Tag Archives: wine and health

Winebits 549: Wine and health, wine lists, and cava

wine and healthThis week’s wine news: Evidence that the WC was right in banning and wine and health news from the blog, plus intimidating wine lists and another cava producer sells out

Not on my blog: The Wine Curmudgeon has banned wine and health news on the blog since 2011, when an Italian study revealed that men get women drunk so they can have sex with them. Now, evidence that I’m not the only who feels these studies are foolish, flawed, or both. Reports Agence France Presse: There is a “a known but persistent problem in the research world: too few studies have large enough samples to support generalized conclusions. … But pressure on researchers, competition between journals and the media’s insatiable appetite for new studies announcing revolutionary breakthroughs has meant such articles continue to be published.” In other words, even studies in first-class academic journals – at least for health – must be viewed with skepticism. Because who needs a study to know that men get women drunk so they can have sex with them?

Intimidating wine lists: Almost three-quarters of British wine drinkers are intimidated by restaurant wine lists. More shocking study news, yes? Still, if this isn’t surprising, at least it will remind restaurants why they have so much trouble selling wine – something I see almost every time I eat out. Because, as the study noted, about one in three only buy when when it’s marked down and one in four buy the wine from the same region every time they buy it.

Codorniu gets out: Codorniu Raventos, another well-known cheap cava producer, has sold itself, following Freixenet’s sale earlier this year. Codorniu sold a majority stake to a hedge fund, The Carlyle Group, for €300 million. Its brands include the self-named cava, as well as the Zaca tempranillo. Again, not good news for those of us who appreciate quality cheap wine, as another large producer finds it’s not big enough to compete in the 21st century wine marketplace.

Winebits 512: Odd wine news edition

odd wine newsThis week’s odd wine news: Wine mentions in the media, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the mentions are newsworthy

But what if it had been Glen Ellen? The Morning News newspaper in Dallas, reporting a deadly drunk driving accident, noted that an “open bottle of Sutter Home cabernet sauvignon was found at the crash site.” I have been pondering that sentence since I read it, drawing on my years of newspaper knowledge and experience, to figure out why the reporter identified the wine. Typically, the line would have read “an open bottle of wine was found at the crash site.” That’s because it doesn’t make much difference to what happened – that a drunk driver killed someone – by listing the name and type of wine. The driver could have gotten drunk on any kind of wine. It also makes the sentence longer, which is something to avoid. The only thing I can think of is that the cops had the wine listed in the accident report, the reporter cut and pasted, and the copy desk didn’t notice.

Shame on you, Mom and Dad: The newest lever in the neo-Prohibitonist campaign to limit even responsible drinking? Our children are ashamed of us. Or, as the British study claimed, “Moderate drinking by parents can have a negative impact on children, causing anxiety and disrupting bedtime routines.” Who knew a couple of glasses of wine with dinner were wreaking such havoc on our kids? There is one important question the story doesn’t address, though: What happens if you read your child a bedtime story while you’re tipsy? Does that count?

Bring it on, 7-Eleven: Yes, I know, no one drinks cheap wine, but that hasn’t stopped the country’s most prominent convenience store chain from launching a second wine brand to go with its Yosemite Road. It’s called Trojan Horse, will sell for $7, and will include chardonnay and pinot grigio. The story, in a trade magazine, was apparently more cutting and pasting and is actually pretty funny in that sad, poorly written PR way I have been railing against for years. The wines “were custom developed with grapes from different California valleys,” which makes very little sense but does have impressive jargon. My favorite, though, is the title of the 7-Eleven official identified as the vice president of vault. Is this a typo, and should it be vice president of value? Or does the company actually have a vice president of vault?

Winebits 482: Utah drunk driving, Aussie wine laws, Italian wine thieves

Utah drunk driving

“Two glasses of wine? That’s wine too many, pal.”

This week’s wine news: Utah makes it a crime to have wine with dinner, plus Australia restricts wine sales, and Italian wine thieves

Utah drunk driving: Utah’s new legal drinking limit – the toughest in the country – will turn almost anyone who has a couple of glasses of wine with dinner into a criminal. How else to explain the state’s .05 limit, which translates to drinking two glass of wine for an ordinary sized man and one glass of wine for an ordinary sized woman? We’ve written about this before, part of the Neo-Prohibitionist movement to restrict drinking by focusing on health, and what’s more health-related than drunk driving? That it will criminalize legal behavior – “Utah: Come for vacation, leave on probation,” said one ad opposing the law – doesn’t seem to bother them. Ironically, phone calls to the governor of the predominantly Mormon state, and Mormons aren’t supposed to drink, ran 9 to 1 against the law.

Not just in the U.S.: Costco, the world’s largest wine retailer, not only has to endure our old pal the three-tier system in the U.S., but an Australian version as well. It can’t sell alcohol in the state of South Australia, even though it sells wine in three other Aussie states. I can’t quite figure out why, though there seems to be opposition from other retailers as well as more restrictive licensing in the state.

Gotcha! Italian police have broken up a crime gang in northern Italy, but only after they stole 16,000 bottles of fine wine, worth around €100,000 (US$108,000), as well as €80,000 (US$87,000) worth of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and an undisclosed amount of Modea balsamic vinegar. Police launched Operation Wine and Cheese, as it was called, following a series of high-value food thefts between 2015 and 2016. The thefts are quite common in Italy, and especially for the pricey Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Winebits 481: Grape crush, wine knockoffs, wine and marriage

grape crushThis week’s wine news: The second biggest California grape crush ever, plus a company knocks off wine like cheap dresses and a dumb health study

Bumper crop: The 2016 California grape harvest, which will pretty much determine wine prices for the next couple of years, was up 15 percent from 2015 as measured in the amount of grapes crushed – the second biggest in history at 4.031 million tons. And while the price of crushed grapes was 15 percent higher this year than last, all that meant was that it mostly reached 2012 prices. What will the state’s producers do with all those grapes? Look for new labels, lots and lots of red blends (the red crush was the biggest ever), and more confusion for the consumer. And even I’m wondering what’s going on with premiumization, since 17 percent of the crush came from three grapes used in cheap bulk wines – rubired, French colombard, and muscat of Alexandria. That’s more than the amount of either the cabernet sauvignon or chardonnay crush.

Just the same: I will report the following, from Peg Melnick at the Press-Democrat newspaper in Santa Rosa, Calif., and try to keep my editorial comments to a minimum, though if you hear a scream as you read, it’s probably the echo from my wail of anguish: “The brand is called Replica Wine, and it relies heavily on chemistry to replicate popular brands, offering customers a savings of 15 percent or more. For example, it tempts consumers with a bottling it likens to the Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay for $11, undercutting KJ’s $17 price.” Is that what the wine business is reduced to? Knocking off wine like it was a bad Hollywood movie or a cheap dress? Is it not enough anymore to make honest, quality wine?

One more stupid health story: The Wine Curmudgeon banned wine and health stories from the blog in 2009, after a study was published noting that women who get drunk are more likely to have sex. Periodically, I will run a health story to remind everyone why they are banned – in this case, that wine drinking can lead to a happy marriage. The exception, as difficult as it is to believe, is if one partner drinks and the other doesn’t. And, shockingly, you can have a happy marriage if neither partner drinks. What’s next? That happy marriages are more likely if both partners love each other?

Winebits 426: Stupid wine headline edition


Some people do know how to write headlines.

Because a cranky ex-newspaperman still gets a kick out of silly headlines.

? I’m a teetotaler: The latest Centers for Disease Control edict about drinking, that women who want to get pregnant and aren’t on birth control should not drink, surprised even me, and I didn’t think the Neo-Prohibitionists could surprise me any more. Check out this headline: “Millions of women risk exposing unborn children to alcohol.” That would stop me from drinking, and I can’t get pregnant. The problem, though, is that you’re telling someone not to do something because it might affect something that might happen to them years in the future. Which is neither practical nor good medicine. But it is very scary, which was probably the point.

? Drink the damn wine: Each year, people much smarter than the Wine Curmudgeon tell us that we’re not smart enough because we didn’t buy the correct wines. And it doesn’t even mean we’re drinking the wrong ones, despite this effort: “10 wines you should have bought a year ago.” We didn’t buy the right ones to invest in, and I kept slapping my head as I read it. How could I not buy the 2006 Opus One, which appreciated in value 35.9 percent to almost $4,200 a bottle? No wonder I’m still working for a living.

? They just don’t like each other: In “Bull Durham,” Kevin Costner’s character teaches Tim Robbins’ character how to talk in cliches. I still laugh when I see it, because it’s spot on. As is this headline, if you’re looking for cliches: “The battle between Big Beer and craft brewers is getting ugly.” No kidding? You mean they really don’t like each other? (Another phrase that used to make us groan on the copy desk when we had had to edit it out.) I think, as the story details, that the relationship between Big Beer and craft beer is past ugly when they start cursing at each other on Twitter.

Winebits 422: Wine thefts, wine writers, wine reviews

wine thefts ?He knows his wine: A New York man has been arrested after stealing wine from restaurants and retailers throughout the northeast, posing as an interested consumer with high dollar tastes. Among his targets — a 1990 Chateau Petrus, one of the most expensive wines in the world at $4,000 a bottle and almost impossible to find. There’s a video at the link with surveillance footage; if nothing else, the suspect looks like the Wine Curmudgeon when I check out the wines on display at restaurants I visit.

? Drunk or not? The Guardian, a British newspaper, decided to call the country’s government on its claim that all drinking was bad by asking its wine writers how much they drank to do their job. The story is funny and cheeky and sad in that particularly English way, and my favorite comes from Michael White: “When I was a young reporter on the London Evening Standard, covering anything from murder to Miss World, lunch on the early shift consisted of three pints and a cheese omelette at the Globe across the street at 11 a.m. It ?s what Americans, still prohibitionist puritans at heart, call a ‘British lunch.’ ” The English know us so well, don’t they?

? Cash upfront: New Zealand wine writers are in an uproar over some of them taking money to write favorable reviews, something that is so reprehensible that it shouldn’t even be worthy of discussion. But, since this is wine writing, one so-called marketing expert defended the practice, telling an Auckland newspaper that “this didn’t mean such reviewers wouldn’t be honest.” Which is why I use the phrase so-called, because what kind of idiot would take someone’s money and then write a review that the client didn’t like?

Cartoon courtesy of the drinks business, using a Creative Commons license

Bacon, wine, and what we eat and drink

bacon causes cancer

Yes, this much bacon at one sitting will probably kill me. No, I don’t eat that much.

That World Health Organization doctors have found that bacon causes cancer should not be surprising. It’s no different than highway engineers announcing they need to tear down homes to wide a highway that we don’t want widened. It’s what they do, no matter how much we don’t like it, and it would be more strange if they said otherwise, be they doctors or highway engineers.

That’s because, like the various federal assaults on drinking, the news about processed meat is nothing more than physicians trying to keep us healthy. It’s what doctors do, and it’s important to remember that it’s what we want them to do. But since most of the easy health fixes are decades long past, like clean drinking water, the polio vaccine, and antibiotics, they’ve turned to lifestyle issues to save us from ourselves. How else, for those of us who live in western industrialized democracies and don’t smoke, are we going to live longer?

Which is the rub. I long ago gave up desserts, eat just two eggs a week, only have red meat four or five times a month, and plan meals around beans, rice, and leafy green vegetables. But my doctor, a smart and funny guy, always asks when I’m going to start eating better.

It’s also the irony. Most Americans, by several measures, are living healthier lives. We’ve gone a long way toward ending smoking, we have made significant progress in cutting refined sugar, and, compared to the rest of the world, we’re practically teetotalers when it comes to booze. And even those who aren’t probably know they shouldn’t eat bacon every morning for breakfast, with a BLT chaser at lunch. That they still do speaks to other societal problems that have nothing to do with health.

But, like the highway engineers who want to plow over a historic neighborhood to build an expressway that we don’t really need, that’s not enough for our doctors. They want to know when we’re going to start eating better. It’s up to us to remind them that many of us already are, and that — as Julia Child always said — everything in moderation. My doctor could do worse than listen to her advice.