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Wine and Dementia

Vinted on June 16, 2008 binned in wine health
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HiYa! If you're new here, you may want to Sign Up to get all the latest wine coolness delivered to your virtual doorstep. I've also got short, easily-digestible mini wine reviews and some educational, entertaining wine vids. If you're looking to up your wine tasting IQ, check out my book How to Taste Like a Wine Geek: A practical guide to tasting, enjoying, and learning about the world's greatest beverage. Cheers!

Alzheimer’s Disease, the most prominent form of disorders impacting the brain that we widely term as dementia, is a subject near and dear to the Dude’s heart.

What many people don’t know is that Alzheimer’s is in the top 10 leading causes of death in the U.S. Currently, the disease is fatal, and there is no cure. Yet. What’s particularly insidious about Alzheimer’s is the toll it takes on those who care the most about its victims.

My wife’s grandmother died from Alzheimer’s. She was a fiery and independent woman until the disease struck her. While she remained relatively lucid (e.g., recognizing family members), she became lost in time: she would ask about her husband on multiple occasions, and had to be told (again and again) that her husband was dead. Imagine reliving that pain.

My grandmother, now in her mid-90s, has Alzheimer’s. She has forgotten how to descend stairs, so she is confined to the second story of the house that she shares with my mother. When my wife and I visited her recently and tried to show her our newborn baby, my grandmother simply stared at as and softly shook her head from side to side. She had no idea who we were, and we likely were scaring the hell out of her with our behavior.

So you might imagine that I am no friend to Alzheimer’s disease. I don’t hate much in this world, and I consider hate a very strong word to use in any circumstances. I hate Alzheimer’s. I’ve yet to make any peace with it (apologies to the Buddhists out there… I am trying!).

What does this have to do with wine?…

A Swedish study has found a possible link between moderate wine drinking and lower instances of dementia. The study is hardly conclusive, but it suggests that wine may help protect against certain forms of dementia, and gives credence to follow-up studies that would explore the possible link further:

These findings, in combination with the fact that women today drink more wine than 40 years ago, show that it is important to continue to do research on this correlation. In future analyses we will be studying the effect on more specific types of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Other research methods will be needed in order to see what role wine and other alcoholic beverages play in the development of dementia

Of course, there is a flip-side to this coin (and as any regular readers of this blog can tell you, it’s my M.O. to show to a sobering flip-side in these situations). Other unrelated studies have found a possible correlation between heavy drinking and the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease. According to one such study, heavy alcohol consumption might contribute to speeding up the onset of Alzheimer’s by up to 5 years.

As usual, moderation is probably best.

I hate to end on a down note, so I decided that I’d like to put my money where my mouth is.

From now through September 1st, 2008, I will donate 50% of the proceeds from the sale of my Tasting Guide to the Alzheimer’s Association. If you have a wine-related website or blog, please consider becoming an Affiliate to sell my guide on your site during that time. If it’s successful, I may extend it indefinitely – so stay tuned, and help spread the word.

You can also help the cause to fight Alzheimer’s by displaying a ribbon from Caring.com on your website or blog. Each ribbon means a $10 caring.com donation to the Alzheimer’s Association. Check out the one in the 1WineDude.com sidebar for a preview.

Cheers!

(images: soundentistry.com, blog.makezine.com)

Wine and Your Health: The Wrap-Up Resource List

Vinted on June 13, 2008 binned in wine health

Following is a compilation of my favorite 1WineDude.com posts on the topic of Wine and Your Health. I hope that you find these useful in integrating wine appreciation into your life in a healthy way. Either that, or use the info. here to wow and beguile your date at the next wine & cheese party with your smarties. Your choice.

The REALConnection Between Wine and Your Health

Does This Wine Make Me Look Fat?: How To Drink Wine While You’re on a Diet

Does This Wine Make Me Look Fat? Part 2

5 Reasons Why Smoking Kills Wine Appreciation

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus – But there’s No Sulfite-Free Wine

More on Low-Sulfite Wines

Can Red Wine Keep You Young at Heart?

Drinking Can Cut Risk of Heart Disease (+ Other Tidbits)

Wine Appreciation and Alcohol Abuse: How to Avoid Personal Disaster

Res-(veratrol)-ervations

Res-(veratrol)-ervations Part 2

Why Kids are Collateral Damage in the War for Your Wine Dollar (and What You Can Do About It)

Cheers!

(images: lakechelanwinevalley.com)

Does This Wine Make Me Look Fat? Part 2

Vinted on June 11, 2008 binned in wine health

Witness – if you dare! – the ongoing complexity of the relationship between wine and your health:

Back in January, I offered some advice about drinking wine when you’re on a diet. In summary: wine has calories, so if you’re watching your weight you need to watch your alcohol intake as well.

That article became pretty popular, and ever since posting it I’ve been on the lookout for a follow-up on the topic. Six months later, I’ve had readers (separately) send me links to two very interesting – and very different – answers to the question: Does this wine make me look fat?

Answer #1: NO
According to ScienceDaily.com, our old pal resveratrol – a substance found in red wine – might aid in the conversion of fat. From the article:

“When cells were exposed to resveratrol, our studies showed a pretty dramatic reduction in the conversion to fat cells and a lesser but still significant increase in the mobilization of existing fat…”

Sounds like good news for those looking to drink wine and cut their fat. But not so fast there, Richard Simmons…

Answer #2: YES
Resveratrol might help stave off some fat, but Bodybuilding.com cites a study that showed alcohol to mess with the body’s ability to process fat – and not in a positive way.

“For several hours after drinking… whole body lipid oxidation (a measure of how much fat your body is burning) dropped by 73%.”

Now, that study only had eight participants – hardly enough for statistical certainty. But it suggests that the relationship between alcoholic beverages and our bodies’ fat burning potential isn’t a simple one.

So which one is it?
Unfortunately, there is no way to tell. The only thing we know for sure is that wine has alcohol, and alcohol has calories, and consuming too many calories will probably get stored by your body as fat. Call me a sour-puss, but as far as I’m concerned there’s no fat-bustin’ magic bullet here. Better stick to a balanced diet, regular exercise, and enjoying your fave vino with the appropriate amount of moderation.

Cheers!

A Pennsylvania (Wine) Revolution (Penns Woods Wine Tasting)

Vinted on June 9, 2008 binned in Penns Woods, pennsylvania, wine industry events, winemaking

A shot has been fired in the world of Pennsylvania winemaking.

And it’s a portent of a revolution in how wines are made in PA – and for that matter, how wines are made in all of the East Coast U.S. wine regions.

A bold statement? You bet. But I mean every word of it. And yes, I am totally sober as I write this (a condition I plan to remedy by sampling some heavy reds later this evening).

And if you taste some of the wines from Penns Woods, the brainchild of Italian winemaker and importer Gino Razzi, you might end up agreeing with me.

I had the pleasure of meeting Gino and sampling his wines during a recent first-rate tasting event at Teikoku Restaurant. Now, before you write me off as having gotten wined & dined so that I would waste several minutes of your life with a recap of a drunken Penns Woods love-fest, you need to know that I did not care for all of Gino’s wines.

At worst, Gino’s wines were over-manipulated, over extracted, Parker-point-chasing fruit bombs (2005 Merlot Reserve); or, just plain unnecessary (2006 White Cabernet, a rose that somehow kept astringency without offering much in the way of fruity goodness).

But at their best… Gino’s wines are nothing short of the opening salvo in a PA wine revolution. A shot that is sure to have reverberations felt as far away as VA, Long Island, or wherever quality wines are trying to be made in the U.S. right coast.

Because at their best – most notably the 2007 Chardonnay – Gino’s wines are that good. Not “good, for a Pennsylvania wine” good. They are “stand up to any U.S.-made wine” good…

While I’d been interested in trying Gino’s wines ever since I read Craig LeBan’s enthusiastic review of Penns Woods, I wasn’t expecting any miracles. We’re talking about PA, after all, whose future seemed to best lie in unique expressions of Cabernet Franc and the brambly Chambourcin. When I saw that the dinner at Teikoku was being prepared by Iron Chef Takao Iinuma (pictured, left), and was bookended by Wakatake Daiginjo Onikoroshi sake and gelato covered in 50+ year old Modena balsamic vinegar made from trebbiano grapes that goes for well over $40 / ounce, as far as I was concerned if the accompanying Penns Woods wines were any good, it would simply be a bonus.

A shot has been fired in the world of Pennsylvania winemaking. And it’s a portent of a revolution in how wines are made in PA – and for that matter, how wines are made in all of the East Coast U.S. wine regions.

I’d expected a quiet spot in the corner where I would be able to take a few tasting notes. Instead, I was given the honor of sharing the winemaker’s table with Gino, wine guru John McNulty, consultant Heather Wright of Cellar Door Imports, West Chester foodie Mary of WC Dish fame, and talented WC Dish photographer Sugendran Ganess, among others. One of the best things about sharing a wine event with a crowd that irrepressible (outside of the fun factor), is that it saves me from having to be irrepressible myself, and afforded me a few moments to reflect on Gino’s wines – which through the course of the dinner were wowing me nearly as much as the food.

As soon as I had a whiff of the 2006 Sauvignon Blanc, I was almost speechless. Sure, it has some of that PA ‘grit’; but this wine delivered an improbable amount of citrus fruit. I scratched my head… did these grapes honestly ripen in southeastern PA?

When Gino decided to make wine in PA, he told us, he sent some of his grapes to trusted associates for examination. The news Gino received back was that he should go ahead and make wines with his PA grapes, because they had levels equal to the quality of the grapes that produce his high-scoring Italian-made montepulciano d’Abruzzo.

I was brought down by the Merlot. It tasted of raisins and the varietal character felt masked – overdone and over extracted, I thought. And then it hit me again – how the hell did he get so much fruit out of these wines? No one in PA has been able to do that since, well… ever.

When Gino decided to make wine in PA, he told us, he sent some of his grapes to trusted associates for examination. The news Gino received back was that he should go ahead and make wines with his PA grapes, because they had levels equal to the quality of the grapes that produce his high-scoring Italian-made montepulciano d’Abruzzo.

The two wines that really drove things home for me were the Ameritage red blend and the Chardonnay. According to Gino, year on year he may not have any idea exactly what grapes will go into his Ameritage, but year on year “I promise you, that wine will be good.” And he delivers. Was it a tad manipulated? Yes. But it was also very, very good, at par with (or better than) similarly-priced red blends I’ve had from CA, WA, and southern France. The hint of nebbiolo gave a small, delicate polish aroma to the wine that countered the intense fruit nicely. Nebbiolo? In Pennsylvania?? Is this guy nuts?!?

Gino was insistent that there was no secret to his approach: he wants to make world-class wines in PA, and he has invested the capital (physical and mental) to do so. He uses expensive, ultra-modern equipment to extract the maximum amount of fruit from his grapes. He hires consultants that charge more for a few vineyard visits than most PA winemakers clear in an entire year of doing business. And he uses new (= very expensive) French oak barrels to impart complexity to his wines.

The shining result of this work is the 2007 Penns Woods Chardonnay. John McNulty (pictured, far right, with Gino and the Dude) introduced this wine as “a home run.” My tasting notes for the Chardonnay have two words that really stood out when I went back to them to pen this article:

“A revelation.”

This wine had tropical fruit, just the right amount of oak and creaminess, and was big – and I mean BIG – on the palate. It finished long and strong with minerals, almost like wet rocks. Tropical fruit? In Pennsylvania?? This was one of the best Chardonnays I’d had in the last three years outside of France. I was stunned. Maybe it’s not as steely as a great Chablis, or as complex as a Montrachet, but it aims to kick no less ass than the French big boys.

A Revelation – for me, anyway. Actually, it’s more like a Revolution.

The word is out, and if you want to hear it, just pick up a bottle of the Penns Woods Chardonnay, pour a glass, and listen to what that fine wine is telling you.

PA can make world-class wines.

It’s now a fact – and if Penns Woods repeats this over multiple vintages it will be indisputable – and not just a dream of a few passionate individuals. Gino has fired a well-aimed first shot. Will any PA wineries return the volley? Time (and a good heap of venture capital) may tell…

Cheers!

(images: members.aol.comliv18thc, sugendran.net)

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