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Tragic Death Mars Harvest in Bierzo

Plus, consultant Michel Rolland joins Château Lafitte, and new evidence that wine may prevent pimples

Posted: October 2, 2014

• The niece of Spanish winemaker Raul Pérez died this week at the family's winery in northwest Spain's Bierzo region. Nerea Pérez, 25, was inspecting a vat of fermenting wine on Monday when she was overcome by carbon dioxide fumes and fainted, according to police. She fell into the vat and suffocated. Raul discovered his unconscious niece and called the police, but medical personnel were unable to revive her after removing her body from the vat. The younger Pérez, who had worked at the winery since her college graduation two years ago, served as the secretary of the Socialist Youth of Bierzo organization, which suspended activities the day after her death out of respect. A memorial service was held for Pérez on Wednesday. Carbon dioxide is a natural byproduct of alcoholic fermentation, and the colorless, odorless gas can be lethal at a concentration of 9 percent over just five minutes, according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety Hazards.

• Château Lafitte, a Côtes de Bordeaux just south of the city proper across the Garonne, was last spotted in Unfiltered beating back Château Lafite Rothschild in the latest of a decade's worth of trademark battles the first-growth has brought against the smaller Lafitte. After triumphing in France to use their historic name, Lafitte, which goes for about $25 a pop, encountered resistance in the Chinese trademark office: "At the beginning the authorities in China didn't want to get our trademark registered. It took us about a year and a half to go many times over there and try to explain the situation and what happened in France," owner Philippe Mengin told Unfiltered. Just one obstacle: a three-month objection period, which is where Lafite Rothschild popped up. So that case remains up in the air, a headache for a winery that exports 95 percent of its product (that would be Lafitte). But Mengin is optimistic: "The good thing is that China, with the new president has a very good war against corruption and stuff like that, so they're working to make the truth [clear] for all the consumers. China is more and more recognizing intellectual property as it is in France." Meanwhile, Lafitte added 25 vineyard acres for this year's harvest (Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot), and "probably in the future we'll [add] more and more." Mengin also announced this week that he has brought on worldwide wine whisperer Michel Rolland to consult on his blends. "Philippe Mengin is making huge efforts to further raise the quality of his wines and I am very pleased to back him up," said Rolland in a statement issued by the winery.

• Teenagers may soon have a new excuse at their disposal when they get caught drinking: "Wine helps my acne!" According to a new study from UCLA, the red-wine compound resveratrol can inhibit acne-causing bacteria. Resveratrol is an antioxidant, which means it stops the formation of free radicals, molecules that can damage human tissue and cells over time. One of the most common acne medications, meanwhile, is an oxidant called benzoyl peroxide; it generates free radicals, which can kill Propionibacterium acnes, the acne bacteria. The UCLA researchers wanted to see what would happen when they exposed acne bacteria to both resveratrol and benzoyl peroxide. They grew colonies of the bacteria, then added the two compounds to the bacteria at different concentrations, both separately and together, and observed it over 10 days. An antioxidant plus an oxidant: Won't they just cancel each other out? Actually, no. Dr. Emma Taylor, lead author of the study, said in a statement, "This study demonstrates that combining an oxidant and an antioxidant may enhance each other and help sustain bacteria-fighting activity over a longer period of time.” On its own, resveratrol did some pretty impressive anti-acne combating. Although it didn't kill the bacteria very effectively, it inhibited bacterial growth for a long period of time. Benzoyl peroxide, even at low concentrations, initially killed the bacteria, but only for the first 24 hours. The strongest effects that the scientists observed were with the combination of benzoyl peroxide and resveratrol. “It was like combining the best of both worlds and offering a two-pronged attack on the bacteria,” said Dr. Jenny Kim, a study co-author. They hope that future research will find ways to use antioxidants in acne therapies.

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