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 California Wine Club
Looking for an international wine adventure?

In This Issue
 Do wine lovers make better thinkers? British study links alcohol and cognitive function.
 Two good Australian reds Going beyond Barossa for Aussie wines of character and elegance.
 California Wine Club Looking for an international wine adventure?
  Book Review: Sniff Swirl Slurp A fun wine-tasting read by Australia's Max Allen.
 This week on A good value in White Burgundy, and seeking Pinot Noir bargains.
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index Links to recent articles in the Wine Advisor archives.
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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.

 This link points to the formal abstract of the article in American Journal of Epidemiology, Aug. 1, 2004, vol. 160, no. 3, pp. 240-247(8). If this long link is not clickable in your E-mail, you'll want to take care to keep the entire long link on a single line, without paragraph breaks, when you copy it into your Web browser:;jsessionid=3kjl2qe23j8p9.crescent?issue=pubinfobike://oup/aje/2004/00000160/00000003&index=10
The full text of the report may be downloaded from Ingenta, an online collection of academic and professional publications, but it costs $35.

 Here's an article about the report in the general media, the London Daily Telegraph:

If you would like to comment or ask questions about today's topic (or other wine-related issues), you'll find a round-table online discussion about this article in our interactive Wine Lovers' Discussion Group, where you're always welcome to join in the conversations about wine.

If you prefer to comment privately, feel free to send me E-mail at I'll respond personally to the extent that time and volume permit.

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 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.

Cookoothama 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
Mention The 30 Second Wine Advisor and they'll add a complimentary bottle of your favorite California varietal wine in your first shipment.

To find sources and check prices on other Nugan Estate wines, search the databases at,

Nugan 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.

California Wine Club

The California Wine Club:
Looking for an international wine adventure?

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
Mention The 30 Second Wine Advisor and they'll give you a bottle of your favorite California varietal in your first shipment - on them!

Book Review: Sniff Swirl Slurp

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 for $13.97 (a 30 percent discount from list price), click
(If you use this link to buy, your purchase will return a small commission to

This week on

Here are links to some of our recently published articles that I think you'll enjoy: Burghound Selection of the Month
The Selection of the Month returns to our pages, with Allen Meadows' recent comments on this month's Burgundy, 2002 Macon "Les Morizottes" of Domaine Larochette-Manciat in Chaintre. Expressive aromas, rich flavors and exceptional concentration combine to make this fine White Burgundy an outstanding value that would make a great house white, Burghound says. Here is his tasting report:

Wine Lovers' Discussion Group: Pinot Noir best value regions
Where do find the most bang for your buck in Pinot Noir today, asks reader Robert N. in our Wine Lovers' Discussion Group. Assuming a budget around $20 per bottle, do you find the best Pinot bargains in Oregon, New Zealand, Burgundy or California? Read the replies, and add your own:

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:

 30 Second Wine Advisor, daily or weekly (free)
 Wine Advisor FoodLetter, Thursdays (free)
 Wine Advisor Premium Edition, alternate Tuesdays ($24/year)

For all past editions, click here


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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.

Monday, Aug. 16, 2004
Copyright 2004 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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