Archive for the ‘Responsible Drinking’ Category

On one or two odd occasions (Sunday brunch for example), we’ve probably all indulged ourselves in an odd ‘beverage’ or two – maybe a Bloody Mary, Mimosa or something similar? For me at least, drinking wine or alcohol too early in the day has never felt quite right, but that’s probably just a person thing – each to their own I guess.

In recent years however, there are some worrying trends that have developed, all related to early morning drinking. For example, a common sight at many UK airports are groups of young men and women, enjoying their traditional full English breakfast….. with drink in hand. This sometimes extends to several drinks, eventually culminating in unruly behavior, even on early morning flights. The problem appears to be that once border control has been cleared, then normal UK licensing hours don’t apply, and so travellers are free to drink what they like. It is becoming quite a problem for the airlines – air rage fueled by alcohol.

I was a little perplexed therefore to read what I assumed to be a ‘serious’ article entitled “8 breakfast wines you should be drinking” – some restaurants are now apparently offering a wine list with breakfast. The recommendations rather depend on what you are ordering, but the majority of those offered are white, ranging from crisp, fruity white, to sweet white (intended to accompany your pancakes!). There is even one suggestion that a chilled, light red could be teamed up with your bacon dishes, albeit I find that eggs are notoriously difficult to marry, and most red wines would probably be rendered metallic, harsh and astringent by a ‘runny’ egg yolk.

Personally, I think that wine with breakfast quite a bad idea, and believe that a line has to be drawn somewhere, and round-the-clock drinking should not be encouraged. Whatever happened to ‘responsible drinking’ and ‘wine in moderation’? Has that now become an old-fashioned concept?

Festive drinks

December 12th, 2015

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mulled wineThe choice of what you drink over the holidays may depend, to some extent, on what you are eating. Having said that I should add that I am actually a great believer in the idea of drinking the wines that you really enjoy drinking, regardless of whether they are considered the perfect match for your food. Personally, I always enjoy a nice glass of Champagne, not just over the holidays, but actually at any time of year. I don’t need an excuse…

My focus today however, is more to do with winter warmers rather than just wine, and so is perhaps aimed more at our northern hemisphere drinkers, rather than those enjoying their festive turkey bathed in warm sunshine. Those lucky enough to live in the mountains, or maybe just spending their holidays in the snow, might be sipping a hot gluhwein, or my personal favourite aprés-ski tipple, jagertee (black tea, wine, rum, brandy, orange juice & spices). Two cups of jagertee and I could conquer the Hahnenkamm!

The choice of winter drinks is endless, and is not restricted to just mulled or spiced wines – many of the recipes can also be applied to cider or ales, and then don’t forget your liqueur coffees or chocolate based drinks. The list goes on, for example you might easily be offered a choice of toddies, nogs, punches, cocktails, nordic glöggs or Olde English wassail.

Final reminders: You can still drink albariño over the holidays, and……. make sure you are stocked up on Alka Seltzer (or milk thistle)!

drunkThis Superbowl weekend many of us will settle down in front of the TV, beer in hand, to watch the big game. (Even I am prepared to admit that there won’t be too many drinking albariño on this particular occasion). Of course we always recommend that any drinking should be in moderation, because there is always the danger that you could end up pot-shotten!

Splifficated? Pot-shotten? Sounds like I’ve had a drop too many myself….. In fact these are old English words for drunk, and believe me there are many more, and will continue to be more with every year that passes. From a list of nearly 200 words one of my personal favourites is pixilated, which is not as you might imagine, a new expression – this description actually dates back to 1848. Some of my others from the list include, tap-shackled, reeling ripe, peloothered and drunk as a wheelbarrow! Click on today’s picture to enlarge, and see the list.

BottleDoes the idea of drinking a bottle of wine per day seem just a little excessive to you? Well according to the study of yet another alcohol ‘expert’, drinking 7 bottles a week, or say 365 bottles a year, will not do you any harm. In research carried out by former World Health Organisation alcohol expert Dr Kari Poikolainen, he claims that we can consume up to 13 units of alcohol per day without any ill effect. With a 75cl bottle of our Castro Martin albariño containing only 9 units, this would mean that drinking 1½ bottles per day would be just about within the limit!

My own personal belief is pretty much the same as the advice that we are usually given. Enjoy your wine, but take it in moderation – indeed I have always thought that a glass of wine with your meal is possibly a good way to aid digestion, or is that just another misleading ‘expert’ opinion? On the other side of the coin there are those who would argue that wine is a toxin and should be avoided altogether, but then this is perhaps a rather extreme view. Surely the solution to this ongoing conundrum must lie somewhere between the two.

A drink too far?

August 18th, 2014

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NovinophobiaSome of you may know that I go running along our local seafront every morning – the same route used by young people returning from our local bars and discotheques. On some days I actually encounter the revellers themselves but more often I simply encounter the trail of havoc that they leave behind. Broken glass, empty bottles, plastic bags, food wrappers, emptied litter bins, broken plants and trees, and other things too unpleasant to mention. Each day our local council dutifully sends cleaners to gather up the debris, but unfortunately this carnage only leaves me with a feeling of despair….. nearly all of this misbehaviour is down to the effects of alcohol, and therefore only succeeds in damaging the reputation of our industry.

The specific reason that I feel compelled to write about this once again is that a Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Misuse, formed in the UK, is now calling for the calorie content and health risks associated with alcohol to be spelled out clearly on all wine and beer labels, in a similar style to cigarette health warnings. The group has also supported calls for a minimum price per unit of alcohol to be introduced to increase the cost of the cheapest drinks bought in supermarkets and off licences.

Unfortunately the ‘Botellon’ as it is known in Spain is fuelled by the Supermarkets, whereby drinking in bars and discotheques is supplemented by much cheaper alcohol purchased over the counter. I did read somewhere that on one of the recent Bullfighting weekends in Pontevedra (mentioned in a recent post) some 19 young people were admitted to our local hospitals with varying levels of alcoholic poisoning.

Of course, I doubt very much that these problems were caused by albariño, but unfortunately we simply find ourselves listed  in the general category of alcohol, and most of the anti-alcohol lobby does not discriminate sufficiently between the different types. After all, I’m sure that the vast majority of us are quite responsible drinkers!

No more headaches!

December 2nd, 2013

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HangoverSulphur dioxide (SO2) is widely used in winemaking as a preservative and antibacterial agent, but for some people it can have a very unpleasant side-effect. The quantities used in a finished wine are strictly regulated and are so small (measured in parts per million) that they shouldn’t really cause any health problems. However, it is alleged that some people can suffer from headaches or have breathing difficulties triggered by drinking these trace amounts of SO2 (although this statement is probably quite unfair as there are other compounds, such as tyramines and histamines that can also contribute to the problem).

Eliminating the need for sulphur in wine would therefore be more than welcome news for these consumers, and it might just be that researchers at Penn State University have come up with a suitable alternative – chelator. Chelation is a process where molecules bind with metal ions, and it is suggested that this technique could be used to remove trace metals in wine. By simply adding compounds that bind to the iron, such as phytic acid (found naturally in grape juice), oxidation in wine is prevented. In addition to this it was also discovered that these chelators could inhibit the formation of acetaldehyde, which robs a wine of its fruity, freshness and is the precursor of vinegar-like acetic acid. Celebrations all ’round…. well, maybe not quite yet.

The question is how much this could it affect the other properties of wine or whether it could have any other, unwanted side-effects, such as changing the way a wine matures over time. Only time and a lot more testing will reveal the answers, but the days of adding sulphur to wine might just be numbered.

Coke cocktailI found a website the other day that included suggestions for Albariño cocktails. Of course making a spritzer with white wine is quite common, but purist that I am, I really don’t believe in mixing our wine with anything….. just enjoy it chilled, on its own, as nature (or should I say Angela) intended when she lovingly created it!

Then I came across another article about the Kalimotxo – a ‘blend’ of red wine and Coca Cola that has been around since the 1970’s. Of course I had heard the rumours of Chinese millionaires enjoying their bottle of 1st growth Bordeaux wine made into a Coca-Cola spritzer, and I should add that I haven’t tried it myself, so perhaps I shouldn’t criticise it. Having said that, surely mixing any wine with Coca Cola can’t be a good thing? Now, I’m not knocking Coca Cola either because sometimes when I need a sugar hit, or when I’m super-thirsty, then a chilled can of Coke can really hit the spot – it might dissolve my teeth, but it does quench a raging thirst.

The recipe for this Kalimotxo ‘cocktail’ is actually quite simple (like the people who drink it I am tempted to say): empty half of a two-litre Coke bottle and add one litre of red wine to the mix, then add ice to taste. Both delicious and classy at the same time!

It is said that the name originated from a Basque festival when someone was served a sour bottle of wine and so mixed it with some Coca Cola to add a bit of sweetness. The inventor named it after a chicken character called Calimero, and moxto, which I think means mixed in Basque. In other parts of the world is it sometimes called Rioja Libre, which is a play on the more famous (and perhaps more palatable) cocktail of Cuba Libre – the Coke and white rum mix that we know and love.

BurgerHave you ever thought that there are just too many experts? Too many studies advising that we should do this or eat that? This is good for you and this is bad for you etc., etc…..  Sometimes I feel like shouting “Stop”, and then just carry on by using my own judgement and common sense. A bit of everything but ‘in moderation’ would seem like the best idea to me.

I have to confess that one of the latest studies made me smile, and I had absolutely no idea when I saw it that it had been commissioned here in Spain. Apparently, according to Spanish ‘experts’, eating to much fast food will make you depressed. Burgers, hot dogs, pizza, doughnuts and croissants can all help to make you feel ‘down’. Forgive me for saying but this seems hardly surprising, and do you really have to be an expert to come up with that conclusion? They continue by adding that people who eat too much fast food are likely to have other bad habits as well. Of course it could simply be that by eating unhealthy food and putting on a bit of excess weight then this could also be a contributory factor.

Anyway, in order to make this post a little more relevant to our line of work, there is the tale of another group of scientists in Chicago who have discovered that drinking to excess can either make you happy, or perhaps even make you sad. Believe me, this isn’t a joke. Although sometimes described as a depressant, alcohol can actually produce a mixture of either stimulant or sedative effects, with some people treating it as a social lubricant whilst others see it as a potential ‘downer’. Again, I don’t claim to be an expert, but I think I could have quite easily worked that out for myself. They go on to say that the way it affects you is all down to your individual genetic make-up, and their ‘discovery’ could explain why some drinkers become angry and upset if they get intoxicated while others become merry and silly.

I guess that the conclusion we should draw from these two most ‘enlightening’ studies is – don’t use a bottle and a half of cab-merlot to wash down your triple cheese burger and double fries – it might be bad for your health (mental or otherwise).

Too much information?

February 12th, 2013

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At the beginning of this month a UK government health minister revealed that in future wine labels might be required to include yet more information, this time relating to calorie content. Wine labels are already crammed with consumer advice, and this is made even more complicated by the fact that each country has its own regulations.

This latest idea suggests that wine consumers are becoming overweight and obese owing to excessive alcohol consumption, although I would have thought that this problem is perhaps more related to beer than it is to wine. Having said that it is perhaps true to say that alcohol can be underestimated when it come to calories, one pint of lager beer for example can contain 250 calories, whilst one single glass of wine might be anything from 140 up to 230 calories (depending on the wine style).

Perhaps I am biased but I still believe that wine is sometimes unfairly blamed for specific health problems. For example, binge drinking is rarely associated with wine, liver disease is more often caused by spirits, and I am still of the opinion that weight problems are probably more related to beer drinking. Of course, wine is not completely blameless, but it does often get dragged into the argument. 

The calorie count in wine comes from the sugar and alcohol, but there is no hard and fast rule as to which type of wine contains the most carbohydrates – it is perfectly possible to find a slightly sweet, low alcohol wine that has less calories than a dry, high alcohol wine. Perhaps surprisingly, it’s not all about sugar, indeed there are more calories in the alcohol itself which is why it is so difficult to provide a standard calculation.

The good news is that besides the carbs and calories, there are also nutrients in wine that come from the skin of the grape itself. Generally speaking red wine contains more minerals and antioxidants than white wine, but any colour of wine, in moderation, is not bad for you!

Yet more warnings!

August 20th, 2012

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It was only a day or so ago that I was writing about the abuse of alcohol, and how (as responsible producers) we should never condone heavy drinking. I’m sure that I have written on many previous occasions about the huge number of health warnings appearing on wine labels around the world, and this trend continues with every day that passes. One by one countries are adding compulsory warnings to their labels, the most stringent of which is probably the US. The vast majority of warnings are quite obvious and just plain common sense, such as, do not drive or operate machinery, do not drink whilst pregnant, do not allow children to drink etc. The collective message? Use alcohol responsibly and never abuse its use…..

The only problem is that new research (God help us) has now apparently determined that even moderate drinking can be related to the onset of dementia in later life. The risk, ranging from mild cognitive impairment to full blown dementia, was higher among those who reported drinking more alcohol. It’s hardly surprising that regular binge drinking (for example, our regular weekly Botellon here in Spain), increases the risk dramatically. Among the thousands of men and women they studied, those who reported heavy bouts of drinking – at least one episode per month – were more likely to experience dementia-like problems. The more regularly they binged, the more the risk increased.

Apparently alcohol can cause your blood pressure and blood cholesterol to rise which, in turn, can damage the blood vessels supplying the brain, causing problems such as vascular dementia.

Of course, this is only one side of the story, as on the other hand there is still research claiming that taking alcohol (in moderation) can help your digestion, and possibly keep your heart in good shape. So it’s not all doom and gloom for wine drinkers!

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