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Monday May 27, 2013

Drinkers shouldn’t be whining

IN recent years, wine drinking has become more popular among the people in Sarawak, especially during occasions like weddings, birthdays, reunions and anniversary dinners. If the trend continues, the wine drinking community will certainly grow bigger than those drinking liquor — which certainly is a good sign because moderate consumption of wine is beneficial to one’s health.

This writer has, of late, also migrated from drinking beer to enjoying wine. Among his group of wine lovers is one Dr Eric Wong, 38, (pix) who shares with Sarawak Spotlight his knowledge on the pleasurable drink.

Question: Tell us your background.

Answer: I am a qualified medical doctor with a MBBS degree from Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, China. I served in Sibu Hospital for one year after my graduation in 2000. Then I served in HUKM (Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia) in Cheras for another year before taking over my father’s timber trading business.

In 2010, I moved into development and construction, a business which was first established by my wife, Karen Loi, around 2005. We are currently undertaking the construction of 315 units of residential homes as well as a number of shophouses here under Sara-Timur Housing Sdn Bhd and Tiong Ung Siew Develop-ment Sdn Bhd.

When did you start drinking wine?

It was about 10 years ago when I worked at HUKM.

As a doctor, what can you advise people on the benefits of drinking wine?

Scientific researches and findings indicate that consuming moderate amounts of wine is associated with lower levels of coronary heart disease. Moderate wine drinkers also tend to age slower and live longer than those who do not drink at all or drink heavily.

How does it work? Can you elaborate?

Vascular disease which is a form of cardiovascular disease affecting the blood vessels, occurs when bad cholesterol is deposited in the artery walls. This will eventually cause a clot and block the artery. Alcohol content in wine will stimulate the production of the good high density lipoprotein cholesterol which will remove the bad low density lipoprotein cholesterol from arteries and veins where it can form plaques. It also reduces the clotting together of red blood cells which could block the blood flow in an artery.Furthermore wine is also very helpful in digestion.

How about the harmful effects?

Alcohol content in wine is normally between 12% and 15%, which is about two to three times higher than most beer. Excessive drinking of wine is harmful to your body and health. Abusive consumption of wine will also cause many domestic and social problems such as violence, road traffic accidents and vandalism.

Drinking wine should be for pleasure and enjoyment, especially with family members and friends. Over-drinking will not give you more benefits — only more harm.

How do you define moderate drinking? How much is considered enough?

Drinking two to three glasses is very normal. Each day I usually share a bottle of 750ml wine with my wife. And always remember wine should go with food.

There are so many different types of wine. How do you categorise them?

To make it less complicated, the best way to categorise wine is identifying them as Old World Wine (OWW) and New World Wine (NWW). OWW refers primarily to wine made in Europe and the Mediterranean basin which has a long history of wine-making while NWW refers to those from regions such as the United States, Australia, South America and South Africa which has shorter history. OWW is usually more expensive while NWW is more consumer-friendly.

What is the main difference between red wine and white wine?

It basically has to do with the type of grape, or varietal, used to make the wine. Although both red and white wine grapes are white on the inside, red wines usually incorporate the grape skins, seeds and stems. These parts of the grape are known as tannin, which contributes to the darker colour and the heavier, more acidic and sometimes spicy flavour often associated with red wines.

White wine is often high in acidity but low in tannin. White wines often have fruity tastes and the mouth-feel ranges from smooth to crisp.

What is your personal preference, red wine or white wine, and why?

I certainly prefer red wine because it has more varieties and is more flavourful and complicated which often leaves an aftertaste.

Tell us more about red wines.

Red wines are made from the following major types of grape: Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Malbec, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese and Barbera, Trebbiano, Airen, Chardonnay, Riesling, Muller-Thurgau and Chenin Blanc.

What are the world’s top wine producing countries?

France, Italy, Spain, United States, Argentina, Australia, Germany, South Africa, Chile and Portugal. France, Italy and Spain produce almost half of the world’s wines. Some of the most famous wine producing regions are Bordeaux, Alsace, Loire Valley and Burgundy in France, Tuscany in Italy, Douro in Portugal, Napa Valley in California (US), Barossa Valley in Australia, Marlborough in New Zealand, and Cape Winelands in Cape Town, South Africa.

Why is it that some of the wines can cost up to several thousands of ringgit per bottle?

The price of wine largely depends on which vineyard it comes from, the brand and the classification. For an example an old vine of more than 100 years old can produce the best grapes but it is very rare and the quantity of grapes produced is very small. The limited edition of this wine will be very expensive.

What is the best wine to you and why?

I appreciate wine with more complicated taste, or what we call the “full-bodied” wine.

Firstly this kind of wine would make me happy, especially when I drink in good company. It also has an aftertaste that will last for one to two minutes.

I like wine which gets better with aging, meaning its taste improves with the passing of time.

Where would you recommend us to buy wines at affordable prices?

I mostly buy wines locally at Oriental Wine which is located at Jalan Tuanku Osman (in Sibu). I think it is the most well-stocked wine wholesaler which has a wide variety of imported brands. When I travel overseas, I will also buy more expensive wines, mainly for collection.

Lastly, give us some tips on wine drinking.

To deepen your knowledge and appreciation for wines, you have to look, smell and taste it slowly. Take a good look at the wine to check out its colour and clarity. Often tilt the wine glass away from you and check out the colour of the wine from the rim edges to the middle of the glass with the help of a white background such as a piece of paper or napkin.

If it’s a red wine the colour is usually red, ruby, maroon and purple or garnet. For white wine, it is often pale yellow, golden, amber or light brown.

Then give your glass a little swirl to see if there is sediment. An older red wine will often have more orange tinge on the edges than younger red wines. Older white wines are darker than younger ones when comparing the same varietal at different ages.

The next stage is to smell the wine as its aroma is an excellent indicator of the wine’s quality and unique characteristics. Swirl your glass some more so that more of the wine’s aroma is released. The impression of the wine’s aroma will certainly stay with you for a long time.

Finally taste the wine with a small sip and let it roll around your mouth before drinking it. This way you get a stronger sense of the flavour with an aftertaste which will linger for some time.

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