Home > iDEAL Focus > Columns > Wines to stimulate the stomach
Wines to stimulate the stomach
By John H. Isacs

Having trouble building an appetite in the Shanghai sum- mer heat? Fret not; the perfect solution is a nice aperitif. The French word aperitif literally means, “to open” and this is exactly the effect on your appetite. Not only does the proper wine stimulate your appetite but it also enhances sensations of well- being — and can make your spouse or date magically more appealing. The benefits of an aperitif is not a new concept.

Since ancient times, medical profes- sionals have prescribed a glass of wine before meals. The great granddaddy of all doctors in the West, Hippocrates counseled a glass of wine before eating in order to stimulate and calibrate your senses before eating. The practice of having a glass of wine before dinner became an institution among the Euro- pean elite during the Middle Ages. The health and social benefits of having a glass of wine were widely extolled dur- ing the Renaissance. Modern science concurs.

Studies by Indiana University School of Medicine indicated that a drink before dinner increases the brain’s sensitivity to external food clues like aromas thereby helping building anticipation to eat. In the US doctors are using a glass of wine before dinner as appetizing treatment for the elderly, anorexics and cancer patients.

Having an aperitif also has psy- chological benefits, especially in the evening. In the evening, an aperitif can be used as a social or reflective transition moment from your hectic, busy and stressful day to a relaxing and pleasing dinner.

A glass of wine slows down your frenzied day and puts you into a calmer frame of mind to enjoy your meal. But all wines are not equal. What type or style makes the ideal before- dinner drink?

The proper aperitif should refresh the palate, stimulate the appetite and gently glide a person into a pleasurable mood. The best wines to achieve this are dry, fresh and nimble white wines or sparklers that tantalize and stimu- late your taste buds.



In the center of Italy situated be- tween the Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, and Lazio regions, the pastoral rolling hills of Umbria are home to the white wine Orvieto. This easygoing wine is still misunderstood and underappreci- ated outside of Italy. Critics laminate its light body, straightforwardness and simple style. But it’s exactly these qualities that qualify Orvieto as the perfect aperitif. You don’t want to precede a dinner with an overly bold, intensive and complicated wine that overwhelms your senses before the meal even starts. Instead, it’s best to enjoy an unpretentious white charmer like Orvieto.

Made using the Trebbiano, Grechetto, Drupeggio and other Italian white varieties cultivated from the hills surrounding the scenic historic hilltop village of Orvieto and adjacent towns, Orvieto whites typically feature a straw-yellow color, enticing fruity and floral aromas and crisp peachy flavors. Though sweet, semi-sweet and even red Orvieto wines are also made, the vast majority are light bodied, dry white wines.

Orvieto whites won’t fill you and the good acidity in these wines nicely stimulates your appetite. When I have the rare pleasure of cooking at home, I love to slowly savor a well-chilled glass of Ovieto as I prepare my food. Not only does the wine quench my thirst, build my appetite and refresh my palate but it also makes my dishes taste better. The pronounced acidity and fruitiness in the wine makes it a great base for marinating seafood and white meats while a splash in the sauce awakens and distinguishes flavors.

Orvieto not only makes you hungry but it also makes your food taste better.

The quality of Orvieto wines has greatly improved over the past decade, but picking the right producer is still important. Good producers with wines available in Shanghai include Rufinno, Carpineto and Antinori.


The spiritual and commercial home of CAVA is in the Catalonian town of Sant Sandurni d’Anoia. This otherwise unremarkable place is home to the world’s two most important CAVA producers, namely Codorniu and Freix- enet. These two giants dominate the CAVA landscape but there are plenty of good small producers not only in Catalonia but also other northern Spanish regions like Aragon. Made using the traditional method of second fermentation in the bottle these wines are among the most affordable quality sparklers.

Most often a blend of the three local Spanish varieties Macabeu, Parellada, Xarel-lo, other grapes like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Subirat can also be used to make CAVA wines. Basic CAVAs are crisp, lightly fruity wines while CAVA Gran Reserva sparklers are more serious and complex wines that increasingly can compete with top- level Champagnes. At any level, CAVA sparklers are better values than Cham- pagne. Unless you have money to burn or seriously need to impress someone, there’s little justification in splurging on an aperitif. CAVA is your affordable and appetizing answer. Quality bub- blies are an uplifting experience and this is especially true before a meal. The fine bubbles of a CAVA tickle your palate while the freshness of the wine stimulates your hunger. Reasonably priced and easy to find CAVAs that I recommend as an aperitif include the Freixenet Corton Negro, a nicely fresh brut style wine, and Freixenet Nevada, a slightly sweeter more fruity sparkler. Codorniu, Segura and Reyes de Aragon also make mouthwatering CAVAs. 

Customer Service: (86-21) 52920164