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October 2023, Volume 29, Number 4

Food, Wine

Ozempic (Wegovy), Mounjaro, and similar weight-loss drugs emphasize the importance of brain chemistry to determine a person’s weight. Weight-loss drugs seem to change the brain’s set or fullness point, encouraging people to stop eating sooner.

Over 40 percent or 100 million US adults, and 20 percent of US children, are obese, and up to 10 percent of the adults are expected to be taking weight-loss drugs within a decade. Some observers say that diet or obesity and climate change are among the existential crises facing humankind.

One calorie is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of one gram of water by 1C. Food calories come from carbohydrates (4 calories per gram), proteins (4), fats (9), and alcohol (7). The calorie counts on food and drink labels are based on the ingredients.

Most nutritionists argue that calories-in-calories-out (CICO) is the only way to think about weight, and they caution that not all calories are equal. Sugar is easy to digest, while lentils are harder to digest and some pass through the body. Most researchers believe that overeating causes obesity, but some believe that obesity can cause overeating.

Ultra-processed food is often blamed for obesity and heart disease. UPFs, which are often high in salt and sugar, range from cereals and protein bars to fast food. UPFs average half of typical diets but they exceed 80 percent of the diet of some people, and some analysts believe that firms such as Hershey, Mondelez, Hostess, and Campbells may lose sales. Chile and Mexico require black warning labels on UPFs.

Sales at fast-food restaurants are increasing faster than sales at fast-casual and fine-dining restaurants, reflecting the three D’s: digital or ordering online, delivery, and drive-through. Over 85 percent of orders at fast-food restaurants are for take-out or delivery food.

McDonald’s had almost $50 billion in revenue from its 13,500 US restaurants in 2022, an average of $3.6 million for each outlet. Chick-fil-A restaurants have the highest average sales, $6.7 billion per outlet in 2022, so that Chick-fil-A’s 2,800 stores generated almost $19 billion.

Kroger is the largest US seller of sushi, selling over 40 million pieces of raw fish and rice a year in its namesake and Ralphs, Smith’s and Harris Teeter stores. Restaurants sell almost five times more sushi than supermarkets to both take out and eat-in diners, but the gap is narrowing as more supermarkets sell more prepared fresh food. Cooked chicken and sushi are emerging as the items in supermarket delis that lead in sales.

The EU has 3,500 foods, wines, and spirits whose names are reserved for use by traditional local producers, such as Parmesan ham and Champagne. Wine names make up roughly half of the products protected by the EU; name protections also cover 300 cheeses. The EU uses geographical indications to suggest where and how particular foods and wines are produced.

Wine. Gallup’s annual alcohol consumption survey in August 2023 reported that 40 percent of Americans abstain and 20 percent overindulge sometimes. Half of those who go to church weekly or whose income is less than $40,000 a year abstain, compared to 20 percent of those who are college graduates or whose income is over $100,000 a year.

Beer is the most popular alcoholic drink of 37 percent of respondents who drink, followed by spirits at 31 percent and wine at 29 percent. Women prefer wine, 44 percent, to spirits, 31 percent, and beer, 22 percent, while men prefer beer, 53 percent, to spirits, 29 percent, and wine, 15 percent.

Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, which accounts for half of Washington’s wine production, said in August 2023 that it may not accept all of the fruit from the 30,000 acres of vineyards from which it buys grapes. Ste. Michelle was bought by New York-based Sycamore Partners for $1.2 billion in 2021. Sycamore sold off Napa’s Stagg’s Leap, which was founded in 1970, judged the best Cabernet in 1976, and sold to Ste. Michelle in 2007.

Gallo bought Rombauer and its three wineries, two tasting rooms, and 700 acres of Napa vineyards in August 2023. The price was not disclosed, but Gallo may have paid $100 million for the 350,000 case-a-year winery that is known for Rombauer Chardonnay. Rombauer was started in 1980 by the nephew of Joy of Cooking author Irma Rombauer.

Gallo makes about three billion cases of wine a year, over three percent of the world’s wine or 1,100 bottles a second. Gallo bought Napa’s Louis Martini in 2002 and created a luxury-wine branch in 2015 that includes Stagecoach Vineyards.

Napa’s Spring Mountain Vineyard, an 845-acre vineyard and winery featured in the 1980s TV series Falcon Crest, was sold to MGG Investment Group in 2023, which plans to add 200 acres of vineyards.

Italy is projected to produce 44 million hectoliters of wine in 2023 and lose its role as the world wine leader to France. A hectoliter is 100 liters, 26.4 gallons, or 133 standard wine bottles.

France has too much wine, and is spending over $200 million in 2023 to distill some of the surplus into industrial alcohol. France’s per capita wine consumption peaked in 1926 at 136 liters a year, and today is about 40 liters. Up to 120,000 workers are employed to hand pick grapes in the Champagne region, and several died during a period of high heat.

Canada is known for ice wine made with very overripe grapes, but increasingly makes high-quality table wines, especially from the British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. Ontario has the most vineyard acreage in Canada, followed by British Columbia. Canada’s Arterra Group owns vineyards and wineries across the country, including British Columbia’s Jackson-Triggs.

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