Tag Archives: wine and health

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Wine will kill you — or not

Wine will kill you -- or notThe Wine Curmudgeon will periodically relax his long-time ban on wine-related health news on the blog to remind everyone why there is a ban on health news on the blog. Like when we’re told wine will kill you — or not:

? A former World Health Organization official says “moderate drinking is better than abstaining and heavy drinking is worse than abstaining – ? however the moderate amounts can be higher than the guidelines say, ? as much as a bottle of wine a day.

? A current World Health Organization officlal says half of new cancers over the next 20 years are preventable if people change their lifestyles, and that includes giving up drinking.

How are we supposed to make a decision given such contradictory opinions from two people who seem to have the same qualifications? It’s enough, if you don’t mind the bad joke, to drive one to drink.

Some of this, as noted before, is sloppy reporting. But some of it is the medical community, which often lumps drinking with tobacco as inherently evil — except when it doesn’t. Too many studies are either limited in scope or seem to pick and choose to fit the researcher’s agenda. Cases in point: The alcoholism rate in the U.S. is about 8 percent for adults, while it may be as high as 14 percent in Russia. And that a majority of alcohol-related deaths in the U.S. involve non-Latino whites, but that the highest death rates were among Native Americans and Alaska Natives. None of the numbers offers the demographic pattern for a one size fits all solution.

One day, perhaps, the medical community will figure this out. Until then, the ban remains.

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Winebits 321: NeoDry edition

Winebits 321: NeoDry edition

No, no, no — drinking isn’t good for you.

Because there are a lot of people who don’t drink or think those of us who do drink too much:

? One out of two: One of the most telling statistics in the wine world? That 40 percent of Americans don’t drink, a figure that shows up in almost survey of U.S. liquor habits. It showed up again in the recent Wine Market Council study of wine drinking in 2013, where 35 percent of respondents said they didn’t drink and 21 percent were identified as “non-adapters,” those who drink rarely. In other words, more than one-half of adults in the U.S. aren’t interested in drinking wine, one of the few pieces of bad news in a report that otherwise demonstrated wine’s growing popularity. Regular visitors here know who the Wine Curmudgeon blames for this, and it’s not religion. It’s the wine business, for doing everything it can to make wine too difficult for all but the most dedicated among us.

? Ending cancer by abstinence: That’s the goal of the World Health Organization, which said in its 2014 report that alcohol is one of the seven leading causes of cancer, and that cancer is growing at unprecedented rates. Hence the only way to halt the growth was to eliminate the causes, like drinking. Said one of the report’s editors: “”The extent to which we modify the availability of alcohol, the labelling of alcohol, the promotion of alcohol and the price of alcohol — those things should be on the agenda.” Ironically, it also cited delayed parenthood and having fewer children as a major cause of cancer, which makes the Wine Curmudgeon wonder: If we eliminate drinking, how are we going to solve the fewer children problem?

? Not at the World Cup: Want to get a belt while watching soccer’s World Cup on TV later this year? It will be more difficult in Britain, where the government has banned cutting booze prices to attract customers. The Drinks Business trade magazine reports that the crime prevention minister said: ?The coalition Government is determined to tackle alcohol-fuelled crime, which costs England and Wales around 11 billion (about US$18.5 billion) a year.” Ironically, the minimum pricing scheme has been criticised by alcohol charities, including Alcohol Concern, which said the measures were ?laughable ? and that enforcing it would be impossible. Even the government said it woudn’t cut drinking by much, and that ?limited impact on responsible consumers who drink moderate amounts of alcohol.” Almost makes three-tier sound like a good idea, no?

 

 

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Winebits 319: Malbec, health, Champagne

Winebits 319: Malbec, health, Champagne

“Bring on the cheap malbec!”

? “Apr s moi, le d luge“: Which would be the price of malbec after the collapse of the Argentine peso in January. Malbec is the national grape of Argentina, and its economic crisis will not only force down the price of its malbec, but prices of malbec regardless of origin as well as most cheap red wine. Because that’s how the law of supply and demand works. Or, as Lew Perdue at Wine Industry Insight wrote: “Think Australian invasion before the U.S. screwed up the value of its currency and sent the Aussie dollar soaring.” This is another example of why it’s so difficult to predict when wine prices will rise — too many moving parts to take into account. How can a company charge more for ts California grocery store merlot when the competition is dumping something similar, like malbec, in the U.S. thanks to a currency flop?

? How much did all that wine really hurt? Englishman Chris Chataway, one of the world’s great distance runners in the 1950s and who helped Roger Bannister break the four-minute mile in 1954, died in January. His New York Times obituary reported that Chataway ran a 5:48 mile when he was 64, 41 years later, but wasn’t entirely satisfied with the effort. One possible explanation: Chataway told a friend he had smoked 400 pounds of tobacco and drank more than 7,000 liters of wine (almost 10,000 bottles) since the 1954 race. Which demonstrates that he was not only a world-class runner, but a pretty funny fellow who enjoyed his wine, and which is also why this is blog-worthy despite the ban of health-related wine news.

? The power of price: Asda, the British grocery store chain, wasn’t selling much of its private label Pierre Darcys Champagne over the holidays. So it cut the price from 24.25 to 10 (from about US$40 to US$17). No surprise what happened next, is there? A British trade magazine reports that the supermarket sold almost 8 million worth (about $US13.4 million) of Pierre Darcys in the 12 weeks ending Jan. 4. That made the brand the fifth-best selling Champagne in Britain over the holidays, beating top names like Piper-Heidsieck and Taittinger — despite being sold only at one retailer. This, of course, is the other component in wine pricing: How do we account for the power of consumers?

Ask the WC 2: Health, food pairings, weddings

Because the customers always write, and the Wine Curmudgeon has answers every month or so. Ask a wine-related question by clicking .

Dear Wine Curmudgeon:
Why do doctors say red wine is more heart healthy than white wines? I have acid reflux and whites, roses, and light bodied red wines seem easier on me than heavy red wines. I want to drink heart healthy if possible.
Aging as well as I can in Texas

Dear Aging:
Red wine has more resveratrol, which comes from grape skins, than whites, and roses. Which makes sense, since the skins are used in making red wine more than they are in rose and white. Doctors think resveratrol helps prevent blood vessel damage, cuts bad cholesterol, and can even help with blood clots. Having said that, wine and health remains a controversial subject, and some physicians figure the bad things about wine outweigh the good. I don ?t, and I firmly believe in a heart-healthy lifestyle ? wine in moderation, walking the dogs, and lots of fiber.

?

Dear Cranky Wine Guy:
You offer wine and food pairing suggestions with your reviews, but also write that we should drink what we want and not worry about stuff like that. What am I supposed to think?
Confused reader in the Midwest

Dear Confused:
That contradiction has always bothered me; the last thing I want to do is scare people away with food pairing rules. On the other hand, to paraphrase Paula Lambert, one of the world ?s great artisan cheesemakers, there is a relationship between the two. She says to look for wine that makes the food taste better and for food that makes the wine taste better. Most pairing suggestions will get you close, and you ?ll often be surprised by how much better each tastes. Though, if you want big red wine with crab cakes, who am I to stop you?

?

Dear Wine Curmudgeon:
My daughter is getting married next year, and we ?ve already had problems finding wine for the reception. It ?s expensive, I don ?t understand the process, and I ?m afraid we ?ll get wine that no one likes. Can you help?
Perplexed future mother-in-law

Dear Perplexed:
The WC gets that question all the time, which is why I wrote a wine for your wedding post covering caterers, hotels, pricing, and suggestions about what to serve. In general, It’s your wedding — pick the wine you want and can afford, and don ?t worry about what people think. Anyone who goes to a wedding and complains about the wine probably shouldn ?t have been invited.

Winebits 272: Randall Grahm, alcohol ads, wine and health

? Is the world upside down? The Wine Spectator ?s James Laube writes a mostly favorable profile of Bonny Doon ?s irrepressible Randall Grahm. Why is this so odd? For one thing, Grahm has never had any use for the Winestream Media, scores, the kinds of wines it likes, and how the system works. For another, he once wrote of Laube: ?I’d rather have a frontal lobotomy than a Laube in front of me.” Laube mostly let bygones be bygones: ?The latest wines are striking for their structure and individuality. Though, in true Winestream Media fashion, only one of the four wines reviewed in the piece scored higher than a 90. Which, given my experience with Grahm ?s wines, once again emphasizes how useless scores are.

? Ban ?em all! A British doctors ? group wants to phase out all alcohol advertising as part of its latest campaign to tackle the country ?s drinking problem. The Alcohol Health Alliance says children need to be protected from booze ads; hence its plan to restrict them to newspapers and magazines with an adult readership. Eventually, all ads and sponsorships for alcohol products would be banned. This is an amazing proposal from the country that gave the world civil liberties in the Magna Carta, and raises all sorts of constitutional questions. I wonder: What would Horace Rumpole, whose love of cheap wine was surpassed only by his respect for Magna Carta, ”our ancient rights of freedom,’ ? say to the doctors?

? One more silly claim: The Wine Curmudgeon would be happier if health claims for wine would be banned, which I ?ve done here on the blog. The only reason I ?m mentioning this one is that it demonstrates why all of this is so foolish. Red wine, in moderation, can help old farts like the WC make women happy. Does this mean my natural charm isn ?t enough?

One more reason why there’s no health news on the blog

The Wine Curmudgeon banned health news from the blog in 2009, after Italian researchers discovered that women who are drunk are easier to seduce. Did the world really need a study to know that?

Since then, I have remained ever vigilant. Wine, for some reason, has attracted the attention of researchers over the past decade in a way that ?s hard to understand. Let ?s cure cancer or AIDs; why all this fuss about wine?

The latest wine research that will make absolutely in difference in anyone ?s life comes from Rhode Island, where a study looked at the effects of red wine and vodka on pigs with high cholesterol. This raises so many questions that I don ?t even know where to begin: How do pigs get high cholesterol? They can ?t be eating too much fatty bacon or sausage, can they? Why vodka and not gin or bourbon?

The best part of the study? That moderate consumption of red wine and vodka may reduce cardiovascular risk, and that red wine may be more effective than vodka in doing so. I could have told you that, and the only medical degree I have is the one my mother wanted me to get.

So, once again, another reason to ban health news from the blog. We don ?t need research to know that drinking wine in moderation is a good thing; Julia Child was saying that 50 years ago.

(And a tip o ? the Curmudgeon ?s fedora to The Italian Wine Guy, who sent this item my way and whose sense of irony may be even more developed than mine.)

Five wine facts that aren’t necessarily facts

wine mythsThe wine world is full of people who know exactly what they ?re talking about, even when they don ?t. My pal John Bratcher loves to tell the story about the guy at a wine tasting who said in no uncertain terms that blended wines were inferior to varietal wines (those made with just one grape, like chardonnay or merlot, instead of more than one grape). John then mentioned that all of the great French red wines were blends; how did that fit into the man ?s world view?

So the next time you ?re buying wine, don ?t be afraid to be skeptical. Taste is in the palate of the beholder, but there are objective truths about wine and the wine business. After the jump, five of the most annoying facts that really aren ?t:

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