Posts Filed Under wine health
(images: tastephx.com, defendamerica.mil, green-talk.com)
For those of you plying along at home, I’m a new dad – of only a few remarkable days. As you might imagine, you could change my handle to “1DiaperDude” and it would be an apt description, since I’m far more involved in baby-related activities at the moment than I am in vino sampling.
As a new parent, I now find myself asking questions that, in my previous life (BC – Before Children), I would never have considered:
This kid is *adorable* – is she actually mine?
How much talk about poop is too much talk about poop?
Do any criminal sex offenders live in our neighborhood?
What’s the best way to threaten my daughter’s future teenage suitors when they eventually come to the house to take her on a date, without risking incarceration? Display a “wall of weapons”?
Because I’m a wine geek, I’ve also been asking another question:
How can I (eventually) introduce my family to responsible wine consumption?
As I pondered that last question, I came to realize something. It’s something that struck me as very important (and maybe, I dare say after having a few glasses of vino tonight as I type this, a touch profound):
Our children are the “collateral damage” in the marketing fight for your wine dollar…
1) On the one hand, state-run liquor distribution monopolies (such as the PLCB) are exploiting our fear of keeping our children safe.
These wine distro. monopolies protect their big profits by fighting legislation that would open their state wine sales to the free market.
How do they muster support for that legislation? They scare it out of you, by telling you that your children will get their hands on alcohol illegally if states governments permit wine and other alcoholic beverages to be sold via the Internet and direct-shipped to your door.
On the surface it seems a simple choice – protect your kids., right?
But what the wine monopolies don’t tell you is that their data are based on seriously flawed studies. They’re betting that a) you’re too dumb to scratch under the surface and get the real facts on their studies, b) you’re not a smart enough parent to teach your children responsible behavior around alcohol, and c) you won;t bother because your kids will become scheming, irresponsible teens anyway.
If I was dolling out grades, that approach would get, at best, a D minus. It’s the politics of fear vs. the politics of free trade – and our kids, unable to adequately defend themselves, are caught in the crossfire.
2) On the other hand, for the most part our U.S. society does little (or nothing) to introduce kids to the notion of responsible, healthy alcohol / wine consumption. Instead, we allow that introduction to take place via movies and TV, where our children get to see seriously unhealthy over-consumption portrayed as the height of coolness, synonymous “real” partying and fun.
What can we do about it? The role of parenting is essential:
1) “Teach Your Children Well” – As parents, we need to insure that we spend enough time in our children’s lives. Part of that QT (eventually) is to help them understand wine’s healthy place at the dinner table, in our society at large, and in world history.
We also have to make sure that our kids don’t view alcohol over-consumption as something “cool” (so cool that they automatically associate it as being essential to having a good time).
2) “Teach Your Parents Well” – As parents, we need to encourage each other, and encourage the dialog of abuse prevention (instead of treatment). Why hasn’t this dialog made more headway into traditional media and social programs? I’ve no idea – though I suspect it may have something to do with the fact that both cases mentioned above line the pockets of somebody.
Try searching on Google for family and alcohol, and you’ll see what I mean – you will get results that deal with treating alcohol abuse problems in the family after they are already problems; you won’t find much on responsible prevention.
One of the few places where you can find this dialog taking place is in the wine blogging community. Commendably, many wine bloggers have tried to tackle this topic, Dr. Debs and The Pour among them.
You can support the positive dialog by supporting the wine blogging community. Donate to your favorite blogs, spread the word by giving them a digg, join the Open Wine Consortium, and join the fight against wine distro. scare-tactics by writing to your state governments to let them know how you feel about their questionable practices.
3) Set an example by drinking responsibly, and not abusing alcohol in front of your children. Well… duh…!
Nobody said being a dad would be easy. Being a dad has made me even more determined to fight against wine distribution monopolies. And it’s given even more respect for the value that the global blogging community can provide.
Mark Fisher, who writes the Uncorked blog at the Dayton Daily News, has posted an interesting piece this week with his thoughts on a recent American Journal of Medicine alcohol study.
Mark’s thoughts are always worth a read, and this article is no exception (and thanks to him as well for mentioning my previous post on the same overall topic of wine consumption and health).
While the study itself highlights the positive effects of alcohol on middle aged baby-boomers, Mark uses the study to point out that the issue of alcohol consumption and health is not a simple one.
I.e., trying to binge on wine in your 50s to make up for the booze that you didn’t have when you were younger is not gonna help you reap any wine health benefits. That kind of thinking is more likely to fatally turn your liver into a large hunk of scar tissue.
The good news is that the liver can recover from short-term damage – it just needs a break from the likes of coffee, medication, and especially alcohol. So if you’ve been hitting the wine tastings with added gusto lately, consider giving yourself and your liver the gift of a few days (if not a few weeks) of abstinence. Remember, I’m a wine nut, so if I’m saying it’s a good idea to lay off the vino from time to time, it’s not because I just like to type!
Also, for those of you playing along at home, Wine Blogging Wednesday #44 has just been announced by Gary V. over at Wine Library TV. Yes, that Gary V. The theme this time around is French Cabernet Franc. So, if you want to join the wine blogging community in a review, go pick up a wine and transcribe your thoughts! Details are available here (including what areas of France to look for at the wine store if you want to participate).
(images: brainboomer.com, jamieq.blogspot.com)
I work in two professions – Wine Consulting and Playing Rock Music – that pretty much guarantee that I am in close proximity to alcohol (and its potential abuse) a good portion of the time.
I love to drink. Specifically, I love to savor excellent wine (and beer), and admire the nuances, flavors, aromas, and overall artistic craftsmanship that a good drink can deliver. Most of all, I love sharing that experience with others. Wine connects us to a particular place and time, and connects us with each other – not just the place, time, and people that made it, but also the place, time and people with whom we enjoy it when we pop the cork.
And once in a blue moon, I like to overdo it a bit. Because getting buzzed with friends is, well, it’s just plain fun.
Notice I wrote “once in a blue moon” and not “every weekend.” In the rock-&-roll context of my life, I’ve seen first-hand what alcohol abuse can do to individuals, families, and even total strangers that come into unfortunate (and sometimes, in the case of drunk driving, catastrophic and tragic) contact with an abuser.
Genetics and personality traits are very important in determining anyone’s individual predilection towards abuse of alcohol, but it doesn’t help that cultural, and peer pressures (at least in the U.S. and the U.K.) tend to ridicule the appreciation of wine as snobbish, while at the same time aggrandizing inebriation as the height of fun in a social context.
That approach is completely ass-backward. I don’t have any pithy humorous sayings on that topic. It’s just so sad, stupid, and heartbreaking that I can’t make it funny and still respect myself.
Alcohol-related liver diseases (which are notoriously difficult to diagnose until they are advanced) have been on the rise in countries like Britain for years. Whether you drink or not, the rising abuse of alcohol (in the U.S. or the U.K. for example) is expensive for taxpayers and health insurance recipients who all help to fund health care systems that are having trouble keeping up without breaking their banks.
I’m not the first person to touch on how these dangers impact those of us in the wine consulting biz (check out this great series in Men’s Vogue for an example). But I thought I’d add to the on-line discussion by listing the tips that have helped me (so far) to successfully navigate the waters of wine appreciation while minimizing the damage to my liver (and my relationships)…
Abuse Is NOT ‘One-Size-Fits-All.‘ Safe levels of drinking can only ever be approximate. While you may read that having 2 drinks per day is the safe average level of consumption for someone of your weight and gender, these generalized figures don’t take into account your race, family history, or personality type. You can’t treat these as hard-and-fast rules – your safe levels may differ.
All Things In Moderation. If 2 drinks per day is a safe limit for you, that doesn’t mean that abstaining from drinking for one week means that you can safely consume 14 drinks over the weekend. If you are unsure if your current alcohol consumption levels are safe, consult alcoholism.about.com (or, better yet, talk to your doctor).
Treat Professional Settings Professionally. I’ve written before about the perils of industry tastings, so I won’t repeat all of that advice here. Bear in mind that just because free alcohol is available to you doesn’t mean that you are obligated to drink it. When you’re at industry tastings, don’t forget to spit, and don’t use it as an excuse to catch up on drinking that you think you’ve “missed out on” in the past.
Don’t Punish Yourself. If you’re not an abuser, drinking too much once in a long while shouldn’t upset you (unless it’s caused you to do something that you regret). Nobody’s perfect. Just make a mental note to improve the next time. If needed, ask your friends for support. (If you are an abuser, or concerned that you might be headed in that direction, then falling off the wagon is a big deal and might need the help of a professional).
Never, Ever, Under Any Circumstances Drink & Drive. This one should be obvious but amazingly I still know people who do this. This is never, ever safe under any circumstances. If you suspect that you’re going to have more than your normally safe level of alcohol, get someone else to drive – no excuses.
The wine sulfites battle rages on.
Some of you will recall that the Dude has been commenting on the topics of sulfites in wine, as well as biodynamic and organic wines.
Jason Haas over at Tablas Creek Vineyard has posted a great article on how the widely misunderstood fear of wine sulfite allergies (& “wine headaches”) has combined with overly-cautious (and poorly-constructed) U.S. wine regulations to cause winemakers unnecessary grief…
What U.S. Sulfite / Organic Regulations Mean for Winemakers
In a nutshell, it seems that the U.S. regulations regarding sulfite use for wines that are to be labeled ‘organic’ have a big negative impact on potential quality of the wine. That’s because some use of sulfites in higher quality wines is inevitable – otherwise the finished wine could be too unstable.
According to the Guidelines for Labeling: Wine with Organic References from the U.S. Dept. of Treasury – Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms:
“100% Organic” products cannot use added sulfi tes
in production. Therefore, since no add ed sulfi tes
are present in the fi nished product, the label may
not require a sulfi te statement. In these cases, a lab
analysis is necessary to verify that the wine contains
less than 10 ppm of sulfites.
Less than 10 ppm of sulfites… hmm… good luck! I wrote about the challenges of achieving such a low level of sulfites in wine before. Those winemakers that chase after the pot-o’-gold at the end of the marketing rainbow may make “organic” wines, but that will need to be done without much thought to the ultimate quality of the wine. Those winemakers that truly care about quality – well, they end up being discouraged from even trying to make wines that would be labeled “organic” by the U.S. government.
What U.S. Sulfite / Organic Regulations Mean for You
And who suffers the most – wine consumers. Because the average person is likely to a) be scared off because of the required sulfite warning labels on wines, often believing (mistakenly) that there last ‘wine headache’ was caused by sulfties, and b) assuming (mistakenly) that wines labeled as ‘organic’ are healthier and of higher quality, consumers can have a poor experience tasting a nasty unstable wine that is labeled ‘organic’ but sucks – and possibly get turned off to wine altogether because of that experience!
[WARNING: SARCASM] Gee… what’s not to love about this scenario? Besides everything, I mean… [END SARCASM]
Don’t Get Suckered into Following the ‘Organic’ Marketing Bandwagon
Unfortunately, it means that we wine lovers still need to have our wits about us when shopping for wine. Stay sharp, and don’t assume that a wine labeled as ‘organic’ is better for you or is higher quality, or contains no sulfites. Higher quality wines will contain sulfites and probably will NOT be labeled organic – but they will taste better, and in the grand scheme of things will be better for you, will provide better value for money, and will give you a better wine tasting experience!