Archive for the ‘wine and healthy living’ Category

“Why Can’t I Drink Wine Like I Used To?”

I’ve heard this question literally hundreds of times. I’ve even asked it myself.

There are many variations, such as “I seem to get drunk on less,” or “In the morning I can’t remember the night before.” Rest assured that if you’ve had anything like these experiences, you are not alone.

So why does it happen, and more important, what can we do about it?

The science behind this phenomenon is all too simple: as we age (yes, sadly it’s all about aging) our systems, our organs, and every cell in our body start to slow down. According to nutritionist Tina Nunziato CHNC of Dr. Liz Cruz Partners in Digestive Healthour organs don’t process things as quickly or as completely as they used to. Our liver, for example, may not fully metabolize all the alcohol in the wine we consumed last night. The next day, we may feel slightly fuzzy-headed, nauseous, or headache-y.

To compound the problem, our gut and colon don’t eliminate all the toxins the way they used to, so over time we experience a build-up of toxicity throughout our body. It’s no wonder that we “Can’t drink like we used to.”

The picture, however, needn’t be so bleak. We can change our habits so that we can imbibe and enjoy.

We need to understand, first, that ill effects will increase with the amount of alcohol ingested, and all wines are not created equal when it comes to alcohol content. Red wines from warm climate regions, such as Australia and many parts of California, may have an alcohol content as high as 15.5 percent (think Shiraz, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and many Red Blends). A cool climate white or red, on the other hand, such as one from northern France or northern Italy, might weigh in at only 12.5 or 13 percent (such as Sancerre or Chianti). Your body feels the difference, and you may find that simply switching to lower alcohol wines will resolve your issues.

Hydration is also a significant part of the solution. Drinking lots of water alongside your wine dilutes the alcohol, so make sure there’s a glass of water beside your glass of wine, and that you drink both throughout the evening.

Book-ending your wine consumption with lots of water will also help your system perform better. Drink one or two eight-ounce glasses before you start drinking wine, and do the same before bed and first thing in the morning.

Finally, “go European.” Many visitors to Europe say they can drink wine all day and never feel drunk, and that’s partly due to the generally lower alcohol content of European wines. But more important, in Europe they use wine as a meal-time beverage, not a cocktail. If you have a glass in one hand, you should have a fork in the other. When you enjoy wine alongside food, whether it’s a light appetizer of almonds and cheese, or
a full-blown five-course meal, your body will process the alcohol much more efficiently.

It’s as simple as that. You can still enjoy the pleasure of a glass of wine (or two), as long as you adjust and adapt to your new, more mature reality. I know I will. Cheers!

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Drink Wine, Save the Planet

cowI just read a great post on WineSpectator.com. It told me that some clever researcher has discovered that cows who eat winemaking residue (such as crushed up skins and seeds) are happier, healthier, and pass less gas.

Yes, someone found a way to measure cow flatulence (I can’t wrap my head around that one) and were able to determine that happy wine-junk-eating cows pump less gas into the atmosphere. And since an ordinary cow’s typical CO2 production is equal to an automobile’s (imagine that!), then feeding grape junk to cows is as good as car pooling for cleaning up the environment.

Right?

I know we’re all looking for ways to save our planet, so isn’t it GREAT that DRINKING MORE WINE has been added to the list? Now you can sip away all evening, knowing that the more you drink, the more new wine will be needed to meet increasing demand. And that creates more wine-grape-junk to feed to all those happy cows.

Check this article out for yourself: it’s a feel-good read.

Cows, the popular bovines behind beloved wine accompaniments steak and cheese, may get fit from wine just like humans do, a new agricultural nutrition study shows. Cows in Australia were fed about 11 pounds of grape pomace, or marc—the skins, seeds and stems usually repurposed after winemaking for brandy production, or tossed in the refuse bin—along with their usual cuisine of cow food, for 37 days. Some of the winemaking leftovers were consumed in pellet form and some were scraped right out of the vat, retaining their pleasing winey smell for the animals. Compared to the dairy cows that only ate hay and bugs or whatever, the wine waste bovines improved, at least for our purposes, in three ways: They produced 5 percent more milk, that milk was higher in anti-oxidants and fatty acids (that’s a good thing) and, perhaps best of all, the cows’ methane emissions were reduced by 20 percent. Cows, you see, have four stomachs, and when they get gassy after a big meal, entire ecosystems cry out with great lamentation: A cow annually spews as much greenhouse gas as a car does. So drink up—tonight’s wine might make tomorrow morning’s milk cheaper, better for you and better for the planet. — WineSpectator.com

 

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Drink To Your Health, Ladies — Really

womanThere’s more good news for women who enjoy wine: moderate consumption can lower your risk of suffering from diabetes by as much as 37%. Wow — that’s not just a drop in the (wine ) bucket. And it’s a really big deal when you consider that the incidence of Type 2 Diabetes (the type that adults get) has increased a whopping 60% in the last 20 years.

I read about this research in a recent article on Wine Spectator.com. The study identified five low-risk lifestyle factors, including moderate wine consumption, and set out to track how each of them affected the eventual occurrence of diabetes.

First of all, let me just say “Yeah!” that wine drinking has now gotten the nod from the health gurus. Well, not all wine consumption — just the moderate kind, defined by the researchers as “half a glass to one drink daily for women and up to two drinks daily for men.”

Hmmm… I sure consume more than half a glass a day. I mean, what’s the point of opening a nice bottle of wine just to sip a few ounces? Is that all I have to look forward to in my old age? Limiting myself to half a glass daily?

Well, speaking of old age, there’s a good story there, too. A Harvard University study found that moderate alcohol use during midlife was associated with healthier aging in women.

Hey, that’s great too, especially if “healthy aging” means less wrinkling, less sagging, and generally less, well, aging.

That’s probably too much to hope for, right? But when we drink wine we can at least enjoy the plain old fun of enjoying good food and wine with good friends and family. I’m all for that. Cheers!

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Now Both My Car and I Can Live on Wine and Cheese

carIt’s clearly an idea whose time has come: powering a car with fuel made from wine-based ethanol and whey (as in, “curds and whey,” a cheese product).

The Huffington Post’s OrganicAuthority.com reported on the 5th annual Eco-Rally between Oxford and London, England. During the rally, this very hot Lotus Exige 270E Tri-Fuel went like hell (from zero to 60 in four seconds!!) on, well, wine and cheese. In a pinch, though, it can consume methanol or traditional petroleum-based fuel.

Apparently biofuel is not a new idea. Businesses have been creating and selling fuel made from all kinds of biological stuff, including compost, vegetable matter, animal waste, and my personal favorite, used deep fryer grease.

Wow. The advantage of all these fuels is that, “Unlike petroleum, biofuels are biodegradable, easily renewable, less noxious and less toxic.” That’s good — we can share a picnic with our vehicle, and know we’re being good to the environment.

Actually, the French have been producing wine-based ethanol for some time: that’s what they do with all the surplus wine they haven’t been able to sell in recent years.

So I’ll raise a glass and say, “Merde!” Isn’t that word used as a toast in France? Or if not, it’s probably used as a fuel…

Cheers!

 

 

 

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Wine: Good For Your Insides and Your Outsides

spaWine writers (like me) have gleefully written stories about the many, many health benefits of drinking wine. “Yippee,” we say. We can enjoy the wine we love and and believe it’s good for us, too.

So now I’ve read that wine is good for our outsides, as well as our insides. High-end spas all over the world are using wine and wine grape products for everything from facial masks to full-body soaks.

Here’s a link to a story in Wine Enthusiast magazine about all these wild and crazy (and no doubt, pricey) vino treatments. (Thanks to Nancy Robinson of Portovino Italiano Wines in Phoenix, Arizona for flagging the article.)  Some of them sound wonderful, but I reserve judgment on one that involves Carmenere wine, mineral water and oats…

Let me know if you’ve tried anything like these treatments. We’d all like to hear if you thought it was a thumbs-up or thumbs-down experience. Cheers!

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Benziger Zinfandel and Oonapais

benzMike Benziger has been called a pioneer. He’s probably also been called crazy by the folks who didn’t believe in his experiments in organic farming. But whatever you call him, he’s been instrumental in introducing and developing methods for growing grapes while nurturing and improving the land through his Sustainable, Organic and Biodynamic farming practices.

He and many other Benzigers (a couple dozen, I think) also make wine at their winery in Sonoma County. Snugged up in the hills above the tiny town of Glen Ellen, and just a short hike from Jack London’s historic home and State Park, they’ve planted 85 acres of red and white grapes on the slopes of Sonoma Mountain.mike

This is a relatively warm-climate growing area, which was immediately obvious in the wines we tasted recently during a Twitter Tasting. In case you don’t know what that is…

A Twitter tasting is a very cool way to marry something very traditional with the latest in social media marketing. Here’s how it’s done: a group of wine bloggers (otherwise known as the “online wine community”) were invited to sit around with winemaker Mike Benziger as we tasted and talked about six of his wines. Only he sat in front of a camera in California and we sat in front of our computers in…wherever. He was on-screen and as we tasted, we tweeted questions and comments and he answered back. Very cool and very effective.

So let’s get to Benziger and their wines. I posted a story giving you background on the whole Sustainable/Organic/Biodynamic approach that Benziger Winery uses in all their estate vineyards and with all their contract growers. I think it’s a tremendous goal to grow better fruit and nurture the land for future generations. The question is — does it make better wine?

Mike Benziger thinks so. The wines he chose for us to taste included a Zinfandel, two vintages of their Bordeaux blend “Oonapais,” two vintages of the Bordeaux blend “Obsidian Point,” and their premium blend, “Tribute.” I’ll review three today and pick up the rest tomorrow. Read the rest of this entry »

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Benziger Leads The Way in Organics

bee

Benziger uses natural pests to keep vineyards healthy.

I remember, back in the day, when organics were “just stuff for aging hippies.” Whether it was organic food or wine, the average guy believed it was a bunch of  mumbo-jumbo, and even if it was better for you, organic stuff sure wouldn’t taste as good as our  factory-made, chemically-enhanced stuff.

There were a few wineries experimenting with organic farming, but they didn’t promote it. In fact, I had to beg a rep from a good-sized Oregon winery to put “Organic” somewhere on the label, in a type size big enough to actually read it. Their marketing people were afraid wine shoppers would avoid their wine if they “admitted” they used organic practices.

Meanwhile, there was a winery in California’s Sonoma County. At Benziger Winery, they started out growing grapes the way everyone else did, with chemical pesticides and fertilizers. It took a few years for one of the brothers, Mike Benziger, to decide that he was seeing changes in the vineyards, and they weren’t good. He wanted to revitalize the vineyards, and the fruit they produced, by using more natural methods.

“We learned which flowers attracted the bugs we needed to keep pest populations in control. Habitats were created for birds and owls, and we brought cows, sheep and chickens to live on the property.

Once the estate found its balance, the wines did too. As we tasted the wines grown from such a healthy and vibrant place, we realized that the distinctiveness and authenticity we were lacking before was right in the glass. Healing the land had led to an amazing new caliber of wines and we knew we had to begin applying the lessons learned on our estate to all the vineyards we worked with.”

That was the beginning of Benziger’s industry-leading conversion to Sustainable/Organic/Biodynamic winemaking. They and all the growers they buy from are certified at one of those levels. And in case you’re not sure what those words mean, here’s a quick primer (thanks to Benziger’s very informative website).

Sustainable Farming “emphasizes environmentally sound growing methods, such as biodiversity, soil revitalization and Integrated Pest Management, and shows growers how to cultivate grapes with more character, flavors and aromas with the goal of making better, genuinely distinctive wines.”

Organic certification is more stringent. “It avoids the use of synthetic chemicals and uses natural methods like crop rotation, tillage and natural composts to maintain soil health as well as natural methods to control weeds, insects and other pests.”

Biodynamics “is the highest level of organic farming. Instead of bagged fertilizer, weed killer and pesticides we rely on composting, natural predator-prey relationships, cover crops, and the animals that live on our estate, to keep our vineyard healthy and balanced.”

Do you get it now? There’s no mumbo-jumbo at all. It’s a very common-sense approach, and it’s designed to make better wine for you. Here’s a final quote from Chris Benziger:

“We don’t just farm this way because we think caring for the land is the right thing to do, it also happens to be the best way to make distinctive, authentic wines. By treating our vineyards the best way we know how, we’re making wines we’re really proud of. And that is good for, well, everybody.”

So it’s really all about what’s in the bottle. Benziger makes several families of wines, from different varietals and at different price points. I’ll be tasting some of those tonight in a live Twitter Tasting. These events are great — I’ll be able to taste the wines and talk (by Internet) to Mike Banziger himself.

Tomorrow I’ll start reporting on the wines and our online tasting. Stay tuned! Same Bat time, same Bat channel… Cheers!

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Drink Away Your Sunburn!

sunHere’s great news for sun worshippers: drinking wine may prevent sunburn. What a great excuse to pop open a bottle of summer wine!

An article by Melissa Dahl on MSNBC.com’s Health website reports this great news.

A compound found in grapes or grape derivatives may protect skin cells from skin-damaging ultraviolet radiation, report researchers from the University of Barcelona and the Spanish National Research Council. The flavonoids found in grapes work to halt the chemical reaction that kills skin cells and causes sun damage.

Here’s what happens: When UV rays hit your skin, they activate “reactive oxygen species,” or ROS, which then oxidize big molecules like lipids and DNA. This activates particular enzymes that kill skin cells.

But grapes’ flavonoids work to decrease the formation of the ROS’s in skin cells that were exposed to UVA and UVB rays. The researchers, led by Marta Cascante, a biochemist at the University of Barcelona and director of the research project, note that this finding may lead to better sun-shielding drugs and cosmetics.

The study was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Previously, vino has also been found to fight Alzheimer’s, ward off prostate cancer and even prevent cavities. We’ll drink to that.

Thanks, Melissa. Salute!

 

 

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Giving Wines a Health Score: Sense or Nonsense?

grapesI read in a recent post by Dr. Vino that a couple of British wine people have created an online wine store that rates all of its wines on a healthfulness scale.  The site is called vinopic.com and here’s how Dr. Vino describes it.

Vinopic brings together Rosemary George, Master of Wine and one of the UK’s leading wine writers and critics, and Professor Roger Corder, world renowned health expert and author of The Wine Diet. These two wine experts assess and score every wine at Vinopic for the two key elements of wine quality. Roger guides consumers in the direction of higher “natural quality” by taking into consideration the richness in grape polyphenols. Rosemary ensures the wines are of superior “drinking quality”, rewarding aroma, taste and pleasure.

If you’re wondering what they mean by “Natural quality” and what “grape polyphenols” have to do with anything, they’re obliquely referring to our old friend, Resveratrol. This substance found in red grapes and therefore red wine was the Miracle Drug of the mouseMoment a year or two ago. Researchers found that if they fed massive amounts to laboratory mice, the little critters would show reduced signs of aging. (You can read all about it in my post, “Are You A Man (Woman) Or A Mouse?”).

Every nutritionist and anti-aging quack jumped on the Resveratrol bandwagon, and many wine geeks made it their mission to figure out which red wines would give drinkers the most anti-aging bang for their buck. They published articles saying things like, “Cool-climate Pinot Noir has the highest levels of Resveratrol, followed by mountain-grown Malbec” (or something like that).

People who didn’t know any better (i.e. who drank little or no wine of any kind) came stumbling into my wine shop, clutching dog-eared pages ripped out of magazines and newspapers. They believed that the key to their health and happiness lay in procuring this one, exact, cool-climate, mountain-grown red wine. And when I told them the Oregon Pinot they were seeking was gonna run them $25 or $30 a bottle, they almost wept.

What was the problem then? Too much hype and not enough common sense.

And what’s wrong with the Vinopic concept (in my humble opinion)? Too much hype and not enough common sense.

The fact is, ALL RED WINE CONTAINS HEALTHY LEVELS OF RESVERATROL AND OTHER STUFF THAT’S GOOD FOR YOU.

Wines made from grapes that ripen slowly, i.e. where cooler temperatures and lots of sunlight allow longer “hang time,” will have more developed polyphenols (and Resveratrol), which are the compounds in red grapes that ripen more slowly than grape sugars and also happen to contribute flavor and complexity to wine.

Grapes grown that way are also the ones used to make higher-quality wines: it costs more to baby the grapes through their growing season, usually dropping fruit to limit yields and further improve quality. So the wines made from these grapes cost more.

The cheaper wines generally use grapes grown by the boatload, the more tons the merrier, in the relatively hot Central Valleys of the world.

Do they have less Resveratrol? Yes. Are they less healthful and lower quality? Yes again.

But not just because of the Resveratrol. These wines happen to be made by companies that intend to fill grocery store shelves with wine in jugs and boxes. To keep costs down and to standardize flavor profiles, they add to the wine: CHEMICALS, SUGAR, SULFITES, AND GOD KNOWS WHAT ELSE.

So we’re getting around to the Moral of my Story: If you want to be healthy, feel youthful, and enjoy a lovely-tasting beverage with food, friends and family — drink any red wine that doesn’t come in a jug or 5 liter box (notice I said % liter, because there’s some decent stuff in 3 liter boxes) and doesn’t cost less than about $8 a bottle. (Or even a little less for some good-quality and good-tasting imports from Spain, Chile or Argentina.)

It’s that simple. You don’t need complicated rating systems or scientific reports — just ask your friendly local wine merchant to recommend a good, naturally-made red (i.e. with no unnecessary additives) and whether it’s a Pinot Noir, Malbec, Rioja or Cab, you’ll be doing your body a favor while you give yourself some fun and pleasure.

And now excuse me — I’m gonna pour myself a glass of red wine. Cheers!

P.S. – I tried to go to www.vinopic.com and Google says “Cannot Be Found.”

 

 

 


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