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COLUMN

GESUNDHEIT! A TOAST TO YOUR HEALTH
Saturday, 02 February, 2008, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Ronita Torcato
Drinking and exercise is good for the heart. Don't take my word for it though. Listen to the experts; in this case from Denmark where researchers found that moderate drinking (not more than two drinks a day) accompanied by exercise can lower your risk of coronary heart disease. This doesn't mean that the lethargic can swap exercise with booze. The study found that people who don't drink and don't exercise had double the risk for heart disease as those who do both moderately. Drinking wine in moderation is also good for digestion. How do I know? Because the Bible tells me so. (Read St Paul) Gesundheit! as the Germans would say.

Cheers! The temperance lobby worldwide must be rejoicing now that a court from the (self-proclaimed) land of gastronomy (France, in case you didn't know) has decreed that newspaper articles on wines should display health warnings. The court ruled that an edit page article published in Le Parisien back in 2005 under the headline, "The Triumph of Champagne," was "intended to promote sales of alcoholic beverages." It ruled that the publication should have printed a health and safety disclaimer seen on all alcohol advertisements in France: 'Alcohol abuse is dangerous to your health.'

The temperance lobby will be happier still (even as investors are sombre) that the rate of spirits growth has been declining steadily in Europe and the US.

One explanation could be that consumers are less willing or able to buy expensive spirits. It also makes sense to drink at home, at any rate, many people are spending significantly less on alcoholic beverages. Naturally, wine merchants are trying to make up for their losses by focusing on emerging markets like Asia.

Where khanapeena is concerned, gourmets, I dare say, would rarely rate a five star hostelry over a cosy eatery. But researchers at the California Institute of Technology found that expensive wines increase a person's enjoyment of the wine. Antonio Rangel, Associate Professor of Economics, led a research team to test how marketing shapes consumers' perceptions, according to agency reports. Apparently, volunteers consistently gave higher ratings to more expensively labelled wines; even low cost good quality wines were placed beneath pricier brands of inferior quality.

California lawmakers are reportedly considering a "sin tax," which would increase taxes on distilled spirits in that sunny state, which contains almost half the wineries in the USA. The Marin Institute has urged Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and state legislators to raise taxes on wine, beer and distilled spirits to help reduce the state's $14 billion budget shortfall. We wonder what Louisiana's first ever Governor of Indian parentage, Bobby Jindal's gonna do.

Leading Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are still struggling for the support of the party faithful. Clinton has the feminists and NRIs rooting for her while Obama has gained endorsement from Unite Here, a union representing some 4,50,000 foodservice and hotel workers. The union has praised Obama for supporting measures such as an increase in the minimum wage, the adoption of universal health insurance and the replacement of secret unionisation voting with public balloting. All of the measures have been opposed by the restaurant industry. Which only goes to show their sense of ethics.

CIAOU VERONA

Come March, and WinAssure, an eco-friendly packaging solution to keep wine at an optimal temperature during shipment, is due for launch. Reportedly, WineAssure guarantees that wine does not exceed 70 degrees Fahrenheit or fall below refrigeration level over a five-day shipping period, regardless of exterior temperatures. The packaging and insulation are made from 100% recyclable and degradable materials. This should be good news for wine merchants in India where distribution is a problem, despite being a promising market for exhibitions, promotional events (and sales but of course.)

Actually, it's a complex market, considering advertising of alcoholic beverages is forbidden. Despite the ban, India holds out excellent prospects. Today, wine consumption stands at less than one million cases; but this figure is expected to grow over six times by 2015.Which is precisely why a large contingent of Italian wine makers descended on Mumbai and Delhi with as many as 676 wines from 73 wineries. The occasion was Vinitaly 2008. Touted as ""another love story in Verona" (the first? Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet) the event was part of a roadshow that included Japan, China, Russia and the US before the big gala in bella Italia, on April 3-7. Only in its third edition in India, Vinitaly celebrates 42 years of existence as, arguably, the largest wine show in the world.

IS PARIS CHEAP?

Julius Caesar could say Veni, Vidi, Vici but Paris Hilton failed to win over Italian winemakers who are distinctly displeased with the ex-con's provocative ads for Rich Prosecco, a canned sparkling wine owned by an Austrian company.

"Hilton hotels are a sign of quality; Paris Hilton is not," said Fulvio Brunetta, president of the wine growers association of Treviso, the northern Italian city where Prosecco is produced. Miss Hilton's granddad Barron Hilton showed his displeasure by cutting her out of his will; the wine growers association of Treviso convened a meeting to delineate ways to protect Prosecco's reputation. Rich Prosecco maintains it has done no wrong. It says its two fruit varieties are not even labelled Prosecco, in accordance with European wine laws. The company's Chief Executive and owner Gunther Aloys, said, "It's just marketing and Paris Hilton is the most famous girl in the world."

THE GOURMET LITTERATEUR

Hey, did you know Manil Suri, Mumbai born, US-based mathematician and award winning author of "The Death of Vishnu" and "The Age of Shiva " spends a lot of his free time cooking? The world launch of Suri's second book "Shiva" was held only last week in Mumbai. Suri says people who've read "Vishnu" ask him if there is really such a thing as `Russian salad samosas.' His response to such queries is, "No, not that I have tasted (thankfully), but given the craze for `fusion' cooking, I can imagine it appearing on some menu soon."

What he personally enjoys doing is adding one or two ingredients from one cuisine into a recipe from another cuisine (such as a French cream soup made with coconut milk instead of cream). Like most home experimenters, he doesn't write down precise amounts of ingredients used. But he's hoping to make precise the instructions for a main dish of Salmon with Orange and Mint which combines desi mint and coriander with salmon and cream from France. He says this dish has successfully endured many dinner parties.

The foods he misses most from India? "First and foremost, the Alphonso mango, which is the king of fruits. People in the US who are used to the tough, stringy, raw and tasteless blobs that one finds in supermarkets have no idea to what poetic heights this fruit can transport one to. Go to Mumbai in April to taste an Alphonso, or if that's too far, go to Southall, the Indian section of London, where they are available in the summer. The second is the glorious pomfret."

Suri will be happy the US government has finally agreed to import mangoes from India, our India.
 
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