If you go to many wine tastings, you've surely seen this: You and your peers sip and swirl a "flight" of red wines. Then you turn to your companion, smile ... and reveal a row of dark purple teeth that would do justice to Count Dracula.
If you like red wine, you pretty much have to get used to having stained teeth from time to time. Which raises a couple of important questions for wine lovers: Does red wine pose any long-term concerns for your teeth? And, can you do anything about it?
The answers to these questions are not entirely clear. In today's article we'll raise some issues and examine the conventional wisdom. If we have any dentists, dental technicians or other experts reading along today, I would appreciate it if you'll get in touch (E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org), and I'll try to gather information for a more definitive follow-up.
In short, there seem to be two issues: Long-term, permanent red-wine stains; and the Dracula Effect - the spectacular but temporary staining that occurs when you swish and swirl many red wines in your mouth over a short period in a large tasting or wine judging.
Long-term, gradual staining (which may also be associated with coffee, tea and other beverages) is a job for your dentist, and it gives wine enthusiasts one more reason to follow the standard advice about watching treats and visiting your dentist regularly. It's not something to ignore, dentists say, as the acids in wine will eventually "etch" or erode your tooth enamel, causing permanent damage and opening weak spots where decay can occur. Your dentist can also discuss procedures to "whiten" your teeth, if this is a concern.
The "Purple Tooth Syndrome" after tastings, on the other hand, is temporary, and the experts say your teeth (and tongue and lips) are not actually stained but simply covered with a thin layer of wine-dark saliva. Brushing will remove it. But hold on a minute ... literally.
Many dental experts advise against brushing immediately after a serious red-wine tasting, because, they say, the high acidity of the wine renders your teeth sensitive to abrasion. Brush too soon, and you risk damaging the enamel. This theory holds that it's better to endure the purple tooth syndrome for an hour or so (keep your mouth closed if you're embarrassed) until your mouth's natural acid balance returns. Eating a bit of cheese or even simply rinsing your mouth thoroughly with water will help in the meantime.
In the realm of useless advice for wine enthusiasts, a "tooth whitening expert" on MSNBC television once recommended avoiding the stains by sipping your red wine through a straw. I don't think so. But for additional advice, you might enjoy my New Zealand pal Sue Courtney's article, "Dental care for the wine taster," at
To read or participate in an online discussion of this topic, click to "Purple Tooth Syndrome" in our Wine Lovers' Discussion Group,
Following up on my reminder yesterday that reservations for our June tour of the Rhone and Provence will close next Wednesday, several of you asked for more details about the itinerary.
I will join with wine experts Lauriann Greene and Jean-Pierre Sollin of French Wine Explorers, a high-quality American tour company that specializes in wine tours of France, for an in-depth exploration of these two beautiful regions and their vineyards and wines.
The mood will be relaxed and the attitude easy as we make our way through some of France's most enjoyable wine regions as a small community of wine-loving friends, taking a close-up, inside look at the wines and food of the region and meeting the people who make them.
Here, subject to last-minute changes, is our detailed itinerary of winery visits, restaurants and hotels:
TUESDAY, JUNE 11
Paris to Avignon by TGV
Lunch at Les Florets in Gigondas
Domaine Les Gouberts Gigondas
Domaine des Bernardins Beaumes-de-Venise
Dinner: Cloitre des Arts, Avignon
Hotel: Hotel d'Europe, Avignon
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 12
Cotes du Rhone, Cotes du Rhone Villages-Cairanne
l'Universite du Vin, Chateau de Suze-la-Rousse (wine tasting instruction in the Chateau's tasting lab)
Lunch at Le Garlaban
Domaine Marcel Richaud
Dinner: On your own in Avignon
Hotel: Hotel d'Europe, Avignon
THURSDAY, JUNE 13
Baux de Provence Vin de Pays
Visit and lunch at les Baux de Provence
Mas de Gourgonnier
Domaine de Trevallon
Visit Palais des Papes in Avignon
Dinner: La Vieille Fontaine
FRIDAY, JUNE 14
Chateau de Beaucastel
Domaine Bois de Boursan
Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe
Dinner: On your own in Avignon
SATURDAY, JUNE 15
Lirac, Tavel, Chateauneuf-du-Pape
Lunch at l'Auberge de Tavel
Visit to Pont du Gard
Summer induction ceremony, Echansonnerie des Papes
SUNDAY, JUNE 16
Coteaux de Luberon, Bandol
Chateau la Rouviere
Visit port of Bandol
Hotel and dinner: Hostellerie Berard
MONDAY, JUNE 17
Return to Paris from Marseilles via TGV
For more information, visit the French Wine Explorers' Website,
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Thursday, May 9, 2002
Copyright 2002 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.