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Chinese basketball star launches Napa wine

Retired Chinese basketball star Yao Ming is returning to his homeland – with a 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon launched under his name.

Yao, who at 7ft 6in (2.29m) was the tallest player in the National Basketball Association (NBA) until his retirement earlier this year, established Yao Family Wines and will launch the Cabernet in China immediately, before a launch in the US next year.

The company said the grapes for the inaugural Yao Ming 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon were sourced from ‘prestigious Napa Valley vineyards with a reputation for excellent fruit’.

It added that the final blend was chosen from selected barrels, with all the wine aged for at least 18 months in French oak.

Shanghai-born Yao measured 5ft 5in at the age of 10, and played for the Houston Rockets in the NBA, reaching the play-offs four times and being named in the All-NBA Team five times.

He later bought the Shanghai Sharks, the basketball team where he made his debut a teenager in China.

Yao said he believed wine could ‘bring people together’, adding: ‘Basketball gave me the opportunity to live in the United States and discover many wonderful things in America. Now I look forward to bringing great wines from California back to the Chinese people.’

Yao Family Wines has appointed French drinks giant Pernod Ricard as the sole and exclusive importer and distributor of Yao Ming wines in mainland China.

Written by Richard Woodard

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