Archives for June, 2010

Health and alcohol: David Parker explains

The story appearing below is a contribution to the healthy attributes of wine consumption in a balanced diet and lifestyle. David Parker is a wine researcher based in Los Angeles who studies the wine-health debate. He is associated with the wine retailer American Wines. I wish to thank him for this very concise treatment of how restricted wine drinking has healthy benefits, and how non-drinkers can also avail themselves of similar drinks which provide cardio-vascular protection.

“Red Wine Good For Your Health?

Some co-workers have been talking about how everyone should drink wine for their health! Is it true that drinking wine is now good for you? How much is good?



Dear Nondrinker,

Drinking wine for good health seems to be getting all the press instead of healthier alternatives, probably because it’s an intoxicating beverage.

However, there have been studies supporting intake of nonalcoholic beverages such as grape juice, cranberry juice, or tea with lower incidence of cancer, heart disease, and other diseases.

Support for moderate consumption of wine, 1-2 glasses, and a decrease in coronary heart disease first came to public attention via the “60 Minutes” report on the “French Paradox” (CBS News, 2003). The French had a lower incidence of coronary heart disease despite their diet high in fat. One possible reason given for the low rate of coronary heart disease in France was the French habit of drinking wine with meals. Antioxidants such as flavonoids or resveratrol are in grapes. Resveratrol lowers the “bad” LDL cholesterol, but elevates the “good” HDL cholesterol levels.

However, University of Pennsylvania researchers found smaller food portions may explain the ‘French Paradox’ of rich cuisine and slender population. The researchers noted that food portions are significantly smaller in French restaurants and supermarkets than in their American counterparts (see

Beverages High in Resveratrol

Red wines have a higher level of resveratrol than white wines. In particular, the red wine, pinot noir, has about twice as much as other reds.

For people who do not want to drink alcohol, there are alternatives. Some research has pointed out that cranberry juice, red or purple grape juice work as well, maybe better, than red wine. However, fresh grapes do not have as high a concentration of antioxidants as processed grape juice or wine.

Although some health food stores sell resveratrol as a nutritional supplement., more research needs to be done on this supplement to see if it has the same benefits as wine or grape juice.

In addition, other studies indicate that black or green tea may be more beneficial than wine in reducing heart disease as well as cancer and other diseases.

Two cups of tea have an equivalent antioxidant as 2 glasses of purple grape juice, one glass of red wine, 12 glasses of white wine, 7 glasses of orange juice, 12 glasses of beer, 20 glasses of apple juice (Halpern, 2005).

However, tea, grape juice, or wine consumption doesn’t take the place of a healthy lifestyle, which should include exercise, no smoking, low fat foods, and lots of fruits, vegetables, grains, and water.

Delicious wines available at

Acknowledgements to David Parker whose article appeared on LinkedIn.

The Big Red Wine Book: 2010-2011

Victorian Campbell Mattinson and New South Welshman Gary Walsh have been very busy compiling their The Big Red Wine Book 2010-2011.

This is the third year of the book now pushing more than 1000 red wines (the scribes don’t tell the exact number and I didn’t feel like the counting exercise).

These guys found plenty to write about and I recommend it as a good red wine tragic’s read – it’s light and breezy, easy to grip and comprehensive with its style coverage.

They give RED awards for wines less than USD 17.40 (shiraz, cabernet, red blend, imported red), best winery, best wine, best winemaker, best pinot, cabernet, shiraz, merlot, red blend, alternative red, imported red and best organic/biodynamic red.

The most important declaration about the basis of their wine selection comes on page two, “we’re not wine tasting gods – we’re just two blokes who live and breathe wine, and love the stuff”. I am not sure if this is a cop out in case some wines sneak through with sensory faults. Campbell and Gary probably leave the technical rejection stage to wine show judges.

Privately these guys are saying they “sort out, sledge and swoon over the best and worst reds available in Australia this year”. Remember the compilation is based on the percentage of brand owners sending wines to these tastings – hopefully it was a high one.

Scoring: I have noticed the upward trend on scribes’ wine scores out of 100. Looking at wines scoring 94 points three years ago, they now easily reach 97, or even 98. Part of that is saying our wines are getting better, I believe that, but there is also a subtle competition going between wine book authors to allocate higher wine points.

That in turn forces other scribes to point wines upwards to be seen in step by the reading public.

I think Campbell and Gary are pretty grounded with their points: only three wines reach 97 (Mount Pleasant Maurice O’Shea Shiraz 07, Howard Park Abercrombie Cabernet 08 and Bindi Block 5 Pinot Noir 08).

And I had a read to find the Queenslanders who made the cut.

Royal Agricultural Show Society of Queensland

Last week the Royal Agricultural Show Society of Queensland (RASQ), the oldest agricultural show group in Queensland announced its wine results.

This show focuses only on Mediterranean varieties, those medium textured reds and mild flavoured whites which suit a wide range cuisines which just happen to include most Asian tastes as well.

With climate change most of the varietals introduced to Australia by James Busby in the 1830s, and more recently were from cold climate regions of northern Europe-riesling, chenin, sauvignon, chardonnay, pinot, merlot and cabernet sauvignon.

This describes most of Australia’s current grape plantings now under macro-climates which are changing.

The major variety shown in the RASQ show is shiraz but there is a place for tempranillo, sangiovese, nero d’avola, verdelho, pinot gris and many minor temperate grape varieties.

Best Mediterranean red wine of the show was a McLaren Vale shiraz-Stevens Reserve 2006 (USD 21.50), a part of Australia which has an enormous cachet for winning major red wine trophies.

Shiraz was judged in three groups: 2008-2009, 2007, 2006 and older. Gold medals went to Jacob’s Creek Padthaway Shiraz 2005 (USD 15), Richmond Grove Limited Release Barossa Shiraz 2006 (USD 17.50) and Orlando Lawsons Shiraz 2003 (USD 44.50).

Two more modern golds went to Terra Felix and Johnny Q Shiraz Viogniers 2008 (USD 14 and 10.50 respectively).

Best Mediterranean White was from the Strathbogie Ranges producer Baddaginnie Run Viognier 2009 (USD 17.50) made at the Fowles-Plunkett winery.

Best Queensland Mediterranean was made by a Spanish-influenced winemaker with Alto, a monastrell, garnacha, shyra, tempranillo, cabernet and tannat blend which has received recent wide acclaim (USD 26).

One new wine to watch was the silver medal awarded to Preston Peak Sagrantino, a textural red grown on the Granite Belt resembling barbera in flavour.

More results

Results Digest: Decanter WW Awards NZ 2010

After tasting ten years of Martinborough’s Ata Rangi pinot noirs recently, I was impressed with their closed structure and lack of steroid characters found in Central Otago pinot.

If by common luck the trophy wine for New Zealand pinot noir over $14.75 at the recent Decanter Awards was another Martinborough wine-Schubert Block B 2008 ($36.50).

The 2008 NZ pinots generally are big wines, pushing with greater colour than expected of the grape and they have a lot of coiled up flavour which seems to evolving quite slowly.

The Geisenheim-trained Schuberts had two of the three gold medal contenders for the trophy with another wine, Marion’s Vineyard 2008 ($36.50).

According to the Great New Zealand Pinot Classification the standard pinot of Schubert is rated three star (based on four vintages).

Splitting the two was the remaining gold medal, Tarras Vineyards 2008 from Central Otago (USD 29).

Curiously there is no regional trophy for Kiwi pinot under $14.75 as there are few wines meeting that price break, despite some recent urging from the UK trade pundits. If there were any entries they needed gold to land a trophy.

In Australia decent Kiwi pinot seems to not drop below $17 (AUD 20).

There was no regional trophy for NZ chardonnay and there were no golds. As usual there was a profusion of them for the regional sauvignon blanc trophy.

The top gong went to Nobilo Icon Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (USD 20.50) from Marlborough. After that came seven golds, three to Saint Clair.

Look for Invivo 2009 (USD 14.75), Kim Crawford 2009 (USD 16.20), Mud House 2009 (USD 16.20), Saint Clair Pioneer Block 6 ‘Oh’ Block 2009, Block 19 ‘Bird’ Block 2009 (both USD 23.50), Wairau Reserve 2009 (USD 28), and Villa Maria Clifford Bay Reserve 2009 (USD 19).

Other whites to receive golds were both Hawkes Bay viogniers; Alpha Domus The Wingwalker 2008 (USD 17.50) and Moana Park Tribute 2009 (USD 22.50) the latter from the Gimblett Gravels.

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