on a blog to see what ONE person says SHOULD NOT BE the final answer to your inquiry (if it is, you need to stop and start confirming with more sources). Just like any research project, you need to make sure that the information you’re getting is widely accepted, which is why reading more blogs is essential.

2) People don’t want to be cheated. Often times, when you’re dealing with a big industry such as wine, there are many websites that can be misleading (even markets). For example, in China, where the wine industry just started, there are many ‘fake’ wines; they will not bottle the wines pure. Rather, they will mix it with other substances. Reading from other blogs, especially to your blog of interest (in this case, wine), you’ll not only get the most updated news but advice as well.

3) It’ll save you time. Rather than surfing on the Internet for hours in order to find  the perfect bottle, reading blogs consistently can help you save time. How? Well, if you stumble upon a blogger who happens to enjoy the same types of wine that you do, you can just follow their blog and enjoy the bottles that they suggest. This goes back to what I’ve been saying all along, loving wine is subjective – it’s not how expensive or how the general population likes it, but it’s how YOU like it! Out of the many bloggers out there, you’ll definitely be able to find someone who has a similar palette compared to yours.

Statistics from Technorati and the rise of blogging

 

I hope you’re not confused as to what I’ve just said and if you are, just remember this: READ BLOGS (even though research may say otherwise) because even though the blogger may not have the accredited title after their name, they still can provide insight to your growing knowledge on wine.

Wine Of the Day: Ruffino Classico Riserva Ducale (Chianti 2001)

 

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4 Basic Steps..and You’re Good to Go!

Now that you’ve read my earlier post in regards to a current event, let’s backtrack to ‘How to Taste Wine”. Many people have different views to tasting wine but in general, there are four major steps. Below is a video about how to taste wine from Wine Spectator, a well-known wine magazine that has information on wine ratings, dining & travel with wine, and basically everything you would like to know about wine. It’s a very short clip but it talks about everything that you need to know. The four main steps that they emphasize are:

1) See: look at the color of the wine to help determine how young/old the wine is

2) Sniff: swirl before you sniff so you can get more of the aromas out from the wine (when I say sniff, I’m really saying take a big deep breath and take it all in)

3) Sip: taste and see what flavors you sense in the wine (nutty, fruity, etc.) Ignore the ‘swishing‘ of the wine in your mouth from the video. Drink the wine as if you were savoring the last bite of your dessert – it will produce similar results. People often say swishing the wine will allow you to absorb all the flavors; however, I agree with my program director. As a beginner, you can swish the wine in your mouth but once you start comprehending the flavors, I would say stay away from swishing (or if you can, be very subtle about your swishing). Swishing’ makes it seem like you’re swallowing mouthwash and especially if you go to European countries, they will probably stare at you.

4) Summarize: conclude the full taste such as how smooth/rough the wine was.

I’ll tell you right now – if you’ve never tried or have tried but still dislike wine, DON’T GIVE UP YET. I promise the taste gets better and after drinking and tasting different red wines, my hope for you is that you will start to develop a palette for deciphering the different flavors that are present in wine. For instance, when I went to my first winery with my program director, he asked us what we tasted in the wine and I couldn’t think of anything to say! It was only until someone mentioned that they tasted pear did I retry the wine and realized I did taste a bit of pear in the wine! It was crazy because I would have never noticed it if someone never pointed it out. I’m not saying I’m a huge expert and know every single ‘taste’ present in red wines but after drinking a bit of red wines, you’ll start to develop a better sense.

Below is just a small trick I learned from my director that I want to share with you guys which is HOW TO FIGURE OUT THE ALCOHOL CONTENT IN WINE. I was going to post up a video of me showing you guys the trick but it was hard to get the ‘tears’ to show up on the camera. Instead, this video does a good job explaining what I’m trying to say. All you do is swirl your wine, look closely and you’ll start seeing ‘tears’ (also known as legs, arches, rivulets) dripping down the glass; it looks like rain hitting your windshield. The more ‘tears’ there are, the higher the alcohol content. You try it – take a couple glasses with a different wine in each and observe which one has the highest alcohol content.

Wine of the Day: Acacia California 2009 (Pinot Noir)



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Red Wine = Sophistication?

Visitors to the International Wine & Spirits Wine Festival sampling wine. (Mike Clarke/AFP/Getty Images)

So we’re going to take a small detour from our journey of exploring different red wines to looking at red wines in a global context. According to this article posted on NPR.com (12/12/2010), it talks about the red wine’s increasing popularity among the Chinese people. In December, there was a Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Festival as well as several wine auctions. One of the biggest auction houses, Christie’s, auctioned off 12 bottles of Chateau Lafite 1982 for $90,000. Before you drop your jaw in awe, let me tell you that Chateau Lafite in the wine world is like the king of all red wines; it is the top-notch, VIP, above-all type of wine. Getting my drift? So when you have a bottle such as this dating back to 1982, it becomes even more rare and prestigious than any of the other wines you see out on your grocery store shelf. However, my point is not on how much these bottles were sold for at the auction, but more so on the fact that 5 or even 10 years ago, no one in China would have bidded more than $10,000 for it.

You’re probably wondering does that mean EVERYONE in China is drinking thousand dollar wines? Of course not! There are still about 800 million who are still struggling to survive in China. However, there is a surge of people drinking red wine, especially among the middle class. Michael Xu, a ‘newsprung’ middle class man who works on a cruise ship,  said, “Young guys, like me, we think it’s cool, it’s Western and very modern to drink wine.”

As I’ve mentioned in earlier blogs, red wine has always been viewed as a symbol of prestige and poise. The Western world was always seen as ‘refined’ and many countries would try to take what was Western and incorporate it into their own culture. For China, it ranges from the fashion such as the top hats, suits, and waistline dresses in the 40s to the present where European style houses are popular in the richer areas of China. Because the middle class are starting to become wealthier, they relate wealth with an increased standard of living, which involves drinking red wine. Red wine exemplifies this higher quality of living and it is nowadays, in China, a common gift to give to esteemed guests. If you’re not giving Lafite to a top-level business meeting, you may seem rude. I do agree that drinking red wine does make you seem more sophisticated but I disagree that drinking wine can DEFINE your status. I think it’s preposterous that if you don’t give a CEO a bottle of Lafite, you can be regarded as being offensive; the same thing that I think it’s ridiculous how the South have debutant balls, serving only as an excuse for rich people to dress up and show off their wealth. Without hesitation, the Chateau Lafite is a very good bottle of wine, but it should not DETERMINE your status just because you drink it; drinking wine does NOT make you more refined than the person sitting next to you!

Frei Brothers Reserve 2007 (Syrah)

Wine of the Day: Frei Brothers Reserve 2007 (Syrah) [Side Note: Vons has an amazing and huge selection of wines and this bottle was bought from there]

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What are the Red Wines?

You’re probably wondering why are we only talking about red wines? Well, the wine industry is so vast, ranging from champagnes, dessert wines, rose wines, fortified wines, white wines, to red wines, that’s impossible to delve deeply into all of them. Red wines is the popular choice nowadays, and it is also the most complex out of all the wines. With my focus on comparing red wines in Europe to red wines in California and what the wine industry is like now, I will spend this time to briefly explain the field of wine-making as well as what the common red wines are.

The grapes for making red wine is not your usual grocery store grapes. They are smaller in size and the taste of the grapes are infused with more flavors than a regular grape. The environment varies for wine-making; however, ample sunlight, dryness, high altitudes for some regions, and nutritious soil is needed. Rain is the enemy to wine-making for they will make the grapes too watery, and not have enough concentrated flavor. The different types of soil can range from rocky gravel rich in minerals to limestone. For example, Châteauneuf-du-Pape in France grows their vineyards where the soil is covered by galets (pudding stones). Galets are smooth and oval shaped stones and they retain the heat from the sun and radiate the heat back when the night is cool, providing a consistent temperature to the vines.

Below are the top 10 common red grapes used in comprising the wine that is sitting on your dining table. In many cases, you have at least 2 kinds of grapes mixed together in the wine that you are drinking; however, depending on the region from where the wine was made, they have different regulations of how much ‘mixing’ you can do with the grapes.

1) Barbera – mostly found in Italy and is used as a blending wine.

2) Brunello – a rare, expensive, fruity Tuscan red wine. It has a very bold flavor and this is the only grape that is allowed to grow in the region of Brunello di Montalcino, partly because the region’s soil is very rich.

3) Sangiovese – the signature red wine grape in Tuscany and the Chianti region (aka wine region). It is also frequently blended with Cabernet Sauvignon.

4) Cabernet Franc – often blended with other grapes and it is grown in France, as well as other regions such as California and New York.

5) Gamay – derives from France and usually is best to drink soon after it’s been bottled because unlike Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay does not age very well.

6) Merlot – usually a popular pick for people to drink on a daily basis because it does not have a bold flavor in comparison to others. It is grown in all the regions mentioned above and can be blended with Cabernet Sauvignon.

7) Pinot Noir – commonly grown in the Burgundy region of France and in cooler regions of California. In California, it is often used for champagnes.

8 ) Cabernet Sauvignon – the most ‘talked’ about. This wine is known as the noblest in the area of Bordeaux, France and it is known for its intense aromas and flavors. Bordeaux is the place where most of France’s fine wines are made, with prices ranging from $20 – $1,000+.

9) Syrah or Shiraz – Syrah is the term used in California and France while Shiraz is the term used in Australia and South Africa. It carries flavors of spice and fruit.

10) Zinfandel – mostly grown in California because these grapes thrive in lots of sunshine and heat.

Your head is probably spinning by now but the hard part is over. All these different types of grapes may sound extremely confusing but at the end of the day, all that really matters is the taste of the wine and what you like most about it. Many people say the best wines are the most expensive ones but I want to counteract that argument. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way saying that the expensive ones are not good but there are many other good wines where you can buy them at a much lower price. You may be shocked at what some of the ‘best’ wines are priced at. I also believe that some people go into too many technicalities in regards to how we drink wine, what glass to use, what is the right way to hold the glass, and the extensive steps to determine what a ‘good wine’. There are actually only 4 basic steps (which will be explained later) to deciphering whether this quality of wine is good or not, everything else can be regarded as excessive. Overall, wine tasting is in the eye of the beholder despite of the standards people place in the wine world; a wine that tastes amazing to you is a ‘good’ wine.

Wine for the day: 2004 Dellatorri Chianti

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How It All Started :)

You might think, wine? I’m a college student! That’s way too expensive for me! Well, let me tell you something, not all good wines have to be hundred of dollars – you can find good wines at your nearby grocery store. I’m not going to lie, whenever I walk into an aisle of wine either at Trader Joe’s or at Ralph’s, I get a little intimidated. All the different labels, from Cabernet Sauvignon to Chardonnay to Merlot, what does that all mean?! Luckily for you and I, we can explore the world of wine together!

You might think, how did I even come up with this idea of exploring wine. Let me tell you, it all started in the Fall of 2010. I studied abroad in Siena, which is a very small city

the main area where everyone hangs out

located in the Tuscan region of beautiful Italy. Here’s a picture of the Piazza Del Campo, which is like the Times Square of New York – always bustling and a place where everyone goes to meet up with friends.


Anyways, I was part of the Fall Semester Study Abroad Program through EAP at UCSD and throughout the semester, the school would take us on several field trips to familiarize ourselves with the Italian culture, one of which included a tour to a winery.

We went to a nearby winery named Dievole and guess what? Our very own UC Center Italy program director, Antonio Artese, had a Masters in wine! He was very

Antonio giving us a lesson on the grapes that's used in Italian wines

knowledgeable about all kinds of wine, and probably as you can guess, specifically in Italian wines. I started to grow fond of how the wines were made, what grapes were needed, what kind of soil was best in order to grow the grapes, but more so, what was considered as ‘good’ wine and ‘bad’ wine. Italy was the start-off adventure for my love in wine, and maybe a bit more interest than usual since my father loves wine and collects bottles from around the world. With the influence from my father and my amazing studying abroad experience in Italy, I hope that you can join me in exploring the different areas of wine.

In the next 8 weeks, I’m going to be exploring wines from different countries, in particular France, Italy, and California. France, as you should know (and I’m telling you now if you didn’t know beforehand) is known as one of the largest producers of wine and rated top in the whole world. I want to explore Italy and California because though they are not considered as top, they are definitely the most talked about during the dinner tables (plus, I have a personal affinity to both since I studied in Italy and am currently living in California). We’ll explore why each region produces wines with different and distinct aromas and will later delve into the question of why California wines, even though it is rated as ‘sophisticated’, does not hold the same prestige as other regions such as France. Here and there, I’ll also explore hole in the wall places in San Diego where you can buy good wine for a reasonable price, as well as wines that are affordable in grocery stores and how to pick them.

Hope you’re excited as I am to explore the world of wine and the art behind drinking it too!

I’m going to do this at the end of every post, which is a recommendation from me to you on a wine that’s good and affordable from a grocery store.

Trader Joe’s: Charles Shaw (2008 Merlot)

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