Hangovers hurt. For most people, they cause discomfort, in some cases sickness and weakness, but reasons remain a mystery.

When a group of people drink, and eat the same amount and same drinks, some experience hangover, others don’t.

Pounding of temples, ringing of ears, extreme sensitivity to bright light and sound, disorientation, and losing of prohibitions are some of the hangover symptoms.

Alcohol dilates blood vessels, that decreases blood pressure resulting in headaches.

Also, alcohol  interferes with brain’s communication pathways (neurons) and that impairs logical thinking, which in turn leads to mood changes.

REM (rapid eye movement) sleep eludes hangover individuals. Their sleep is “shallow”. Dry mouth is an indication of dehydration, therefore drinking a lot of water before going to bed helps to some extent, but not completely. Drinking water between drinks is highly recommended to prevent dehydration.

The liver breaks down alcohol to vinegar and water at a rate of approximately seven  grams of pure alcohol per hour pending on many other physical and health conditions.

Alcohol inflames the stomach lining delaying digestion, and producing gastric acid that cause vomiting and nausea mostly attributed to acetaldehydes. Acetaldehyde is the most toxic component of alcohol.

In addition to all of the above, alcohol hampers sexual performance, and continuous abuse may lead to infertility.

You can avoid all of the hangover symptoms and associated discomforts by limiting your alcohol intake(per hour to seven grams of pure alcohol equaling to 25 ml. of spirit at 40 per cent ABV; half-a-bottle (150 ml) of beer at 5 per cent ABV; or 80 ml of wine at 12 per cent ABV). Always stick to “dry” alcoholic beverages that contain very little or no residual sugar. Eat fatty foods before you drink, and continue to nibble while drinking. Avoid soft drinks mixed with spirits. Alcohol affects females faster and more than males, due to their muscle structure and fat. You can try the follow remedies if you suffer a hangover, but they may or may not work. Eating bananas to replenish potassium, eggs to replace protein, and freshly squeezed fruit juices to replenish vitamins may help. In Australia, people try to cure hangovers by eating vegemite; in China, strong green tea and lemon juice mixed with water; in Germany pickled herring fillets wrapped around onion and gherkin; in England bacon, sausage, baked  eggs, toast and fried green tomatoes; in Italy strong espresso; in Japan pickled plums and green tea; in Mexico seafood salad, in Poland sour pickle juice; in Romania and Turkey tripe soup; in Russia, salted cucumber juice, and in North America Prairie oyster. Remember, restraint and moderate consumption are the best ways to prevent hangovers.

Note: The alcohol tolerance of First Nations in North America and aboriginals in Australia and elsewhere in the world is less than that of  Europeans.

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Barrels play an important role in wine making.

Around the first century A D Romans discovered that wines aged in barrels tasted softer, and better than those stored in amphorae.

Today, with increasing wine production world over, around one million barrels are produced to supply the industry.

Barrels of various sizes are used in several food manufacturing plants i.e marinated (preserved) fish, pickles, vinegar just to name a few.

Generally, barrel sizes go up to 400 – 500 liters, whereas vats are much larger, and permanent. Barrels aging can be defined as controlled oxidation, and is very important to determine judiciously how long a particular wine should be aged and in what size of container.

France is an important source of barrel wood. In France the government owns forests and trees are auctioned to the highest bidders annually. The finance minster of Louis XIV, Jean Baptiste Colbert established in Central France forests to supply lumbar for ship building, since it takes up to 200 years for a tree to mature for harvesting for barrel wood.

Most French oak forests are located in the Massif Central (Central France), They are Allier, Yonne, Nievere, Maine et Loire), Limousine-Vienne, Charante and Creuse (approximately 11 000 hectares).

Those in eastern France are located in Jura, Vosges, Meuse, Moselle, and in northern France, Somme, Aisne and Pas-de-Calais.

Jura, Vosges, Meuse and Moselle forest woods are sought for their superior quality tight grain.

Allier wood barrel-aged wines taste round and generous, those aged in Nievere oak exude elegance and finesse.

One mature tree yields five barrels. The rest of the wood is used for furniture and other purposes.

In France, wood must be split , whereas in the U S A manufacturers are allowed to saw, which is much faster, less expensive and less desirable. Then the wood is cut into staves to be “seasoned” in open air for three to four years in order to leach some of the tannins, or kiln dried which is much faster (18 months), but less desirable.

After assembling of each barrel, it is toasted either light, medium or heavy as required. Toasting degrades the wood and produces aromatic compounds. The level of toasting affects flavor and depends on buyer’s specifications.

The association of French barrel makers report to produce 600 000 units annually. Most of these barrels are exported to other wine producing countries i.e the U S A, Italy, Spain, Germany, Portugal, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, New Zealand, Canada, and China. Barrel size affects aging.

In small barrels, wine ages faster than in vats. In older barrels aging occurs slowly, and yields less satisfactory results.

Re-conditioned barrels are not recommended for wine aging.

Several French barrel manufacturers are world famous for their quality and expertise – Moreau-Seguin ( the biggest), Tarransaud, Nadalie, Cadus, Tonnelerie de F. Dargand et Jaegle, Radoux, Vicard, Francois Freres, and Mercurey.

The association of French barrel manufacturers boasts 43 members. Some French barrel makers established production facilities in the U S A using American white oak which is more abundant and less expensive than French lumber.

In 2018 a 500 liter French barrel costs 1000 Euros (approximately $ 1600.00 Canadian Dollars) whereas the same size  American barrel costs half or less.

American white oak is less tight an contains more vanilla flavour, whereas French, oak is tight grained and more “flavorful” than American white oak. Other countries also maintain oak forests i.e Hungary, Russia (Krasnoyarsk), Croatia, in Slavonia not to be confused with Slovenia), Romania, Germany, Spain, Canada,  the Republic of Nagorno-Karabagh, and Portugal.

Port wine makers prefer Romania oak for their fortified wines. These vats may have capacities up to 20 000 liters.

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David de Kergommeaux

Appetite by Random House

316 pages, U S $ 20.00, Canadian $ 25.00

This comprehensive,  revised and updated edition contains general Canadian whisky formulations, processes, aging regimens, history of the largest distilleries, reliable reviews of popular brands, and a lot of details never before published.

The author explains that Canadian whisky is a far more interesting and expertly crafted distillate than it’s given credit.

Canadian whisky is part of the history of the country as the first settlers started breweries, then switched to distilling after realizing the abundant cereal harvests of Ontario and Quebec.  Eventually, many entrepreneurs started distilling whisky in an attempt to supply both the domestic and rapidly growing American thirst for spirits. David de Kergomemmaux has been traveling the country coast to coast for sometime now, and has tasted his share of whiskies, recording his judicious perception of each, which partially make part of this valuable book.

Canadian whisky is not only popular in the country, but also the U S A, and in more than 50 countries all over the world. It is light, distinct in flavour, and reflects the terroir of the land.

Canadian Whisky should be mandatory reading in all restaurant management schools of the continent, be part of any cocktail recipe book, for anyone who enjoys whisky, not only Canadian whisky, but Scotch, Bourbon, Irish, Japanese, Taiwanese, Indian, South African, French or German. David de Kergomemaux has managed to capture the spirit of Canadian whisky tradition, the love of creation it, and the commercial success. Highly recommended

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Every year Wine Writers’ Circle Of Canada organizes a sparkling wine tasting.

This year we tasted 49 from France, Ontario, Italy, Spain, California, Australia, and Argentina.

The unprecedented popularity of sparkling wine can be attributed to prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine from Veneto produced by the Charmat method.

The price point is relatively low, the product can be charming , if not a little on the sweet side.

Last year prosecco wineries shipped 60 million cases all over the world.

Ontario wineries produce a significant amount of sparkling wine, some of which are made using the more elaborate and time-consuming Champagne method.

Here are my recommendations for the upcoming festive days:

Pinot Noir Rose, Chateau des Charmes, Niagara Peninsula


$ 34.95

Joy, Featherstone, Niagara Peninsula


$ 34.95

Sparkling Riesling Brut, Thirty Bench Winemakers, Niagara Peninsula


$ 38.95

Acquesi Brachetto, MGM Monde Del Vino, Piedmont, Italy


$ 13.50

(gently sweet, super fruity, and very appealing) CremanT d’Alsace Brut, Pierre Sparr, Lassie, France


$ 19.95

La Gioiosa Prosecco, Veneto, Italy


$ 14.95

Prosecco Brut, Sartori, Veneto, Italy


$ 14.95

Prosecco, La Marca, Veneto, Italy


$ 17.95

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Carla Gambescia with Michael Stein

Illustrations by Lannie Hart

Travellers’ Tales (An imprint of Solas House Incorporated, Palo Alto, California

309 pages, US $ 19.99

Carla Gambescia, born in the U S A to Italian parents, grew up in the Untied States, but her Italian DNA connects her to Italy, and she loves everything Italian.

This book is dedicated to Italian history, art, culture, and idiosyncrasies of the “boot”.

La Dolce Vita University is an extensive compilation of historical facts about Italy its history dating back to the Roman Empire, and Italian life in general.

Divided into an A to Z format, this book explains in detail about Italian food, wines, travel, the way Italians drive, eat, talk, think and act.

This well structured, wittily written, highly informative book, captures Italian beautifully and contains more useful detail than any so called “travel guide”.

Where else can you find so much information about olive oil, and its tree. La Dolce Vita University is a delight to read about Burana, Casanova, Dante, and Vivaldi to mention just some many recognize, and millions who have no clue what they represent.

The author simply loves everything Italian and this is evident in every essay for any traveller, globetrotter, or armchair traveller.

You want to know about Sicily, or Sardinia, or Tuscany, all you need to do  is to read a few essays to complete your understanding of the history and culture.

If you are planning to visit Italy, read La Dolce Vita University first and then make travel arrangements. If you have already visited the country, this oeuvre will compel you to return.

Highly recommended.

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In 1960s, the great Burgundy negociant was experiencing financial difficulties due to inconsistent quality, poor marketing and service.

In 1970’s when I was a restaurateur, Bouchard Pere et Fils was one of the most reliable names in a notoriously unreliable wine shipping business. This family-owned and operated company combined quality and reasonable prices, a feat in Burgundian wine trade only a few hope to accomplish, In 1989 Bouchard Pere et Fils ( this company should not be confused with other Bouchards in the industry) was caught adjusting both sugar and acidity levels in their wines for the 1987 vintage.

At the time almost every Burgundy winemaker and negociants were manipulating their wines, but only this company was exposed partially because the scandal broke during the Vinexpo, the biggest wine fair of the world.

Founded in 1731, Bouchard Pere et Fils is one of the oldest ( second to Champy Pere et Fils founded 1720 ) Burgundy shippers.

The family started as cloth traders, passing through Burgundy frequently while transporting merchandise from Flanders, which at the time was an important textile manufacturing center. In 1791 when the French government started selling off confiscated property during the Revolution, the family acquired vineyards in Volnay, Cotes de Beaune.

The business flourished and in 1810 Chateau de Beaune was purchased and renovated to include expansive cellars. The company expanded as did the family. French inheritance laws promulgated during Napoleon’s reign stipulate that property must be divided equally amongst all off springs.

By 1980 the ninth generation comprised of  40 members. After the scandal, Bouchard decided to buy grapes and make wine in their cellars. Ultimately considerable sums of funds were spent on equipment, but excessive capital expenditures without equally high sales and profits took their toll, and by 1995 the company was in deep financial trouble. At this time Joseph Henriot, ex-president of Veuve Cliquot and head of Champagne Henriot, bought the company because according to him, the cellars were close to the railway station. At the time Bouchard owned 130 hectares of prime Cotes de Beaune vineyards.

Henriot purchased in 1996 Ropiteau-Mignon, another Burgundy producer, and in 1998 W. Fevre from Chablis. Bouchard properties are impressive – Le Corton ( approximately 4 hectares ), Corton-Charlemagne ( 3 ¼ hectares ), Chevalier –Montrachet ( 2 ½ hectares ), Beaune Les Greves, La Vigne-de – l’Enfant Jesus ( 6.5 hectares ), just to name a few.

In addition the company owns small parcels in Gevrey-Chambertin, Aloxe-Corton, Savigny Les Beaune, Pommard, Meursault, and Nuits Saint George.

Since Henriot’s purchase, more attention is paid to detail including low yields in vineyards, harvesting when the fruit is  fully ripe given vintage conditions.

Only 13 Kg boxes are used to avoid crushing during transportation. A more vigorous triage is exercised and wines failing to meet exacting quality standards are declassified to the next lower quality level. Quality now reigns supreme whereas previously, quantity did. More small vats are employed to accommodate the crop of fractionally-owned vineyards. Bouchard cellars now contain 4000 barrels on a four year rotation, and even generic Burgundy wines are aged for at least two months. Filtration is kept to an absolute minimum and gravity used whenever feasible.

Grand Crus and top Premiere crus are not filtered at all. Filtering robs red wines of at least 20 percent of their aromas. Once again Bouchard Pere and Fils wines are regaining their old venerable reputation  of reliability and consistency.  During a recent tasting of the company’s 1999 vintages, the following stood out:

Red: Savigny Les Beaune, Les Laviere  Appealing colour, soft berry aromas, round and harmonious Good depth. Aloxe Corton  Fine colour, smooth, multidimensional and full-bodied. Long, satisfying after-taste. Le Corton An excellent, multidimensional wine. Refined and deeply flavoured, reminiscent of underbrush Cote de Nuits Village Although almost a generic wine, this wine displays a fine colour, exquisite fruitiness, full body and harmony.  Nuits Saint George, Clos des Argilliers A refined wine, with nuances of fruit and oak intermingling. Smooth and well-balanced.

Whites: Puligny-Montrachet Superb fruitiness, reminiscent of apples. Perfumey. Mineral flavours. Full bodied. Meursault Genevriers Fruity with elegance and refined flavour. Long, satisfying aftertaste. Meursault Perrieres  Aromas of hazelnuts. Full bodied but soft. Long finish. Corton-Charlemagne Aromas of lemon waft out of the glass, buttressed with hints of oak. Full-bodied and harmonious. An excellent and elegant wine.  Chevalier-Montrachet Smoke and hazelnut aromas dominate. A superb wine to complement seafood with cream sauces.

Bouchard Pere et Fils is represented in Ontario by Russell Woodman Agencies.

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Prince Edward County, affectionally known ”the County, started producing wine in 1970’s, and now boasts more than 42 wineries producing some 30 000 (9-Liter) cases.

The County is located on the northern shore of Lake Ontario; the climate is suitable fro grape growing with 1336 sunshine hours a year (warm summers never exceeding 22 C, and cold winters). It is a cool-climate wine-producing region more successful in white wines, and pinot noir reds.

There are pockets that are suitable for other red grape varieties e.i Gamay, cabernet franc, and even merlot.

County red wines are lower in alcohol than their counterparts in the Niagara Peninsula, and paler in colour due tot the climate.

Some wineries buy grapes in Niagara for blending, others process bought grapes. Some print this fact on the label others do not.

Riesling and chardonnay wines in successful vintages taste great, and are most appropriate for seafood, sautéed chicken, cream cheeses, cheese melts, or sandwiches. Most wineries are small, producing 1000 cases up to 5000, and depend on farm gate sales.

County’s proximity and relaxed rural setting draw thousands of Torontonians for day trips and week-end mini vacations. Many Ottawan’s also travel to the County. Boutique hotels and small family-run restaurants with innovative products cater to visitors.

In 2018 19 wineries participated in the County in the City event.

I tasted 43 of the 103 wines available, and recommend the following:

Sparkling wine

Cuvee Janine, Huff Estates 87+/100 $ 30.00

White wines

Pinot Gris, 2017, Karlo Estates 87/100 $ 25.00 County Chardonnay, 2016, Norman Hardie Winery and Vineyards 88+/100 $ 45.00

The Brock Chardonnay, 2016, Closson Chase 88+/100 $ 34.75

Barrel Aged Chardonnay, 2014, Hillier Creek Estates 88+/100 $ 34.80

Riesling , 2013, By Chadsey’s Cairns Winery 88+/1— $ 21.20

Riesling, 2016, Casa-Dea Estates Winery 87+/100 $ 16.95

Red wines

Lake On The Mountain Pinot Noir, 2016, Karlo Estates 89/100 $ 35.00

Unfiltered Cabernet Franc, 2015, Trail Estate Winery (Niagara fruit) 88+/100 $ 45.00

Amore, 2014, Casa-Dea Estates Winery 89/100

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