Do wine lovers make better thinkers?
If you feel that you've been thinking extra sharply of late, perhaps it could be the wine talking.
Adding another data point to the growing body of studies that link moderate wine consumption with health and longevity, British scientists recently published a report suggesting that consumption of beverage alcohol appears to be related with improved "cognitive function" (thinking ability) in adults.
Researchers examined data from the Whitehall Study, an extensive "cohort study" that followed the medical histories of about 10,000 British government workers over 11 years beginning in 1985.
At the end of the study period (1997-99), about 6,000 of the Whitehall participants were given a battery of tests to measure intelligence, memory, vocabulary and fluency, and the results were compared with their reported consumption of alcohol. "Of people who reported drinking alcohol in the past year," the researchers' abstract says, "those who consumed at least one drink in the past week, compared with those who did not, were significantly less likely to have poor cognitive function."
These benefits appeared even at levels of alcohol consumption that most sensible observers would consider excessive; in fact, the cognitive benefits appeared greatest among the heaviest drinkers, those drinking more than 240 grams per week, approximately 30 drinks or five full bottles of table wine.
"The authors concluded that for middle-aged subjects, increasing levels of alcohol consumption were associated with better function regarding some aspects of cognition," the abstract concluded, adding, laconically, "Nonetheless, it is not proposed that these findings be used to encourage increased alcohol consumption."
The study, Alcohol Consumption and Cognitive Function in the Whitehall II Study, by researchers Annie Britton, Archana Singh-Manoux and Sir Michael Marmot of London's University College, was announced in the Aug. 1, 2004 edition of the American Journal of Epidemiology. It should be noted that studies of this type demonstrate relationships among variables but don't purport to establish the causes of those relationships. In other words, the study does not claim to prove that drinking improves cognitive function. Indeed, researchers noted that the relationship was "weakened when social position was added to the model."
Still, all this provides something for us to think about - clearly, it is to be hoped - when we lift our next glass of wine.
Here's an article about the report in the general media, the London Daily Telegraph:
TALK ABOUT WINE ONLINE
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For today's tasting report, I turn to two current Australian offerings from California Wine Club's new International Selections (see sponsored link below). These red beauties from the third-generation Nugan Group - a Shiraz and a Cabernet Sauvignon - show a different, and pleasurable, variation on the heavy, "blockbuster" style that many of us associate with the popular wines from Australia's Barossa region. The Shiraz is from Riverina, a less-familiar region in New South Wales, southwest of Sydney. The Cabernet is from Coonawarra, a historic South Australia region known for its distinctive "red earth" - and for wines of exceptional finesse and balance.
Disclosure: California Wine Club is an advertising partner and long-time supporter of WineLoversPage.com and The 30 Second Wine Advisor. However, by agreement, my occasional reports on the club's offerings are tasted "blind" and objectively, with the understanding that I will "call them as I see them" irrespective of this relationship. These two easily passed that test: I can recommend them without reservation.
Nugan 2001 "Cookoothama" South Eastern Australia Shiraz
Clear ruby in color, deeply hued but not overly dark, this wine breathes the appetizing signature aromas of ripe Shiraz: Black fruit, plums and cherries, with whiffs of brown spices and an attractive earthy note. Bright plum and berry fruit flavors are nicely structured with mouth-watering acidity. A well-balanced table wine, good with food. Distributed in the U.S. by California Wine Club's International Selections. (Aug. 15, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: Any red meat would go fine, with extra points for char-grilling. My made-to-match recipe, featured in the Club's Passport newsletter, is a rare steak with a simple sauce of green peppercorns in a red-wine reduction with a touch of cream, a presentation inspired by dinner at Ashcroft's in Australia's Blue Mountains.
VALUE: A fine value at California Wine Club's package price, $32.95 plus shipping for both these excellent reds.
WHEN TO DRINK: Ready to enjoy, and capable of cellaring for five to seven years.
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: These specific Nugan Estate wines are sole exclusively in the U.S. by California Wine Club's International Selections. Call 1-800-777-4443 or visit
To find sources and check prices on other Nugan Estate wines, search the databases at Wine-Searcher.com,
The Nugan 2001 "VI" Sixth Generation Coonawara Cabernet Sauvignon
Dark ruby, with a glint of bronze. Plummy black fruit aromas blend with a distinct note of dark chocolate, and oak adds an appealing backdrop of spice. Full and bright on the palate, with fresh, juicy fruit flavors built on lemon-squirt acidity and smooth, palatable tannins, with a clear but not overbearing presence of spicy oak. Flavors remain clean and consistent in a long finish. Distributed in the U.S. by California Wine Club's International Selections. (Aug. 15, 2004)
WHEN TO DRINK: Enjoyable now, especially with red meat to smooth the tannins, but it also shows good aging potential, so feel free to cellar for up to a decade, assuming good storage conditions.
FOOD MATCH, VALUE AND FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: See information provided under the Shiraz, above.
The California Wine Club:
The California Wine Club's International Selections is a new and fun way to sample terrific wines from some of the world's best, small, family-owned wineries. Club owners Bruce and Pam Boring import the international selections directly from the winemaking families. There's no distributor, no middle man and no bad wine.
The California Wine Club's International Selections ship every other month. Each shipment includes two bottles of wine that won't be found anywhere else in the U.S., plus an engaging newsletter, Passport. To learn more about this month's selection from Australia check out the "Wine Reviews" in today's 30 Second Wine Advisor.
Two-bottle shipments range between $50 and $75, including all shipping, handling and import charges.
For more information, or to give the International Selections a try call 1-800-777-4443 or visit
Book Review: Sniff Swirl Slurp
Speaking of Australia and its wines, one of my favorite Australian wine journalists - Max Allen, a British expatriate based in Melbourne - has recently published a new wine-tasting book, a follow-up to his earlier book "Crush" about Australian wines and wine regions, titled "Sniff Swirl Slurp."
In light-hearted, easy-to-follow terms, Max looks at the effects that variables from geography to grapes to the wine maker's hand have on the taste of wine. These fundamentals are illustrated through a dozen suggested tastings that introduce a range of wine styles, showing you what to look for in specific tastings and how to find it.
A quick read in 144 paperback pages, it's now available from publisher Mitchell Beazley in the U.S. and the UK as well as Down Under. To purchase a copy from Amazon.com for $13.97 (a 30 percent discount from list price), click
This week on WineLoversPage.com
Here are links to some of our recently published articles that I think you'll enjoy:
Burghound.com: Burghound Selection of the Month
Wine Lovers' Discussion Group: Pinot Noir best value regions
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:
Back to Old Virginia (Aug. 13, 2004)
WT101: Garnacha (Aug. 11, 2004)
Napa, not Napa (Aug. 9, 2004)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Green olive pasta (Aug. 12, 2004)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:
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Monday, Aug. 16, 2004