This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Friday, Jan. 7, 2011 and can be found at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor2/tswa20110107.php.
Here's to your heart
Good news for moderate wine drinkers who usually enjoy a glass or two with dinner: Keep doing what you're doing, and your heart will probably thank you.
As most wine lovers know, abundant research already supports the supposition that regular moderate consumption of beverage alcohol seems to be related with good heart health and blood chemistry.
Now, a new study of people in Ireland and France who consume alcohol regularly adds an important nuance: Enjoying a drink or two with dinner daily is a far healthier practice than saving your alcohol consumption for a weekend of bibulous excess, even if the weekend drinkers consume no more overall. What's more, teetotalers - people who don't consume alcohol at all - seemed to have about the same risk of heart problems as the binge dinkers.
"[The] study suggests that what matters to your health is not how much alcohol you drink, but how and when you drink it," New York Times reporter Nicholas Bakalar summed it up in his Dec. 16 report, Risks: Fewer Heart Problems Among Moderate Drinkers.
For the study, a team of French scientists, reporting in the medical journal BMJ (British Medical Journal), gathered data on the drinking habits of 2,405 men in Belfast, Ireland, and 7,373 men in Lille, Strasbourg, and Toulouse in France.
The French men studied actually drank more alcohol - 1.2 ounces a day, on average - while the Irish consumption averaged only 3/4 of 1 ounce. But three-quarters of the Frenchmen drank a little every day, while only 12 percent of the Irish did so. Fully 9 percent of the Irish were "binge drinkers," defined as those downing five drinks or more in a single day. Only 1/2 of 1 percent of the Frenchmen guzzled like that.
The lengthy study followed the men for 10 years. At the end of that time, taking into consideration smoking, cholesterol, blood pressure and other risks, they found that both binge drinkers and teetotalers suffered almost twice as great a history of heart problems as the moderate drinkers.
The report concluded, "Regular and moderate alcohol intake throughout the week, the typical pattern in middle-aged men in France, is associated with a low risk of ischaemic heart disease, whereas the binge drinking pattern more prevalent in Belfast confers a higher risk."
“In France, fruits, vegetables and wine are consumed at the same meal,” the study's lead author, Dr. Jean Ferrières, a professor of medicine at Toulouse University, told The Times. "We think you can protect your heart by drinking daily with a complete meal. But we don’t know how to disentangle the effect of wine from the other things."
Here's an online report of the full French study, Patterns of alcohol consumption and ischaemic heart disease in culturally divergent countries: the Prospective Epidemiological Study of Myocardial Infarction (PRIME).
Here's the brief New York Times report: Risks: Fewer Heart Problems Among Moderate Drinkers.
Today's Tasting Report
Gabbiano 2009 Chianti ($9.99)
Clear but very dark purple, almost black, with a clear dark-garnet edge. Smells just like a Chianti should, black cherries and just a touch of spice. Flavors consistent with the nose, tart black cherries shaped by zippy acidity and a soft edge of astringent tannins, with a good, old-fashioned moderate alcohol content at 12.5%. Nothing fancy here, but it's benchmark Chianti, mouth-watering and food-friendly, and a very good value at this local price. U.S. importer: FWE Imports, Napa, Calif. (Jan. 4, 2011)
FOOD MATCH: I served it with a classic Chianti match, spaghetti with simple meat sauce; ours made from locavore grass-fed ground beef and last summer's garden San Marzano tomato sauce frozen for winter enjoyment. Would be really good with cheese, too, or a steak or burger.
VALUE: Wine-Searcher.com prices range from $7.99 to $12.99 for a 750 ml bottle.. It's still an excellent value at my $10 local price.
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