By Maurice Lee
The Cellar Master
After my last article, I have received many emails regarding the issue of wine and health.
An email from one particular reader, Nick, said the comment by Louis Pasteur, that a bottle of wine a day would be beneficial to a person’s health, was made over 100 years ago and that things have changed since then. I accept this, but, in spite of those changes, nobody has produced any evidence that Professor Pasteur was wrong.
Another reader, Jean, accused me of encouraging people to drink – I never encourage drinking. All I did in my last article was suggest that if people want to drink safely, then wine is a good option. One of the emails I received, from Michelle, was more positive. She was pleased that someone was pointing out the benefits of wine, instead of condemning it, and described wine as ‘a gift from nature’.
Doctors are in charge of public health and are supposedly fighting against the increasing damage caused by alcoholism. The best way to do that is to recommend the natural drink – wine. A doctor in Swindon, Wiltshire, recently said that wine is good for an individual’s health and is insisting that his patients drink it. While I agree with his view on wine, I do not think that people should be forced to drink it.
Wine producing regions have more octogenarians (a person aged between 80 and 90) than non-wine producing regions. They like wine, drink a lot of it, live healthy lives and are neither degenerated nor intoxicated. It’s not a coincidence that at a Long-Life Festival in the Medoc, 13 golden wedding anniversaries and one diamond were celebrated in the parish of Saint Julien de Beychevelle. I don’t think you’d find that in the whole of England, even allowing for divorces.
Let’s look at wine, diets and what dieticians and doctors don’t tell you. I know that some people won’t drink wine when they are on a diet, yet they will drink orange juice with their breakfast. A carton of orange juice can contain up to 90 grams of sugar per litre, whereas a semi-dry wine has only 20 grams of residual sugar per litre.
Today, governments and health organisations are anti-sodium and want people to stop using salt, yet I don’t recall any of them recommending wine in a diet. For the record, a glass of wine contains from 1.3 to 9.9 milligrams of sodium, an egg contains 40 milligrams, a glass of milk 120mg, an ounce of Cheddar cheese has 210mg and a slice of white bread, 215mg. I know which I’d give up if I were put on a low-sodium diet.
Regular wine drinkers are less likely to develop gallstones than abstainers, and the iron – particularly found in reds – can help cure anaemia. Wine also sharpens the appetite and can help all manner of ailments. It has always been known as an effective germ killer and has proved very successful in curing typhoid, dysentery, cholera, and pneumonia. Wine is a water purifier and, even in countries where the water is pure, wine is sometimes mixed with it as a precaution. This is practised throughout the world and has greatly contributed to the preservation of human life.
It is believed that cirrhosis is caused by alcohol. This is not entirely true. What is true, however, is that alcoholism can cause it. Cirrhosis can also be caused by hepatitis and many people have died from cirrhosis who, in fact, were total abstainers.
Does wine lead to a person gaining weight? No. A litre of wine contains 600 to 1,000 calories. If you drink half a litre, approximately 500 calories, the calories are completely consumed and you will not put on an ounce of body weight. If you do suffer from weight-gain, then blame something else and not the wine.
Recently, I read an article in an English newspaper saying pregnant women should steer clear of wine. Frankly, I don’t think continental women will heed that advice – just look at their healthy children. However, if you are concerned go and see your doctor.
I read another article recently that outlined some research on animals, which proved that exposure to one or two units of alcohol caused behavioural problems. Yes, I think a hamster or mouse would have problems, but did the researchers take body weight into account?
After last month’s issue, locals in Luz asked me what was the greatest amount of wine I had ever drunk in one session, i.e. lunch, dinner or supper. The answer is a little over two bottles. About 10 years ago, I was invited by the German Wine Bureau to a dinner at the Intercontinental Hotel in London. It was a seven-course dinner and our hosts provided our table with 12 bottles of different wines. There were six of us and, as we did not want to seem ungrateful or show rudeness, we drank all 12 and that was after a champagne reception.
I said in my last article that, if you want to drink wine, then you should. It won’t do you any harm, but I also reminded you ‘not to abuse it’.
Answers to last issue:
1. Name six factors that can affect wine production – climate, soil, grape,
viticulture, vinification and luck.
2. Name two finings used to clarify wine – blood, isinglass, white of egg,
3. What is ‘Aguardente’? Grape spirit used when making port.
4. What is ‘Racking’? Transferring wine into a clean cask leaving the sediment behind.
1. What does LBV mean on a Port label?
2. Which is the biggest wine region in Portugal?
3. Vinho Verde is produced in the Algarve. True or False?
4. On a Portuguese wine label, ‘Carvalho’ means what?
Next month: Punches for Christmas.
• Any questions? email: [email protected]