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Yao Ming: Basketball Player, Shark Saver, Wine Maker

The last time we wrote about Yao Ming, it was to cover the former Houston Rockets center's fight against shark fin soup consumption in his home country, China, where the soup is considered a luxury and a necessity at large banquets and parties.

Now, the retired basketball player is making news for introducing a different kind of luxury item to China: wine.

Yao Family Wines, Yao's brand of Napa Valley wines, will be distributed in China by French beverage giant Pernod Ricard SA. China's fledgling wine market is currently experiencing a massive boom, which the 31-year-old Yao is eager to take advantage of.

Yao is also a wine connoisseur himself, though, a new interest which he attributes to his former Rockets teammate Dikembe Mutombo.

"I always watched him at our dinners and I'd sometimes ask him 'Why are you doing that?'" Yao told the Wall Street Journal. "I was just trying to copy him."

The retired basketball player noted that while other Chinese like himself had come to appreciate wine -- consumption of the stuff doubled in China from 2005 to 2009 -- they weren't drinking American wine; only French. And just as Yao raised Chinese awareness and appreciation of an American sport, basketball, he hopes that his brand of wine will popularize American wines there too.

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Yao's brand of California wines released under his family name, Yao, won't come cheap though. The initial 5,000-case run of Cabernet Sauvignon will cost $289 a bottle (that's 1,775 yuan), a price which includes a 27 percent import duty and a 17 percent sales tax. Yao's second production run will be even smaller at 500 cases, and this Yao Family Reserve wine will cost even more.

And in case you're wondering whether or not you'll be able to try Yao's wine here at his father's restaurant in Houston, Yao Restaurant & Bar, the answer is no. Yao Family Wines will be sold exclusively in China.


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