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Tag Archives: wine and health

Winebits 349: Wine ingredients, 60 Minutes, wine judging

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wine ingredientsEwwwwww: The Wine Curmudgeon has long advocated ingredient labeling for wine, despite intense opposition from the industry (including many of my friends, who tell me I’m crazy). Still, as the blog’s travel and resort correspondent recently emailed me: “I was offered a glass of wine from a box, from which I happened to read the fine print. It says ‘ascorbic acid added as a preservative’ and there is something added called Allura Red Dye #40 for ‘color stabilization.’ This must be a killer wine because it has other cool stuff, too: pectins, acetaldehyde, ethyl acetate, esthers, benzoic acid, and keytones. I remember keytones from college – they’re a sort of hallucinogen, not unlike mushrooms. The only thing that is a little concerning is a warning that says ‘added catechins and other phenols may combine with aluminum, barium and cadminium creating benzaldehyde – a known carcinogen.’ But let’s not worry about that. Man, I can’t wait to try this stuff.”

The French Paradox: One reason why I’m here to write this, and you’re here to read it, is because the “60 Minutes” television program ran a story in November 1991 about why the French — who smoked, drank copious amounts of wine, and ate red meat — lived relatively long, healthy lives. The program concluded that the reason was red wine, and the U.S. wine boom — which is still going on — began at almost that moment. The International Food & Wine Society website has a short piece discussing the “60 Minutes” episode, with a clip. Can it really have been 23 years ago? Have wine’s health benefits really done a 180 since then?

Keep it in context: Dan Berger adds welcome perspective to the debate about wine judging with this article. Unfortunately, given the size of many competitions, judging is about pace almost as much as quality. That  means, Berger writes, that “the faster the evaluation, the more often showy wines take the spotlight. As a result, subtlety rarely is rewarded in today’s wine-tasting world.”

Winebits 345: Sipping wine, wine in China, cheap wine

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wine news ChinaBring on the students: It’s hard to believe that Texas is more progressive about wine than California, but it apparently was until last month in one area. That’s when the latter’s governor signed legislation to allow underage beer and wine students to taste in class. The bill requires them to spit, but that’s what we’ve been doing in Texas for years. One of the great joys during my tenure as the wine instructor at the Cordon Bleu in Dallas was enforcing the spit rule during the classes’ red and white tastings at the end of each term. Not surprisingly, the students who didn’t like wine were most demonstrative in showing me they were spitting.

Not quite yet: The wine business has been falling all over itself trying to sell wine to China, figuring that was the easiest way to make zillions and solve its other problems while not actually doing anything to solve them. Now, someone besides the Wine Curmudgeon is wondering if that’s the best policy. Margareth Henriquez, who heads Krug Champagne, told Britain’s Harpers wine trade magazine that the wine business should devote more resources to serving customers in more established markets, including and especially the United States.”China will take some time, certainly for sparkling wine producers and it would be a mistake, I believe, for the wine world to put too much emphasis on this market,” she said. And to think I’ve been giving that advice away for free; I never was much of a businessman.

Bring on the cheap wine: This is not news here, of course, but is worth noting since it’s a health item, and how often does one see cheap wine and health linked? (And also why it gets an exemption from the blog’s ban on wine and health news). A British cardiologist says cheap wine is better for you than expensive wine, since $10 wine may have more anti-oxidants than the expensive stuff. The story in the link is poorly reported (picked up and edited from elsewhere, perhaps?), and seems to apply only to wines from certain parts of the world. But it’s still worth a giggle.

Wine will kill you — or not

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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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