Monday, January 30, 2006

Beer is good too!

I have a subscription to Bottom Line's Daily Health News. I scan my daily messages to see if there's any developments or ideas in the health field that's interesting for me.

Today they have one section titled, Raise a Glass to Beer. I have copied that section for those of you who are fans of beer as well as wine drinkers:

Raise a Glass to Beer

Beer drinkers tend to get the short end of the stick. While wine connoisseurs are thought of as chic and sophisticated, beer drinkers are routinely portrayed as slothful, pot-bellied creatures planted in front of TVs. In one memorable news exposé several summers ago, beer drinkers on working-class Rockaway Beach in New York City were arrested (no open containers please), while the mayor sat comfortably ensconced among wine sippers at a philharmonic orchestra concert in Central Park.

But now there's good news for beer drinkers -- it turns out that by and large alcohol is alcohol, and socioeconomic stereotypes aside, the health benefits of beer are not all that different from the benefits of wine. Of course the key word here is moderation -- most experts advise no more than two alcoholic beverages a day for men and no more than one for women. So what's so good about beer?


An increasing body of serious research backs up beer's benefits...

Bone protection. According to a medical team at Tufts University in Boston, beer may help prevent bone-thinning osteoporosis. Dietary silicon in grain products such as beer appears to reduce bone loss and promote bone formation. Beer contains silicate, a highly absorbable form of silicon that works by facilitating the deposit of calcium and other minerals in bone tissue.
Margo A. Denke, MD, clinical professor of medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center, cautions that excessive alcohol intake is a risk factor for bad bones, perhaps because calories from nutrient sources are replaced with calories from alcohol.

Lower risk for cardiovascular disease. Like wine, beer has well-documented heart-healthy benefits. Regular moderate drinking has a protective effect in both men and women against cardiovascular disease, confirms Meir J. Stampfer, MD, DrPH, chair of the department of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. He told me that moderate alcohol consumption in any form has an equivalent benefit -- "Wine is not better than beer, red wine is not better than white and spirits in moderation are also associated with lower risk."

Better heart attack survival. A study at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston noted that moderate drinkers (who consumed more than seven alcoholic beverages a week) had a 32% lower risk of dying from a heart attack than those who drank no alcohol. Light drinkers (less than seven drinks weekly) had a 21% lower risk. Like other alcohol, beer acts as a blood thinner to help prevent clogged arteries. Other research links moderate alcohol consumption with improved blood circulation in the brain and lower risk for stroke.

Improved cholesterol levels. In her research, Dr. Denke discovered that people who consumed one to three drinks daily had higher levels of HDL, the "good" cholesterol. She also found that regular moderate intake of alcohol resulted in lower blood insulin levels. In a related US Department of Agriculture (USDA) study, women who drank one alcoholic beverage daily lowered their LDL ("bad") cholesterol and levels of harmful blood lipids known as triglycerides.

Sharper brains. In the long-term Nurses' Health Study, Dr. Stampfer and his colleagues found that moderate consumption of alcohol seemed to preserve the mental abilities of older women. From 1995 to 1999, more than 9,000 women between ages 70 and 79 were interviewed regarding their alcohol use, and seven different tests of mental function were administered. Moderate drinkers scored better on five of seven tests, and on total overall scores.

Healthier kidneys. At Harvard Medical School, Tobias Kurth, MD, ScD, assistant professor of medicine, and his colleagues examined data from 11,023 men enrolled in the long-term physicians' Health Study. Over a period of 14 years, the participants reported their alcohol consumption and underwent regular physical exams and blood tests. Researchers found that men who consumed seven or more drinks a week experienced a 29% lower risk of developing kidney problems. (Read more about this study in Daily Health News, January 17, 2006.)

Antioxidant effect. Japanese scientists have found that antioxidants such as polyphenols in beer may offer protection against cancer-causing chemicals. This echoes earlier research conducted in Portugal, which suggested that antioxidants slow the proliferation of breast cancer cells. According to Dr. Denke, isoflavonoids in beer are phytoestrogens that mimic the activity of the natural human hormone estrogen. In laboratory experiments, isoflavonoids have also been shown to inhibit the growth of breast, prostate and colon cancers.


Promising as all this research appears, talking about alcohol always requires special caution. It's all too easy to slip over the line from healthful consumption to overconsumption and physical damage, warns Dr. Denke. Yes, regular moderate consumption can benefit the heart, kidneys, bones and more... but by the same token, drinking too much alcohol can seriously harm vital organs and processes in the body.

While we all think of beer as having more than its fair share of calories, in fact it is not significantly higher than other forms of alcohol. As always, moderation in all things is the best path to follow.

Copyright © 2006 by Boardroom Inc.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Oh, no! No more wine and cheese parties

Can you believe it? A new research published in American Journal of Enology and Viticulture shows that
"The cheese suppressed almost all flavors, even strong ones, ... "
It seems like, unless your accompanying cheese is brie or camembert, it is not a good idea to have chees with your wine.

Read more about it at BBC News: Wine and cheese 'not best match'

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Cool it!

It seems like I am not the only one trying to figure out how to store wine and what temperature is good for bringing out the flavors of the wine.

This participatory column (Hollister Free Lance -- Living) has now fielded more questions from the public. Two basic questions that keep arising are, “How should we store wine?” and “What temperature should wine be served?”

There are a few suggestions for those of us who cannot afford fancy wine storage devices (though Christmas is coming and you may want to put it on your wish list : ) )

Constant vibrations or machinery can disturb a wine much as it does our sleep. Do not store your wine on top of the refrigerator or in the garage.

Wine-related gift ideas for the holidays

A new game has appeared for the wine-lovers. "Wine Teasers is a complete wine course in an easy-to-play game!" says their site.

You can read all about their press release on the eMediaWire site.

The game has gone to market in fall, 2005 and is available at,, and at wine and grocery stores nationwide (see list at

Friday, November 11, 2005

Done with your Christmas shopping?

Do you know that as of today there's only 43 days until Christmas? Check out the Countdown to Christmas site, if you don't believe me.

If you have not done all your shopping done yet, here's the good news:

Le Vin Nouveau Wine Tasting of the Fresno State Winery is going to take place on November 17th, 5:30-8:30. It is open to the public and a good chance to try the new wines and purchase some for the holidays. I do believe there's a discount if you purchase on the day of the event.

Terroir is good?

Article from the Slowfood site, "World Wine? We Want Terroir! " is making a plea for not uniforming the taste of wines.

'Wines of the world, don’t unite, for pity’s sake!’ Maybe this should be the battle cry of those wine lovers who are tired of the uniform, one-dimensional taste of wines formatted for an international market. Fortunately, in the ‘old Europe’ so beloved of George Bush, there are ever-increasing numbers of forward-looking growers who are striking back at this dumbing-down and are nurturing differences. It is provenance that wins over internationalization.

On a related note, I would like to remind you of the event that's coming up:

9th Annual Central Coast Viticulture & Enology Conference in San Luis Obispo, February 23-24, titled "The Economics of Terroir -- Image is Everything".

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Time to pick the grapes?

"Harvest's over, let the grape 'hang time' debate begin" by Brett Ascarelli in The Napa Valley Register is discussing the pros and cons of the time the grapes are picked.
"Many vintners favor longer hang times, because they say the extra time grapes spend on the vine develops the full flavors that have lately been lauded by wine critics, whose opinions have had increasing influence over industry standards. However, longer hang times often translate into higher brix, or sugar, levels. When wine ferments, yeast processes the fruit sugars into alcohol, therefore fruit with more brix results in wines with high alcohol. Another side effect of high brix is "stuck fermentation," when the alcohol concentration of fermenting wine gets so high that it kills the yeast before it can convert the remaining sugar. Some winemakers add water to the wine when this happens to revive fermentation."
Nice article.

It is okay to cheat a little

Essential Wine Tasting Guide is a handy little tool for those of us who are not sure about our tasting abilities. Sandra Silfven has a nice column about it in The Wine News section of the The Detroit News, titled "Aussie's wine cheat sheet puts the right words in your mouth."
"Written for the American wine taster (though versions for six other world markets are available, and six more are in the works), it compiles standardized words to describe color (including a palette); tactile descriptors (acidity, tannins, etc.); flavor descriptors; wine faults; points for scoring wine; a temperature serving guide; and general descriptors for all common wine varieties grown in this country."
This is the first time I came across her column but apparently she has a new column every Thursday. It may be worth checking out every once in a while.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

It just may be smoke and mirrors

Even USA Today talks about it: California Wineries Targeted for Smog.

There is a new concern for the winemakers in California. They are being told to cut down on the emission caused by the winemaking processes.

"Now air-quality managers in California's San Joaquin Valley, where nearly two-thirds of domestic wine is produced, are cracking down. By year's end, local officials will propose the nation's first restrictions targeting pollution from winemaking."

But please note that when the authorities talk about it,

" 'We have regulated virtually all other significant (non-vehicle) sources, some a lot smaller than wineries,'says San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District planning director Scott Nester. Winemaking pollution 'is significant, and it is completely uncontrolled.' "

they do emphasize "non-vehicle" sources. I wonder if that includes the "emissions" that cows produce, or the carbon dioxide produced by all those plants around us.

Think outside of the box

Wine drinkers are no longer snobbish about their wines, as long as the quality is preserved. That could be in a bottle, in a box, corked or with a screw top.

The Mercury News has a nice article, "Wine anyone? Sure just pass the box".

Thursday, September 08, 2005

We are proud of our graduates!

Yeah... While perusing my Google Alerts this morning, my eye was caught by the name Tish Cooper. She is mentioned in an article, "Different Body of Work" at
While in France, fellow university students told Cooper that Fresno State was the best place to study enology. So she headed back to the States and enrolled there.
Tish is one of our recent graduates at the Viticulture and Enology program at California State University, Fresno. I am glad to see she is having fun with her degree, playing with yeast up to her shoulders!

Way to go, Tish!

Be American, drink American!

The rise and fall and rise of Zin, in the San Francisco Chronicle, is a nice article about a variety that has not always been popular with the wine drinkers.
-- When Prohibition ended, most Americans celebrated with liquor, not wine. Cocktail parties were the fashion. Wineries sold their old inventory of oxidized Zinfandel and that destroyed the grape's reputation overnight. It was widely derided by East Coast-based writers; its lack of the French noble heritage of Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir didn't help.