Monday, July 6, 2020

Value of an Original Wooden Case: Unopened vs. Opened


Mona Lisa with a glass of wine and a bottle  revisited by ©LeDomduVin 2020
Mona Lisa with a glass of wine and a bottle
revisited by ©LeDomduVin 2020



Value of an Original Wooden Case: 
Unopened vs. Opened 



Is the value of an unopened OWC higher than an opened one? 

I was recently asked about "the negative impact of wine values caused by opened original wooden cases (OWC)", meaning, in fact, 
  • "Does an unopened original wooden case (OWC) has more value than an opened one?" 
or, again, asked differently: 
  • "Can the value of an OWC depreciate if opened compared to an unopened one?"
While browsing the internet, I could not find a specific answer or article on the subject, which surprised me as the matter has been (and still is) a recurring subject of controversial discussions amongst wine buyers and more especially amongst wine collectors, (which prompted me to write this post to try to answer these questions with my own views and experiences). 

So, to immediately cut to the chase and get to the point, in short, the answer is logically (and, in my opinion, will always be): YES 

Unopened "Original Wooden Cases" (OWC) or even "Original Carton" (OC) (sometimes abbreviated OCB for "Original Carton Box"), will always have more value than opened ones. More especially, if sealed with the original band, either from the winery (Château or Domaine) or from the Négociant or the official distributor/wine-merchant. 

In fact, unopened OWC / OC, (moreover if sealed with the original band), can/should/will have a direct impact on both the monetary value of the wine and its intrinsic value to you (whether moral, historical, sentimental or emotional).      

It is even more especially true for the top tiers and prestigious Châteaux and Domaines, predominantly from Bordeaux and Burgundy, which usually command a hefty price tag if sealed/unopened OWC. 


Great wine is like a Mona Lisa

Great wine is like this painting of Da Vinci's Mona Lisa above (that I personally revisited by adding a glass of wine and a bottle to illustrate this post), rare and expensive, complex and layered, mysterious, intriguing, surprising and (usually) better with age, only revealing itself after a certain time of opening or decanting. 

Similarly to the effects Mona Lisa's eyebrows-less eyes and tight-lipped smile, as well as her poise and composure, procure to the mind and spirit, the complexity and the details of the aromas and the sensation a great wine procures to the eyes, nose and palate, create a puzzling, yet fascinating, almost bewitching edge to it.    

Like for famous paintings, (or any other valuables), the most renowned Châteaux and Domaines have long understood that it is important to protect these treasurable bottles. 

Securing and enclosing them in marked Original Wooden Cases (OWC), bearing the name of the estate and other details of the content, sealed closed by nails, became the norm early XXth century and appeared to be the best way to protect them from both shocks and/or breakage during handling and/or transit, as well as to ease the storage process.  

Yet, it did not protect them from anyone (thieves, fraudsters or even counterfeiters) to gently and carefully open the lid prior to putting it back after finishing their larceny, which prompted the top tier Châteaux and Domaines to secure their OWC cases with a solid strap or band around the box (metallic historically, nowadays usually made of plastic or other synthetic materials). 


From Metallic to plastic/synthetic material bands

Until about a decade or two ago, some of these illustrious Châteaux and Domaines were even going to the trouble of sealing their original wooden case (or box), with a metallic band, like "Domaine de la Romanée Conti" (DRC), to further protect their precious gems.  



Domaine de la Romanee Conti OWC with Metallic band  courtesy of WineBid.com
Domaine de la Romanee Conti OWC with Metallic band
courtesy of WineBid.com



On that note, Domaine de la Romanée Conti (DRC) has changed, (in the early 2000s, I believe, but not sure exactly when), its original band from the metallic one (in the picture above) to the plastic/synthetic one (in the picture below), now bearing the name of the property on it.    



Domaine de la Romanee Conti OWC with plastic band  courtesy of PleasureWine.com
Domaine de la Romanee Conti OWC with plastic band
courtesy of PleasureWine.com



Some of Bordeaux Great Growths and other Chateaux have also been banding their precious cases with metallic bands until the end of the last century. Then, replaced it with the plastic or synthetic ones, like on this case of Petrus below, for example, nowadays bearing original bands with the Petrus logo.   



Petrus OWC with plastic bands ©LeDomduVin 2020
Petrus OWC with plastic bands
©LeDomduVin 2020



NB: Although the plastic or synthetic bands, nowadays, usually bear the logo and/or the name of the estate (Chateaux ou Domaine), some bands might also bear the name of the official Négociant or distributor/wine-merchant, like "JP Moueix" for Petrus, for example, (like on the picture below). 



Petrus OWC with Original Négociant Band JP Moueix ©LeDomduVin 2020
Petrus OWC
with Original Négociant Band JP Moueix
©LeDomduVin 2020

    

One may notice that to prevent the band to easily be pulled out from the case, the wood of the lid and the bottom of the cases (of Petrus above) have been carved with two lines serving as reinforcing paths for the bands to fasten the case more securely. 

Not all wineries have adopted these carved band paths on their wooden cases, yet it has become more common now than it was roughly a decade ago when it first started to appear, especially with the first growths of Bordeaux from both Left and Right banks.  


Original Carton Box atop Original Wooden Case for extra security

Some wineries like Château Cheval Blanc, for example, have even been to the trouble of covering (or enclosing) their original wooden cases into an original carton box, instead of or even in addition to the original bands, that way adding an extra layer of security to prevent anyone from messing around the content.    


Chateau Cheval Blanc 2012 Carton Box atop the Original Wooden Case ©LeDomduVin 2020
Chateau Cheval Blanc 2012
Carton Box atop the Original Wooden Case
©LeDomduVin 2020



Not sure if the consequences on the environment have been taken into consideration when they had this idea... Let's just hope the carton box is, at least, made of recycled cartons. 

Aside from this negative note of using more wood related product, and thus (directly or indirectly)  impacting the environment, contributing to deforestation, having a greater carbon footprint and generating more waste, the positive note of having such a carton box atop the original wooden case is that it can only be open intentionally.

Meaning that if wooden cases can gently and carefully be opened and sealed back without leaving much opening marks (it is a tricky art that requires experience and skill, but it can be done, I have done it countless times), the carton box (like the one above), on the other end, has been conceived in such way that it can only be opened once (you can see the peeling band on the side, once peeled, it cannot be put back together or closed back the way it was). 

However, even if conceived with extra security for the wine in mind, and no matter how genius this idea is, it is unfortunately not really respectful of the environment. Which, in fact, is quite surprising for an estate like Château Cheval Blanc, which is claiming the sustainability of its culture in the vineyards, along their vegetable garden cultivated under the permaculture (*), their 16 beehives and the many fruit trees they possess, creating great biodiversity helping them fight against vine diseases more naturally and in respect with the environment.  

More especially knowing that Château Cheval Blanc roughly produces about 6000 cases (12 bottles) of the Grand Vin or about 72000 bottles, or 12000 cases of 6 bottles (like the one on the picture above) with original carton box atop the original wooden case... That's a lot of cartons...  (and about 2000 cases of the 2nd wine). 

However, although cartons produce a lot of waste, they are mostly recyclable, which might not be the case for the plastic (or other synthetic materials) used to fabricate the original bands (those with the winery or wine-merchant prints on them), and the blank ones too, that we can see on most OWC cases nowadays.   






The roles and importance of the original band 

The winery's (or wine-merchant) original band has 3 different roles: 
  1. Secure the sealing of the case by 
    • preventing someone to easily open the lid or bottom part of the OWC case  
  2. Serve as extra protection of the wines, more especially during transit or shipping, by 
    • maintaining the lid tightly closed 
    • preventing someone to mess around with the case (like in 1.) 
    • preventing the case to accidentally come open (in case of an eventual incident occurring at departure or arrival or even during transit)  
  3. And more importantly, ensuring 
    • the provenance, quality and conditions of the bottles inside, 
    • as well as adding genuine intrinsic value to the whole case (and its content) 





Cutting or not cutting the original band? That is the question...

Wholesalers usually buy wines directly at the property, or from Négociants or other official appointed vendors, and therefore, the OWC cases might be banded with the winery original band. In turn, as they usually sell goods in large quantities, typically to retailers, or even distributors, they will not cut the original band, as it is proof of the provenance/sourcing of the wines.  

Wine Retailers (cavistes, supermarkets, or even restaurants and hotels), who usually buy wines from the wholesalers (or agents or distributors or more recently directly from the producers), might tend to cut the original band and opened the OWC, as they normally sell by the bottle or smaller quantities rather than by the full case. 

NB: That said, Retailers (cavistes, supermarkets, or even restaurants and hotels) might keep some full cases aside, untouched and unopened, just in case, for either storage or investment or ageing purposes. But, only a few of them, (more especially the smaller structures), have neither space nor the finance to do so. Hence, they usually, end up cutting the band and opening the cases, at some point, as it is easier for them to sell by the unit.

Auction Houses: Although prestigious and established auction houses like Christie's, Sotheby's and Acker Merrall & Condit, nowadays, tend to cut or break the band (or seal) of unopened OWC (and even the one on the original carton box, if any) to check and inspect the content, it used to be a time when they did not.  

In fact, Auction Houses policies and opinions, on the matter of cut the band (if any) and opening sealed OWC (or not), have evolved over the past decade, and often greatly differ from one auction house to another. 

Yet, although the matter remains quite controversial, within the wine community, as everyone seems to have his/her own opinion and point of view (without being able to find a compromise), the auction houses seem to have gone from one extreme to another, all agreeing on the fact that now (compared to 10 years ago), the band should be cut/broken and the case open to inspect the content.   


The story behind "Why Auction Houses cut the band and open the OWC cases nowadays?" 

Historically, (roughly prior to 2010), unopened OWC cases, (especially if sealed with either a metallic band or the winery or official wine-merchant band), were left sealed and untouched as a guarantee of the provenance/sourcing. 

Thus, ensuring the genuine origin, quality, quantity and pristine conditions of the bottles inside, as well as matching the wine description, vintage and volume (bottle format) indicated on the OWC.  Hence, indicating that no one messed around with the content of the case. 

NB: Note that, back then, in most case scenarios, as most Auction Houses did not necessarily inspect the content (of the unopened or even sealed/banded OWC cases), the ownership and storage conditions history, prior to the sale, was the sole guarantee of the good conditions of the bottles and the wine inside.   
      
Even though a banded case fetched a little bit more money at auction, back then, documented pristine provenance (ownership and storage conditions history) was usually the most important factor (if /when available and beyond authentication of the wine's identity) when it came to assessing a wine's value at auction.

Bidders and collectors usually paid a higher price for such untouched, unopened and sealed OWC cases back then (some still are now, if or when they can find one... that is). 

When wines were put up for sale at Auctions, many bidders and collectors considered an unopened original wooden case to be more valuable, as it was evident that the wine had not been tampered with or manipulated since it left the winery. Even more so if the OWC was banded. 

Consequently, back then, Auction Houses were pretty much all in agreement with the fact that unless the case condition and/or provenance is doubtful and full inspection must be done, for all unopened/sealed/banded OWC, the band/seal should not be cut and the case not be opened.     

However, things have changed since then.    

Nowadays, although the matter of cutting/breaking the band and opening the OWC cases (for full inspection) is still debated, most Auction Houses have adopted a different attitude toward the matter, by saying, contrastingly, compared to a decade ago, that it is now necessary to open the previously unopened/untouched and/or even banded/sealed OWC cases to check and inspect the content. 

And, evidently, it has mostly something to do with fake and counterfeits.  


Fake and Counterfeits

This change of attitude (from the Auction Houses) was first triggered around 2010 when rumours of large amounts of counterfeits and fake bottles of wines had been spreading throughout the market for a few years already and suspicions were high. 

Although counterfeits and fakes already existed well before, mainly since the 60s-70s, they always remained quite low in numbers, and, except on a few notable yet rare occasions, only appeared occasionally and sporadically up until the early 2000s. 

Then, in the late 2000s and early 2010s, it became obvious that high-quality counterfeits and fakes had been around for a little while now. More especially in 2012, when Rudy Kurniawan was arrested for wine fraud, after having sold countless amount of fake and counterfeited bottles of old vintages and large formats of rare and expensive wines (for at least 6 years prior to his arrest).  

Rudy counterfeited numerous unique bottles of iconic wines such as magnums of Le Pin 1982, Chateau Lafleur 1947, and other Bordeaux, as well as Domaine de la Romanee Conti, Domaine Ponsot, amongst other Burgundy wines. And, from the early 2000s until his arrest in 2012, successfully managed to sell them to acquaintances, bidders and collectors, via some of the world most famous Auction Houses. 

Rudy's first fake lots were sold at two major auctions at Acker Merrall and Condit back in 2006, which ended up generating long-lasting bidder's suspicions toward this auction house, right after his arrest in March 2012. 

Yet, other prestigious Auction Houses such as Christie's, Sotheby's and Spectrum Wine Auctions also fell into Rudy's trap and/or denounced the scam and/or add to withdraw some suspicious lots right before the auctions.       

Rudy's scam scheme and arrest marked an important historical point in time for auction houses and the overall world wine market. The auction market was wounded. Bidders were suspicious. And both wine professionals and the public came to realise that the market was, in fact, flooded with fakes and counterfeits, and more importantly that Rudy was only the tip of the iceberg, as a few other wine fraudsters and counterfeiters were also arrested around the same period of time in the early 2010s. 

Since then, it has been said that at least 15-20% of the top tier wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy in the market are probably fakes or counterfeits. If you take Lafite Rothschild, for example, there are probably more bottles on the market than the original total amount that was ever produced at the Chateau.      

Historically, wine fraud has always existed, one way or another. Whether it was by enhancing weak wine (due to weak vintage) with other grape varieties from warmer climates (adding Rhone varieties with the Pinot Noir in Burgundy, or adding Spanish grapes such Tempranillo or other grapes even from North Africa (e.g. Maroc) to strengthen weak Bordeaux wines for example, or adding water to increase the quantity, adding sugar to increase the alcohol, adding wood chips in stainless still tanks, etc... and whatever else you can think of, it has probably been done, one way or another.               

Up until the early 1980s, certain fraudulent practices were all fine and even admitted as common practices to a certain extent, as most people knew about them and accepted them, closing their eyes, even if it was against the Appellation's rules.   

What happened next changed the wine buying and selling scene forever.  Robert Parker Junior, a lawyer passionate about wine who was writing detailed and persuasive notes and reviews about all wines he tasted, consigning them into a newsletter firstly intended to his family, friends and colleagues, came to Bordeaux to assess, evaluate and rate the 1982 vintage. 

From that moment on, wine became a luxury good, a commodity, an object of speculation, which would rapidly become sought after by both amateurs and avid wine collectors. And the top tiers Bordeaux and Burgundian wines have never been seen as a beverage to be consumed ever since. Parker's visit and the resulting 1982 vintage ratings he produced for in his newsletter (wine publication) called the "Wine Advocate" was the turning point in wine fraud history. Basically when it all started.     

As per Wikipedia: "One of the most famous, alleged purveyors of label fraud is wine collector Hardy Rodenstock. In the 1980s and 1990s, Rodenstock hosted a series of high-profile wine tasting events of old and rare wines from his collection, including many from the 18th and 19th centuries. He invited to these tastings dignitaries, celebrities and internationally acclaimed wine writers and critics such as Jancis Robinson, Robert M. Parker, Jr. and Michael Broadbent who at the time was a director at the London auction house Christie's and considered one of the world's foremost authorities on rare wine."
 
Therefore, Rudy was not the first wine fraudster and counterfeiter, and he won't be the last, and who knows he might do it again after his release from prison in 2022. However, on the positive note, his arrest and sentence to 10 years in prison had the merit to open the eyes of the Auctioneers on acting to prevent fakes and counterfeits to be sold at auctions, and in order to do so to change their methods and point of views on cutting the original band and opening unopened OWC.     

That's what explains the fact that, still, 10 years ago, common practices were to leave all sealed OWC untouched and in their original conditions, and that, nowadays, most auctioneers tend to break or cut the band/seal, open the case to proceed to the full inspection of each bottle in each case for each lot.  

As per Christies.....
   
.....

***Work in progress - to be finished soon***
.......


However, it is a common fact that unopened original wooden cases of wine have more value than opened ones, for the following reasons included in this Unopened vs Opened Original Wooden Cases comparison table (a better visual when comparing): 


  

 

Unopened Original Wooden Cases

Opened Original Wooden Cases

Provenance

We buy straight from the Chateau/winery or from the official vendors/distributor/wine merchants, therefore we can prove the provenance and the authenticity of the bottles

 

Provenance and authenticity could be hazardous

Historic of the cases may not be known

Especially when not bought directly from the Chateau/winery or from the official vendors/distributor/wine merchants (e.g. auctions)

 

Quality

 

Unopened OWC means that all bottles come from the same source and therefore have not been mixed with bottles from other cases and should present the same quality as kept in the same conditions (T/H)

 

Bottles could have been mixed from other cases and the case reconstituted, and therefore may present variations

Conditions

 

Bottle and wine conditions are pristine when bought and shipped directly from the Chateau/winery or the official vendors/distributor/wine merchants as always at constant T/H level

 

Conditions may have not been ideal if the case was opened and the bottles may have been checked, removed, and put back

Customer’s reassurance

Unopened OWC is a reassurance for customers in terms of the provenance, quality, and conditions

 

Previously opened OWC might / will automatically raise questions from customers about provenance, quality, and conditions, and even authenticity

 

Value

 

Unopened original wooden cases (OWC) have a higher value for all the reasons above, and should not be opened for those reasons, unless to check the conditions of the bottles inside, in case of doubt on the quality of the bottles or in order to proceed with a full inspection of the bottles (when/if needed)

 

Technically, opened the original wooden case (OWC) have a lesser value for all the reasons above. 






*** Post in progress - To be finished soon *** 




Thank you, 

Santé! Cheers!

LeDomduVin (a.k.a. Dominique Noël) 


To end this post, I added a little text to my revisited Mona Lisa painting about natural wines...
Probably the subject of my next post... 




Mona Lisa with a glass of wine and a bottle by  ©LeDomduVin 2020 (V2 - Natural wine)
Mona Lisa with a glass of wine and a bottle by
©LeDomduVin 2020 (V2 - Natural wine)



"This natural wine smells and tastes like shit, but I have to keep smiling for appearance's sake..."
- Mona Lisa, 1503 




Sources, links and other related topics: 

(*) Permaculture: "Permaculture is a set of design principles centered on whole systems thinking, simulating, or directly utilizing the patterns and resilient features observed in natural ecosystems. It uses these principles in a growing number of fields from regenerative agriculture, rewilding, and community resilience." - Wikipedia

Talking about permaculture brings me the idea that one day I will dedicate a post to that eco-friendly type of culture that I love and will extend the post to talk about regenerative culture, which, in my opinion, is the only way to respect and save the environment and preserve the earth for a better future.    
Here is a quick visual (courtesy of General Mills) for you to better understand at one glance the benefits of permaculture and regenerative culture.  


The 6 Core Principles of Regenerative Agriculture - courtesy of General Mills
The 6 Core Principles of Regenerative Agriculture - courtesy of General Mills


But that is the subject of another post...... 

...til next time, be well and be safe, and take good care of yourself and your loved ones. 

LeDom


#davinci #monalisa #monalisarevisited #famouspainting #famouspaintingrevisited #paintingrevisited #lespeinturesrevisiteesadom #lesrevisitesadom #monalisawithaglassofwine #monalisawithabottleofwine #lajoconde #lajoconderevisitée #wine #vin #vino #wein #ledomduvin @ledomduvin #lescreationsadom #lesillustrationsadom #valueofanunopenedowc #owc #originalwoodencase #owcunopenedvsopened #originalwineryband #originalwineband #wineband




  

Copyright: Unless mentioned otherwise, all texts, visuals, illustrations and pictures ©LeDomduVin 2020

Monday, June 29, 2020

Redefining Fine Dining in Today's Day and Age


LeDomduVin Redefining Fine Dining in today day and age with Oumy Diaw
LeDomduVin Redefining Fine Dining 
in today day and age with Oumy Diaw




Redefining Fine Dining 
in Today's Day and Age


Last week, Oumy Diaw, founder and owner @TheChampagneSommelier.Official, contacted me to invite me to participate in a new Live Series on her Instagram Page titled "Redefining Fine Dining in today's Day and Age".

Oumy's concept for this New Live Series consists of talking with renown Sommeliers and other personalities of the Wine & Spirits world, as well as other Food & Beverage professionals working in Restaurants, Hotels and Wine & Spirits Retails from around the world, for them to express their views and opinions and eventual solutions on how Fine Dining could be redefined to strive and survive in the aftermath of Covid-19.      

Excited by the idea to participate in such a project and also be able to express my views, opinions and eventual solutions on the topic, I enthusiastically accepted her invitation (refer to the links further below at the bottom of this post to watch the live video).   

I was very proud and felt really privileged to do it, more especially when I realized that world-renown wine personalities such as Pascaline Lepeltier, MS (Master Sommelier) and MOF (Meilleur Ouvrier de France Sommelier 2018), as well as Rita Jammet, the owner of the famous restaurant "La Caravelle" in New York (closed since 2004), and owner of La Caravelle Champagne  (and a Bordeaux with the same name from Listrac, Médoc), were featured amongst the numerous guests of this project.  



COVID-19 - The Aftermath of the First Wave by ©Domelgabor 2020
COVID-19 - The Aftermath of the First Wave
by ©Domelgabor 2020



Over the last 6 months, since early January 2020, COVID-19 has spread all around the world creating havoc on its path and destabilizing the economy of most countries. 

More especially in the western world, where governments didn't take the threat seriously enough and early enough to be able to counter it on time to prevent the spreading and protect their citizens. 

It resulted in a complete mishandling of the situation and total miscommunication on how to handle and tackle it, plunging respectively each country, one after another, into both an unprecedented financial and a social crisis.     

Facing an ever-increasing number of infected cases and a rising death toll, many countries had to take drastic measures such as quarantine, isolation, curfew and even months-long confinement to curb the spread and prevent more disastrous consequences. 

As a result, financial and social stability started to crumble... 

People were (still are) losing their jobs with low or no more income. Most being completely disconnected from social resources and societal expectations. Unable to sustain their family any longer. Having to rely on food stamps/coupons. Some even were (still are) living in their car, as unable to pay for their rent no more. Millions of people around the world are now in dire needs of help and assistance to be able to face and overcome this situation.  

Businesses were (still are) closing, some temporarily, some for good with no hope to be able to reopen one day. Cinemas, exhibition centres, museums, library and other public places were (some still are) closed until further notice. 

People had to wear masks, use hand sanitizer, adopt social distancing and respect their distances, avoid gatherings or group activities, stay home as much as possible, and transition to telecommuting whenever possible. 

It was (still is) a huge change in most people's life, psychologically, emotionally, morally, spiritually and even physically. Some are still traumatised by their experience of these last 3-4 months. 

Moreover, due to a resurgence of the virus activities and spreading, currently occurring in various countries over the past few days, (more especially after a few weeks of easing of the situation and hopes for a brighter future), a growing fear of a second wave, having for consequences a re-confinement with quarantine, isolation and curfew, is rising in the mind of these people who might be able to cope with the situation once more.    



COVID-19 - Decovidment - COVOXYGEN by ©Domelgabor 2020 Tribute to Jean-Michel Jarre Oxygen Album Cover
COVID-19 - Decovidment - COVOXYGEN
by ©Domelgabor 2020
Tribute to Jean-Michel Jarre Oxygen Album Cover




The travelling, hospitality and tourism industry (planes, trains, buses and other transports in general, hotels, restaurants, bars, clubs, as well as other tourist-oriented services providers and businesses like the ecotourism and oenotourism) were the first to be impacted and immediately suffered the consequences of this chaotic situation. 

Over the last 3 months, the impossibility to travel to other counties killed the GDP of most countries depending mostly on travel, hospitality and tourism to thrive and survive. Hotels and restaurants saw their daily booking reduce to barely nothing, or even nothing at all for months where they had to close. 

"Where they had to close", as it was not the case everywhere. In Hong Kong, for example, we had no confinement and therefore all the hotels and restaurants never closed and remained open until now, without any interruptions.

Compared to most countries in Europe and the Western World in general, the majority of the countries and regions in Eastern Asia, more especially Hong Kong, handled the situation quite well from the beginning, by immediately taking drastic measures and actions, including, but not limited to:  
  • Asking people to wear a mask (which, they did on their own anyway, having the experience of previous epidemics and pandemics in my mind, more especially SARS-CoV in 2003)  
  • Closing the frontiers with the neighbouring countries (China)  
  • Monitoring people in all public places and office buildings with heat sensor-equipped cameras and/or constantly taking temperatures
  • a compulsory 14-day containment measure in January to isolate people considered to have been in close contact with patients, as well as people coming from high-risk places.
  • Providing hand sanitizers at the entrance of most public places
  • Distributing free washable and reusable masks   
  • Imposing a quarantine to all people coming from outside HK and make them wear a bracelet to distinguish them if they were disobeying the quarantine rule.  
  • Immediately isolating and taking care of the infected
  • Checking/investigating their immediate surroundings for other eventual potentially infected 
  • No gatherings or group of more than 4 people 
  • Imposing social distancing of 1.5 to 2 meters between people          

Yet, despite all these drastic measures and no confinement, COVID-19 has taken a toll on Hong Kong hospitality and tourism industry, which had already been tremendously impacted prior the virus due to all the ongoing protests since June 2019 that came to a halt in December 2019, when the first rumours of COVID-19 filtered out from the city of Wuhan, located in the Hubei province, in the central-eastern part of China.    

As per HK Gov website, HK tourism industry is one of the major pillars of the economy of Hong Kong. 

The total number of tourists coming to visit Hong Kong also called "Asia's World City 亞洲國際都會", or also the "Pearl of the Orient 東方之珠 ", or even "Le Port aux Parfums" (in French), amounts to about 66 million people and can roughly be divided in 60% of foreigners and 40% from mainland China.  

In 2017, it contributed to around 4% of Hong Kong’s GDP and employed around 257 100 persons, accounting for about 7% of total employment. In 2018, total visitor arrivals rose by 11.4% over 2017 to 65.15 million. In the first eight months of 2019, the total number of visitors rose by 4.0%.

Yet, this slight increase in the first half of 2019 did not last long as the protests, which started in June 2019, tarnish the tourist-friendly and attractive destination image of HK, scaring the tourists as well as some established companies that felt the need to consider delocalizing to another place like Singapore or Taiwan if necessary. 

Some did, fragilizing a little more an economy already weakened by a few years of the bad relationship between the HK Government and the people of Hong Kong. And by August 2019, HK lost roughly about 40% of tourist arrivals, mainly from mainland China, over the ongoing protest crisis. 

In the 6 months that followed until COVID-19 appeared, late December 2019, the protests somehow damaged the city and disrupted the life of Hong Kong people at so many levels (including disruptions in the MTR and trains, with most HK schools and businesses suffering, directly or indirectly, from the collateral damages of the protests and their impacts on the tourism and hospitality industry too.           


Now, end of June 2020, roughly 1 year after the beginning of the protests in HK, and about 6 months after the beginning of this devastating COVID-19 pandemic, in what we could call "The Aftermath of the First Wave", countries are reopening slowly, gradually easing the drastic measures put in place in the last 3-4 months.  

Restaurant and hotels are gradually reopening but business is still fairly low with only between 25-35% of booking capacity for Fine Dining over the last few weeks.

Hence the necessity of Oumy's project to openly ask the question to professionals of the industry: How to redefine Fine Dining in today's day and age? 

Meaning that, within the context in this COVID-19 pandemic's aftermath, what should we do and what can we do for Fine Dining establishments to continue to exist, thrive and survive? What are the eventual possibilities? What are the potential solutions in the short and long terms? What can be done for us to be able to safely go back to the restaurants while not being exposed to danger and not endangering others (clients and/or staff) at the same time? 

So far, Pascaline Lepeltier, Rita Jammet and I have tried to express our opinions, views and eventual solutions to resolve this situation. Yet, knowing Oumy and her determination, more guests will soon be featured in her "Redefining Fine Dining in today's Day and Age" Live series on her Instagram Page.              



* Work in progress - To be finished soon *     




Thank you, 

Santé! Cheers! 

LeDomduVin (a.k.a. Dominique Noël)




Sources and Useful & Related Links 

You can watch the live video while visiting her Instagram Professional Page at 

or directly by clicking on or cut and paste the following link 

You can also visit Oumy's Website at 

Pascaline Lepeltier, MS, MOF

Rita Jammet, La Caravelle Champagne 

Hong Kong: The Facts - Tourism

South China Morning Post article about Tourism Down over protest crisis


#instagram #intagramlive #finedining #redefiningfinedining #covid19 #aftermath #interview #ledom #ledomduvin @ledomduvin #domelgabor @domelgabor #lesillustrationsadom #lesdessinsadom #lescreationsadom #restaurant #hotel #tourism #hongkong

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Plastic is Fantastic !!!



Plastic is Fantastic !!! by ©LeDomduVin 2020 


Plastic is Fantastic !!!


I don't get it. I really don't. More than 20 years that scientists are telling us to reduce the production and consumption of plastic and derived products, and instead we can see even more plastic everywhere invading all corners of our daily life. What's up with that? 


A brief history of plastic

"Rubber" consists of natural polymers of the organic compound isoprene, harvested/collected in the form of the "latex", the white milky sap (or colloid) extracted from the rubber tree, which is then refined into rubber (via a chemical process called "vulcanization"), to be used for different purposes. 

Understandably, prior to the vulcanization process was invented in the 19th century, natural rubber only existed under its primal form known as "latex". 

Surprisingly enough, although latex has always existed, being present in rubber trees growing in various places around the globe (such as some countries of Africa, Asia and the Americas), and thus, could have been discovered and put to use long before, the first traces of its use only go back to 1600 BC, with the Mesoamericans (pre-Columbian societies of Central America) who, apparently, used natural rubber (latex) for balls, bands, and figurines. (*) 

After that, natural rubber and its uses remained pretty much the same, with no major breakthrough until the end of the 18th century. 

In fact, the evolution of "natural rubber" (latex) into "rubber", then later into "plastic" really started in the 19th century, with the process of vulcanisation and a few other primordial discoveries, like:  
  • 1844 - Patents of the vulcanisation of rubber deposited by Thomas Hancock (in the UK) first, then Charles Goodyear (in the US)
  • 1872 - PVC was accidentally invented
  • 1889 - Eastman Kodak successfully patented the celluloid film
  • and a few more...

At the dawn of the 20th century, the first "synthetic plastic" was invented by Leo Hendrik Baekeland, a Belgian-born American living in New York state. It was based on a synthetic polymer made from phenol and formaldehyde, with the first viable and cheap synthesis methods that Baekeland created in 1907. (**) 

In the 40 years that followed its creation, synthetic plastic triggered the interests of both scientists and industrials alike. It was then further studied, developed, enhanced, yet was mainly produced and mostly used for various household and industrial products, at first. 

Also, probably due to the timing of its creation and development between the two World Wars, plastic remained a kind of novelty up to the mid-1940s. 

The Golden Age of plastic came after WWII. Like for most petrochemicals derived products, the 2nd half of the 20th century marked the beginning of exponential growth and production, obviously accelerated at the time by the needs and demands of the Baby Boomers (my parent's generation, born between 1946 and 1964).


To resume and list some of the major advances made in terms of plastic evolution during the 20th century (*): 
  • 1941 - Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is discovered in Britain and expanded polystyrene is first produced
  • 1950 - DuPont begins the manufacture of polyester.
  • 1951 - Polymerized propylene for the first time to produce polypropylene
  • 1953 - Polycarbonate independently developed
  • 1954 - Polypropylene was discovered by Giulio Natta with production starting in 1957
  • 1954 - Expanded polystyrene, used for building insulation, packaging, and cup was invented by Dow Chemical.
  • 1957 - Italian firm Montecatini begin large-scale commercial production of isotactic polypropylene.


Which brings us to an interesting and historical point in time, important for this Wine Blog and more particularly for this specific post about plastic: 
  • 1960s - High-density polyethylene (or polythene) bottles are introduced to the market and soon replace glass bottles in most applications (soap, shampoo, detergent, chemicals, etc...).

This historical point in time was the moment that started the chain reaction, which led to the ever-growing production of plastic that we have been experiencing and living ever since (until today). 

Plastic, plastic and more plastic... (sigh). 


For those of you who may not know, polyethylene (or polythene) is basically the most popular plastic in the world. It is the polymer used to make pretty much everything we use in our daily life, from packaging and grocery bags to most bottles (soap, shampoo, sodas, wine, etc..), as well as children's toys, and even bulletproof vests. It is a very versatile material with a very simple structure, which represents the simplest of all commercial polymers. 

As of 2017, over 100 million tonnes of polyethylene resins are being produced annually, accounting for 34% of the total plastics market in the world. (***) 

So, to close this brief history of plastic, in the mid-60s, after polyethylene bottles were introduced to the market, industrials rapidly understood the benefits of synthetic plastic: low cost, easy to produce and manufacture, versatile, stretchable, moldable, fairly resistant and impervious to water. 

Consequently, plastics started to be heavily produced and used, as a part or as a whole, in a multitude of products and tools of different shapes, forms and scale, ranging from simple paper clips to parts of houses and other buildings and even vehicles like car, train, plane and even spacecraft. 

In less than a few decades after they were first invented, plastics of all kinds have prevailed over traditional materials, such as wood, stone, horn and bone, leather, metal, glass, and ceramic, in some products previously left to natural materials. (**) 



The plastics situation today


Nowadays, it is said that the global production of plastic roughly corresponds to 45 to 50kg of plastic / per person produced per year: 


45 kg x 7.6 billion people = 342,000,000,000 kg = 342,000,000 metric tonnes 


50 kg x 7.6 billion people = 380,000,000,000 kg = 380,000,000 metric tonnes 


Which seems to be correct, as the estimation from various websites (including www.statista.com) confirms that in 2018, for example, the world plastics production totalled around 359 million metric tons. 


Global Plastic production from 1950 to 2018 (in million metric tons)
courtesy of www.statista.com



FYI: a US "ton" only weight 2000 pounds = 907.1847 kg, and is therefore different than a "metric ton or tonne" which weights 1,000 kg. 


That's really a LOT of plastics, don't you think? 


More especially knowing that out of these 359 million metric tonnes produced per year (total from 2018 above): 
  • about 8 million metric tonnes (roughly 2.22%) are dumped into the oceans and seas around the globe every year
  • only about 35 million metric tonnes (roughly 9.75%) is recycled
  • thus, that's a whopping 90.25% (324 million metric tonnes) that is NOT recycled

Here is a comparison chart I made for you to have a better understanding of the situation and what I'm trying to say. 


Global Plastic Production Dumped - Recycled - Unrecycled 
by ©LeDomduVin 2020 (v2) 









And they're not many solutions to get rid of the unrecycled plastics, in fact, understandably and logically, there are only 3 solutions to waste disposal: unrecycled plastics are either: 

  • Incinerated: as per the statistic, this method only represents between 12-15%
    • Burned in specialized incinerators with smoke filters to minimize air pollution,
    • Or, burned outside in open fields (with no smoke filters) which is a major source of air pollution around
  • Buried: probably the most common way to do it in most countries, representing about 80-90% of most waste including plastics
    • Pilled up in opened fields becoming garbage landfills on which some people live and feed as they have no other alternative if they want to survive
    • Pilled underground and covered with dirt/soil, usually used as landfills for agriculture
  • Dumped in water: between 2-5% depending on the source
    • Dumped in rivers and lakes, ending up in oceans and seas eventually
    • Dumped in oceans and seas


Here is another comparison chart I made for you to have a better understanding of the situation. 



Global Waste - Plastics Disposal Methods Comparison 
by ©LeDomduVin 2020 



As you can see on the two charts above, the situation is quite desperate and critical, and not only for plastics but for waste in general. Yet, if I focus on plastics for this post, its because they are now used for pretty much everything and everywhere around the globe. 

And despite the warnings and suggestions from the scientists and other experts for the past 20-30 years now, the production of plastics never ceased nor decreased (refer to the chart of Global Plastic production from 1950 to 2018 (in million metric tons) courtesy of www.statista.com above)

In fact, plastics are present in between 5 to 75% in most things we use daily and in most places we work, live and leisure daily.

Concretely, if we were to divide the global total annual plastic production per sector (let's take the total of 359 million metric tons from 2018 as in the previous example above), it will look roughly as follow in the chart below (a visual is easier): 


Total Plastic Production per sector - per year by ©LeDomduVin 2020
Total Plastic Production per sector - per year
by ©LeDomduVin 2020



You would have surely guessed it if someone would have asked you the question prior to seeing such a chart, but "packaging" only represents roughly 36% of the global total annual plastic production.  

That's huge! But not surprising, more especially when you see the rise of products individually packed/wrapped (i.e fruits and vegetables) on the shelves of most supermarkets around the globe. 



Individually packed - wrapped fruit by ©LeDomduVin 2020
Individually packed - wrapped fruit
by ©LeDomduVin 2020


 
The packaging dilemma is a real problem growing exponentially a little more every year... this trend has to stop!... 


...which brings us to the initial main subject of this post.  


The Packaging dilemma 


So, now that we know a little more about plastic, let's move on to the main reason that prompted me to write this post in the first place: Packaging. 

One of my colleagues, at work, recently ordered some bottles of wines via an online wine store and received his packages at work, at it was easier for him.  

He went to an empty office and closed the door to open the packages without making to much noise and not disturbing the colleagues and me.  

The empty office he went to is near my desk, so, even if I could not see anything, I could still hear pretty much everything, even if slightly muffled.  

He started to open the packages, and could clearly hear the sound of the cutter cutting through the tape.  

Then, right after that, really loud noises could be heard, even if the door was closed. It sounded like if he was tearing up everything in the room, and I really started to wonder what he was doing in there.  

After quite a few minutes of chaotic sounds, he came out of the room and explained to us that the online store packed the bottles individually. 

So, first, he had to open the box, then go through an insanely large amount of plastic prior to finally the bottles reach... 

Judge for yourself on the following pictures



Shipping cartons with protective plastic packaging inside ©LeDomduVin 2020
Shipping cartons with protective plastic packaging inside
©LeDomduVin 2020




Basically, once he opened the shipping box, he quickly realized that the bottles had been first wrapped into some kind of protective net sleeve... 



Bottle wrapped in a net sleeve  ©LeDomduVin 2020
Bottle wrapped in a net sleeve 
©LeDomduVin 2020


 
Then, covered with bubble wrap on top...



Bubble Wrap ©LeDomduVin 2020
Bubble Wrap ©LeDomduVin 2020



Then, put into an inflatable air column bubble cushion reusable protective sleeve, covering the previous two layers...

 

Inflatable air column bubble cushion reusable protective sleeve ©LeDomduVin 2020
Inflatable air column bubble cushion reusable protective sleeve
©LeDomduVin 2020
 


Maintained in place within the box by small inflatable cushion bags



Small inflatable cushion bags ©LeDomduVin 2020
Small inflatable cushion bags
©LeDomduVin 2020



So, if we put everything together...







That's 5 layers basically...
  1. Fishnet sleeve (on each bottle)
  2. Bubble wrap (on top of the fishnet sleeve, on each bottle)
  3. Inflatable air column bubble cushion reusable protective sleeve (covering 1. & 2. for each bottle)
  4. Small inflatable cushion bags (to maintain 3. that has 1. and 2. already inside)
  5. The Carton box in which all the above come

And I fully understand that's only as a protection measure to ensure the bottles will not break and will arrive at destination in the original conditions, but still, in my opinion, that's insane! So many layers are totally unnecessary in my opinion.  

And imagine the impact on the environment? 

I know what you are about to say, it is fully reusable. And I will say that in theory and technically you are 300% correct.  

Yet, in reality, how many of us are keeping aside reusable shipping packaging for an eventual use and need later on?  A very small minority of us maybe ... people that are either in the wine business themselves or so conscious of the environment that they actually keep it for further use. But, otherwise, no one is really keeping it and/or end up putting it in the trash a few days later.  

And don't get me wrong, I fully understand also that in terms of bottle's safety and protection, plastic bubble wrap, plastic sleeve and cushion bags, are as good or even better than the classic styrofoam inserts and definitely safer than the simple carton dividers.  

However, in terms of environmental impact, styrofoam packaging is worst than plastic not biodegradable and cannot be recycled, which means that Styrofoam cups contribute to landfill trash. ... While plastic cups are not biodegradable either, many of them are recyclable, which does make them the more environmentally friendly option

 





We now live in a sanitized and sterile world, where our immune system is no longer able to fight on his own any diseases and virus, which would have been totally harmless and insignificant to our health 30-40 years ago. 


What I mean is that I grew up in the countryside drinking water from the well for more than 2 decades and I have always been in fairly good and strong health compared to most people I know. 


I very rarely went to the doctor and never really had to either, unless it was really serious; which, thank god and touch wood, has never really been the case, except once, here in Hong Kong, a few years ago, when I caught the rickettsia due to a nasty tick's bite when I was hiking around. 


I stayed for 10 days at the hospital and could have died as the pathogen's infection had already disseminated in my blood and contaminated several organs, more particularly my liver and was on its way to the kidneys and the lungs. A nasty Genus bacteria, I'm telling you. 


However, what I'm trying to say is that back in the old days, when I was young, people strength seemed stronger and plastic was mainly used and found in reusable and recyclable products. 













Thank you, 

Cheers! Sante!