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30 Second Wine Tasting Tip:
Shedding pounds without (much) pain

Like most people who really like fine wine and good food, I find it challenging to enjoy these passions and still have any hope of staying in shape. Eating and drinking professionally, as I like to tell my friends, is a hard job, but someone has to do it.

As I noted in an article about wine, calories and carbohydrates earlier this summer, it's certainly possible to include wine in a moderate lifestyle of sensible eating and exercise; but for most of us - especially as we face the realities of middle age - we have to sacrifice something to keep the numbers from creeping up on the bathroom scale.

Over the 20 years that I've been writing about food and wine, I've gone through an up-and-down pattern that some of you may recognize: My clothing starts getting uncomfortably tight. I take the pledge, exercise a little, spend an unpleasant month of deprivation, and lose a little weight. A few years later, the cycle repeats itself, perhaps maxing out a few pounds and a belt-notch or two more than the last time.

Is there a way to break the cycle and make weight loss "stick," without having to give up the pleasures of the table and the glass? That's my current quest, and I'm pleased to report that I've shed about 15 pounds since early May, without giving up wine or the occasional evening of pleasant excess.

I'm planning a more detailed presentation on this kind of lifestyle plan, including specific how-to-do-it information, recipes and wine-and-food matching advice to fit a healthy diet, and would like to have your suggestions on that (see below). For today, though, begging your pardon for stretching our "30-second" concept a bit to squeeze in as many details as I can, here are some basic tips:

  • COUNT CALORIES: Without sitting in judgement on the low-carbohydrate approaches that seek to alter your metabolism and "burn" fat, it still comes down to this: If you consume more calories than your body can use, you will gain weight. Reduce your calorie intake, and you will lose weight. End of story.

    Sure, it's harder to pay attention to nutritional analysis than it is to simply drop entire food categories from your diet ("no bread! no pasta!") But if you're smart enough to memorize the better recent vintages of Bordeaux or the top vineyards of Burgundy or Napa, you can use a kitchen scale and a notebook to count your calories. Or your kilojoules, if you live outside the U.S.

  • BE REASONABLE: Set a daily goal that will work for you - for me, about 2,000 calories a day seems to be right to lose weight gradually - and stick to it most of the time. But don't feel guilty if an evening out or a special event justifies a splurge; an occasional steak dinner won't kill you. Don't deny yourself the things you like, but play the calorie numbers game and fit them into your diet. A pat of butter (100 calories per 15-gram tablespoon) or a tablespoon of olive oil (120 calories) doesn't have to put you over your quota, but measure them and count them.

  • PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR DAILY RHYTHMS: I find that I'm rarely hungry during the day and can easily get by with a tiny breakfast and lunch, allowing me larger rations during the evening, when I'm ravenous. My wife is hungry at noon, and reserves her calorie "fix" for lunch, eating sparingly during the evening when she's not as hungry.

  • EXERCISE: Let's be frank: Unless you're an athlete or simply love to run, you can't exercise away all you want to eat. A brisk mile walk is invigorating, but it probably won't offset more than two slices of dry toast or one glass of wine. But it's good for your heart and gets you up and away from your desk, so add a little discreet exercise to your lifestyle plan. It can't hurt.

  • TAKE YOUR TIME: Don't try to dump 25 pounds in a month. Even if you can manage it, this is not a diet plan you can live with over the long term. If a diet is so unpleasant that you are glad it's over, you'll quickly rebound to your old weight once you've quit. It's easy to lose three or four pounds a month without much deprivation; and you can keep it up over the long haul, enjoying gradual, steady progress. Once you've reached your goal, keep on counting calories at a level that will maintain your "new" weight, and you won't backslide.

Here's the key: Eat what you like, but keep track of what you eat. And most important, don't think of it as a short-term, sacrificial penance, but a conscious change to a moderate lifestyle plan that you can live with for a long time.

A large number of you sent me E-mail suggestions after my June 25 article on calories and carbohydrates, and I'm looking for more. If you've succeeded at losing weight and keeping it off, particularly if you managed to find room in the process for wine and interesting food, I would like to hear about it. Please drop me a note at I regret that the growing circulation of the "Wine Advisor" makes it difficult for me to reply individually to every note. But I'll respond to as many as I can and do my best to address specific questions. Please be assured that all your input helps me do a better job of writing about wine.

Please tell your wine-loving friends about The 30 Second Wine Advisor (weekly) and Wine Advisor Express (daily), and invite them to register for their own free subscription at

30 Second Tasting Notes:
Bargain Italian red
Salice Salentino Taurino 1997 Salice Salentino Rosso Riserva ($7.99)
One of the most consistent wine values from Southern Italy, the 1997 vintage of Salice Salentino is a clear, dark ruby color, with warm and earthy fruit aromas, plums and leather. Fresh plummy fruit and lemon-squirt acidity makes for a full, structured wine that's excellent with food. U.S. importer: Winebow Inc., NYC. (July 29, 2001)

FOOD MATCH: A natural with red meat, but it also went well with a lightly spicy vegetarian dinner, a multi-ethnic "fusion" of Indian saag paneer with a bit of mozzarella in place of the Indian cheese and orzo pasta filling in for the usual rice.

Wine 'Toon Calendar 2002!
Here's an easy, early way to please the wine lovers on your holiday-giving list: Reserve them a copy of the Wine Lovers Page Wine 'Toon Calendar! Wine lovers won't want to miss our handy and chuckle-worthy collection of cartoonist Chuck Stoudt's zany wine 'toons ... plus dozens of favorite wine quotes for every season, AND a highlighted Wine Link of the Week! If you pre-order the Wine Toon Calendar before Sept. 1, 2001, it's only $9.99 plus shipping and handling. After Sept. 1, prices will go up. Order now, and you'll be all set for holiday giving! For the details, see:

30 Second Administrivia
This free E-mail publication is distributed to subscribers every Monday, and our daily Wine Advisor Express is E-mailed Tuesday through Friday. Previous editions are archived at

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All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.

More time for wine?
You don't need to wait for Mondays to read about wine! Drop in any time at the Wine Lovers' Page,, where we add new tasting notes several times each week and frequently expand our selection of wine-appreciation articles, tips and tutorials. If you'd like to talk about wine online with fellow wine enthusiasts around the world, click to our interactive, international Wine Lovers' Discussion Group forums,

Vol. 3, No. 28, July 30, 2001

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