On the Grapevine. The latest news from the world of wine.

NY tax on wine increased

The New York State budget for 2009 passed the state’s legislature last month. The $131 billion budget focused on three wine-related issues: New York’s excise tax on wine was increased from 19 to 30 cents per gallon; the attempt to allow wine sales in grocery stores was defeated, but some funding for the New York Wine and Grape Foundation (NYWGF) was included. Faced with an estimated $17 billion budget deficit Governor David Paterson had proposed an increase to 51 cents in the excise tax, complete elimination of funding for the NYWGF, and permitting wine sales in supermarkets.

Wine, tea and chocolate helps the brain

A new study has shown that the consumption of wine, tea and chocolate on a regular basis can aid brain function in the elderly. A team of researchers from Oxford University in conjunction with a team from the University of Oslo recently published their findings from their Oxford Project to Investigate Memory and Aging and found that low levels of all three aided the cognitive performance of a study group of 2,031 Norwegians aged between 70 and 74.

The report says that the full dementia-preventing benefits were only noticeable when all three were consumed (so those who only consumed chocolate faired worse than those who consumed chocolate and wine, for example.)

The study found that participants who ate a combination of one to three and a half ounces of wine, 10 grammes of chocolate and up to 200 milliltres of tea (preferably green tea) per day had a 41 to 53 per cent lower risk of performing poorly on tests than other participants. All three are high in polyphenile compounds called flavonoids, long studied for their possible health benefits.

The results did not tend to improve for those who consumed greater quantities, so all things in moderation might be a good motto when trying to combat dementia.

Bordeaux 2008 harvest up, but prices are low

Bordeaux winemakers say the harvest from 2008 is better quality than the past two years but prices will be kept low due to the influence of the recession. Wine professionals and journalists recently joined forces at a select tasting at Chateau Smith-Haut-Lafitte, a Grand Cru at Pessac-Léognan, where tasters were assessing wines that will not be sold to the public until next year. For the last two years Bordeaux wines have gone through the roof, yet experts believe prices could come down next year by as much as half.

Australian grape production hit

The total Australian grape production for wine is forecast to fall by 13 per cent in 2008–09, as a result of ongoing shortages of water for irrigation and high temperatures in early 2009, according to a new Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics report.

ABARE’s acting executive director, Dr Terry Sheales, said that production was forecast to fall in 2008–09 because of difficult growing conditions in many regions.

“Winegrape growers, particularly in south-eastern Australia, faced shortages of water for irrigation throughout the growing season, and were also hit by a heatwave in late January and early February 2009 which further reduced yields,” Sheales said.

“Yields in many regions of Victoria were also reduced by the bushfires in that State, as smoke taint damaged grapes and some vineyards were destroyed.”

Shiraz is expected to remain the highest-volume grape variety produced in Australia in the coming years. Chardonnay is expected to be the next highest volume variety, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon. Collectively, these three varieties are forecast to account for around 60 per cent of total Australian grape production in 2008–09.