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Relaxing world of wine and yoga
By John H. Isacs

In life as in wines, balance is everything. Our hectic lives crave equilibrium and serenity. Therefore when my friends at Shanghai Daily informed me that this week’s iDeal topic would be yoga, I thought there must be a wonderful relationship between yoga and wine.

The origins of yoga are as mysterious as the practice itself. Some scholars believe the roots date back to the Indus Valley Civilization (3300-1900 BC). The advent and rise of the Hindi, Buddhist and Jainism faiths thousands of years later helped diversify and delineate the different styles of yoga. By the late 19th century the practice had spread to the West, however it wasn’t until a century later in the 1980s that yoga experienced an explosion of popularity. Wine like yoga has an ancient history and curiously enough the popularity of wine also grew exponentially in the late 20th century. The parallels don’t end there.


Body, mind and spirit

Yoga is much more than exercise and wine is much more than a beverage. Both are sensual experiences that benefit one’s health, mind and wellbeing. Yoga has spiritual roots and so does wine. While researching this week’s column I was surprised by the similarities, but most astounding was the fact that they could be enjoyed together.

Wine is my field but my understanding and appreciation of yoga wouldn’t fill even the smallest glass. Therefore, to better understand how wine and yoga could be enjoyed together I needed to enlist the help of my friend Zoey Zhou, a professional yoga teacher and equally important a lover of fine wines.


Zoey has practiced and taught yoga for seven years and enjoyed wine for nearly as long. She’s traveled around the world participating in yoga events. At her Shanghai studio she integrates wine into the yoga experience. One of her afternoon classes starts with a half glass of white wine then a session of gentle yoga. Zoey says a light, fresh white wine is appropriate before class. After the class students may continue with the white wine or savor heavier reds. Her favorite post class wine is Malbec. She adds wine helps her students relax and practice pranayama, a yoga breathing technique.

Zoey may be one of few to offer yoga classes with wine in Shanghai, but elsewhere combining these two pleasurable activities is becoming increasingly widespread. These amalgamated events are particularly popular in progressive wine regions like Napa Valley and Mendoza, where wineries offer visitors a new twist on getting close to nature and enhancing your feelings of wellbeing.

Contemplative wines

Some wines are so big, dense and rich that they are best enjoyed alone in a quiet reflective atmosphere much in the same way we’d enjoy a fine Cognac. These wines may also be enjoyed with food, but they often best express their inner beauty when consumed in solitude. Some top Argentinian Malbec reds qualify as contemplative wines.

Malbec is a grape that depending who you talk to originated in France or was brought to France by a Hungarian winemaker many centuries ago. The grape thrived in Bordeaux and other regions of France until a severe frost in 1956 wiped out most vines. French winemakers replanted with the Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and other varieties that weren’t so susceptible to frost and other climatic extremes. Today in France, only the Calors wine region in the southwest still boasts extensive plantings of Malbec vines. But this tale of grapes has a happy ending as the variety found a new home in the mountains of Argentina. Since the mid 19th century, Malbec vines have been harvested in Argentina and in the late 1980s pioneers like Nicolas Catena started to make lower yield, quality Malbec wines for export. The best of these wines came from Mendoza, the elevated plateau bordering the Andes Mountains. Malbec wines from Mendoza are now some of the best value, high-quality reds you can find anywhere.

It’s easy to find good Malbecs in Shanghai. One of the best is Vistalba Corte A, a 60 percent Malbec, 30 percent Bonarda and 10 percent Cabernet Sauvignon blend aged 18 months in French oak. It offers delightful aromas and flavors of blue and black fruits along with Asian spices and delicate notes of violets. Less pricey but still excellent wines are the Vistalba Corte B and C wines. Also available are two premium Malbecs from the family owned Bodega Sottano, the Family Reserva Malbec and top-of-the-line Judas Malbec. Consistent weather and the use of drip irrigation mean all recent Mendoza vintages have been good.

Pour the wine into a large beautiful crystal glass, view the beauty of the penetrating deep purple-red color, then gently swirl the opaque liquid, close your eyes and in slow long deep sniffs take in the multitude of aromas. Finally, gently move the liquid throughout your mouth and over your tongue slowing savoring the different flavors and textures. As with the aftermath of a yoga class, the quality of the wine is judged by the persistence and length of pleasurable sensations.

Where to buy in Shanghai

Region & Style at a glance


Malbec is a minor contributor to blends in its traditional home Bordeaux; but the grape has found a new life in Mendoza, Argentina where it’s the major variety that enjoys international success.

Key Term:

“Soft tannins” is used to describe the texture in red wines that feature round, silky tannins; fine examples of soft tannin wines are the Malbec reds of Mendoza.

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