Monday, March 27, 2006

DAYS OF WINE AND...MORE WINE.

[Note: This is an essay that was recently published in Expatica Spain.]

I come from a long line of great wine drinkers. This should not, however, be confused with coming from a long line of drinkers of great wine.

My paternal grandfather made home-made wine in the basement of his New York home. According to family archives, it tasted better in a salad bowl than in a wine glass.

My maternal grandfather attributes his longevity (ninety years old and counting!) to a lifetime of jug-wine consumption. That, and managing not to get blown-up during World War II.

My parents inherited the old geezers’ passion for wine, and mercifully raised the bar on quality. They refuse to drink any wines poured from a bottle with a screw-off cap.

But I, alas, have outdone them all. That’s because I am living in Spain—a land of outrageously good wines at outrageously low prices.

According to several websites that I consulted, Spain is the world’s third largest wine producer—trailing only Italy and France, respectively. I feel somewhat responsible for this achievement. Supply is, after all, driven by demand—and I contribute a helluva lot of demand to our domestic wine industry. If I should move to another country, Spain might quickly drop to fifth place.

This wasn’t always the case with me. When I moved to Spain six years ago, I was a confirmed beer drinker. My greatest passion was Belgian ales...with the surprisingly excellent US microbrews coming in second, and British Real Ales (bless you, CAMRA!) a close third. I wore this as a badge of honor. I was proud to be a connoisseur of fine beers, and rejected the perceived pretentiousness of the world’s wine drinkers.

My first brush with Spanish wines after moving here did little to realign those passions. Where did that first brush occur? At Spain’s many “menus del dia” (i.e., those ultra-cheap, three-course lunches that nearly every Spanish bar and restaurant offers during the workweek).

I was delighted to find that a half-liter of wine—and in some cases, an *entire* bottle—is included within the price of each menu del día. And I was even more delighted to find that I could drink this wine during lunch without fear of being branded a degenerate—as would surely be the case in the US. My delight evaporated when I tasted those wines, however, because they generally came in one of two categories—vinegary and overpoweringly vinegary.

On the bright side, at least I learned that the vinegar flavor could be tempered by drinking the wine ice cold. If only Grandpa had known this little trick.

But my attitude toward Spanish wines quickly changed when I ventured out of the bargain lunch sphere into the retail one. There was a small wine shop in the neighborhood in which I lived in Barcelona. In a small room at the back of the shop, the proprietor—a man whom I credit for showing me “the light” about wine...and whom I discredit for revealing himself to be a pathetic, drunken ass shortly thereafter—operated a tiny, hidden bar for “select” customers. This bar featured a small, ever-changing list of wines by the glass—each of which was hand-selected for its excellent price/quality ratio. It was as brilliant a marketing gimmick as it was an educational experience.

In tasting glass after glass—many of which the proprietor was too drunk to remember when tallying my bill at night’s end—I was able to explore (and finally appreciate!) the depth and quality of Spain’s vast offering of wines and wine regions.

The exploration continues to this day—although I have, by this point, developed some strong preferences. My favorite wines at the moment are from the region known as D.O. (Denominación de Origen) Toro—which produces a growing selection of big, strong, deep purple wines at ridiculously low prices. I am also deeply in love with the wines from D.O. Somontano, D.O. Costers del Segre and of course...my local D.O. LaMancha.

[Note to all wineries in the aforementioned regions: Please send the complimentary bottles and/or cases directly to my home—rather than to those Fanta drinkers in Expatica office.]

Apparently, I’m not the only one who believes that Spain’s wines are world-class bargains. At least once per month, some friend or co-worker from the US forwards me an article from the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune or other publication in which the food critic or wine editor gushes about his latest “find” from Spain. If only they knew that I’m buying the same wines locally for 25-50% less.

If there’s a downside to Spain’s outstanding-yet-cheap wines, it’s that they are so...so...outstanding-yet-cheap. When I lived in the US, at least I could rely on my own tendencies as a world-class cheapskate to keep my wine consumption under control. A reasonably good bottle from Napa or Sonoma costs at least $10 in the US...and that hurts! But here...I can—with a little bit of research—buy a fantastic bottle of Spanish wine (for example, Finca La Estacada joven) for under 4€.

4€!!! That’s less than a bottle of Night Train, for God’s sake!

So...what’s my incentive to moderate? Some people may say “health reasons”...but I’m not convinced. If you want to debate this point further, however, then go talk to my ninety year old grandfather.

34 Comments:

At 6:34 PM, Blogger Lisa said...

Cheaper to buy it in Spain, you say. Its only more reason for me to buy a $1000 ticket and fly my butt to Barcelona

 
At 7:54 PM, Blogger CanadianSwiss said...

Big, heavy, deep purple? And under €4?? I'll be right there. I still have to return to Spain. Last time I was there must be like 15 years ago. Too long! Maybe a long weekend...

 
At 8:18 PM, Blogger woman wandering said...

I am almost envious beyond words however words rarely fail me ...

I want be the person experimenting with affordable yet superb Spanish wines, you can have all the Belgian beer that you want but I remain loyal to a good red. Sigh ...

 
At 10:08 PM, Blogger Angie said...

My boyfriend's dad is a big wine collector and has a great collection of Riojas and other Spanish wines. He's the best kind of collector, too, because he's not stingy about breaking out a good wine for an everyday family dinner. He probably would also be jealous to know that you're getting the same wines at half price, but it's OK, he can afford it. (Unlike some of us.)

My problem with wine is that I'm terrible about remembering the names and vintages of what I've drank. (And this has nothing to do with the amount I drink!) In true nerd fashion, I've taken to keeping a wine journal so I can pretend to know what the hell I'm talking about. I highly recommend the practice to other flakes like me. (Clearly, you don't need one, Sal!)

By the way -- dig the 'stache, but why so serious? You can buy good wine for 4E (that's Euros) AND absinthe! Ole!

 
At 10:15 PM, Blogger Angie said...

P.S. Speaking of Belgian beer, as a Belgian-lover I appreciated the Berliner Weisse when I was in Berlin. As far as my inexperienced palate could tell, it's wheat beer with some fruity syrup (I liked the "red" raspberry variety myself.) Fruity beer, drunk through a straw, you haven't lived til you've tried it (and gotten rather tipsy on it, wandering the streets of Berlin until the wee hours.)

Anyway, that's way off-topic but your beer comment brought back good memories.

 
At 10:29 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Lisa: In the meantime, you can buy a $10 bus ticket to Chicago and visit Sam's Liquors. It's a huge store with a huge wine selection...including Spanish wines. But even Sam's doesn't carry Conguitos, so perhaps you should go to Barcelona after all. BTW...$1000 for air tix? You obviously fly Business class.

C-Swiss: Yeah, 4€. Amazing, ain't it? I buy Finca La Estacada by the half-case. Six bottles for $23. I'm gonna outlive my grandfather, fer sure. BTW...Spain is just around the corner for Switzerland. No excuse for a 15 year absence, unless the Guardia Civil is looking for you.

Lady Di: I wish that I could "have all the Belgian beers that [I] want," but that would require a cargo ship. BTW...how on earth did you satisfy your wine passions when you lived in Turkey?

Ang: I had no idea that Berlin is located in Belgium. BTW...I had Berliner Weissenbier (sorry for that spelling, Christina) in East Berlin in 1988, before the wall came down. If you think wine in modern-day Spain is cheap, try drinking beer in communist East Germany. I paid with lint balls, and still got change. As for your wine journal, I'd like to recite a quote from Mr. Boston's Bartender Guide: "Only two things are needed to be a wine expert. Experience and a good memory." So...with a wine journal, the good memory isn't even necessary.

 
At 10:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wine production/consumption stats:

http://www.awbc.com.au/winefacts/data/free.asp?subcatid=41
http://www.cellarnotes.net/world_comparison.htm
http://www.wineinstitute.org/communications/statistics/keyfacts_worldwineproduction.htm
http://www.wineinstitute.org/communications/statistics/keyfacts_worldpercapitaconsumption02.htm


You've really got your work cut out for you, if you want Spain to be number one in per-capita wine consumption. But, I know you have a competitive spirit, and will give it your all. It also sounds as if you have some helpers willing to travel to Spain and assist you in this endeavor! Those folks in Luxembourg are really giving you a run for your money! I think we can give up on the USA being in contention for this! LOL

I hope you like the stats/data - I work in market research - stats and data are hard habits to break - maybe some wine will help!

-- DJG

 
At 10:54 PM, Blogger Angie said...

lol... for clarification, I do realize that Berlin is not in Belgium. "Belgian beer" made me think of a really good white Belgian I had in Berlin, which made me think of Berliner Weisse. (It's a scary place, inside my head.)

The wall in Berlin? There was a wall? East Berlin?

JUST KIDDING... I have even seen what's left of it. But I definitely was not old enough to drink legally in 1988.

 
At 11:17 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

DJ Jazzy G: Well...If you lived in Luxembourg, you'd probably drink a lot, too. I mean...what would you do for fun in Luxembourg. I must say, however, that I'm impressed with New Zealands +50% increase in per capita wine consumption since 1997. I knew that wine goes well with lamb, but...

Ang: That was a good attempt at back-pedalling, but I'm not sure it will be enough to avoid Christina's wrath. Or Chicago Karl's. Or Lady Di's. Or CheeseWeb's. The Belgian/German contingent is strong in this VTB...and they can be a ferocious when provoked.

 
At 11:25 PM, Blogger christina said...

(Hey, how did you know I was reading??) To continue off topic: Berliner Weisse is a beer in itself and can be drunk as such but, as Angie says, it's often served in a bowl-shaped glass with a shot of raspberry or woodruff syrup. I'm sure Belgians like it too. There's also the Weizenbier or Weißbier popular in southern Germany and that one is made from wheat.

Back on topic:I have to admit I know zilch about wine and can't drink it anyway, but I do know that my husband enjoys Spanish wines very much and that they're pretty reasonable here as well. Our German/Spanish friends brought a couple of nice bottles with then when they came to visit last summer and they were gone in a flash. Venga!

 
At 8:46 AM, Blogger woman wandering said...

'how on earth did you satisfy your wine passions when you lived in Turkey?'

Well ... I taught about 165 private school students and so it was that my 'need' for wine was was sometimes great ... a kind of medicinal thing.

The Turks make wine and after various experimentations and conversations, most of my expat friends confessed that they preferred the cheaper reds. I started with Doluca and moved onto Dikman. The Dikman came in a 1litre screwtop bottle for $8nz but ... it was okay.

Now I've been out and trying other wines, I have to confess that I'm kind of curious to taste it again ... to see how it stands up against all the other wines out here. The Turks heavily tax imports, so a very mediocre Australian wine cost the world over there.

 
At 5:12 PM, Blogger Lisa said...

a $10 ticket to Chicago? I simply won't hear of it. I MUST go to the source. Plus, as you've said, no Conguitos (or my Catalan friends)in Chi-town.

 
At 6:24 PM, Blogger cream said...

Great Blog!
I see you rated one of the restaurants I visited when I went to Barcelona in Feb. TXOKOA!
Nice setting! Good food, Staff a little slack!
From an Algerian restaurateur in North East England who's just opened a Tapas Bar and loves Spain, Spanish produce and wine!

 
At 9:58 PM, Blogger ironporer said...

You bring up so many fond memories, and ardent yearnings in your musings on Spanish life, culture, gastronomy and of course viniculture. Having lived in Zaragoza, I suppose my tastes were co-opted by the abundance of Cariñena's full bodied Tintos...and their earth simplicity remains of my favorites. Later, my love affair with Ribera del Duero tintos and crianzas blossomed (and continues to this day- my wife even imbibes with me now). Txacoli from the north took my heart for a time, then, a few years ago I was tempted by the Goddess of Spanish wines... The fabled Vega Sicilia. After tasting it, there was no more reason for living... I had tasted the absolute best in the world, and nothing else could ever come close. So what if it cost 200€... money has no value really. That electric bill really does not matter- nor the baby doctor bills...

Luckily, reality soon set in, and we are back to the occasional bottle of Marquez de Caceres, or Sangre de Toro...or some cheap bottle of Rioja (Rioja at least does a great job of marketing it's wines to the US (a lesson I wish Spanish Olive, Olive Oil, Tuna, Jamon Serrano, chorizo, etc etc would take) to drown our sorrows, while greedily planning our next 2 week trip to/thru Spain.

*note to self...update that damn Spainish CV-- there has to be someone who needs a Gringo Metalcasting specialist...who really just wants to drink wine and eat tapas all day*

 
At 10:24 PM, Blogger euro-trac said...

You've done it again Sal..

Well I'm a major fan of both Brit. Real Ale and Spanish Red wine! Before I became a prisoner in my own home (had kids) my main diet was Real Ale - still drink it if I find myself in a pub!
Now, I'm home - it's wine! A lot! Plus, (no offence to anyone..) but I would never dream of buying US Wine, unless I was in America somewhere of course.....
*******
Look Sal, you know me, been married by the King, listen to a bit of Zappa, drink 'the water of life' - so you've got a bit of a picture building up here...

So, if I happen to be in Barcelona or Girona next week, on my own...

Do you know if there something that I must do, while I'm there??
You know... something the guide books don't tell you, but safe for a woman to do on her own??

I may well be checking out some of your links and stuff when I'm there! :o)

 
At 10:26 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Christina: Since you are wearing your teacher's hat, I have a question for you. What is the correct pronunciation of "Porsche?"

Lady Di: I've never tasted a Turkish wine (or a Turkish woman, for that matter), but have some Lebanese colleagues. They assure me that Lebanon makes some great wines. I even saw a piece about the Lebanese wine industry on CNN International. It's not Turkey, but it's close enough.

Lisa: As much as I'd love to, I'm not going to touch your "no Conguitos in Chi-town" comment. But I think you can figure it out for yourself. ;-)

Cream: Thanks for stopping in. All service is Spain is "slack"...it comes with the territory. I was checking out your new blog, and you have some great middle-east recipes in their. Good luck with the restaurant. I'm sure it's hard work, but probably more interesting than naval architecture.

Iron Man: You've...you've...you've tasted Vega Sicilia? We're not worthy! We're not worthy!

 
At 10:49 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Hey Euro-Trac: Going to Barcelona, eh? Let's see...

- Here are some restaurant possibilities: http://saldetraglia.blogspot.com/2004/06/ok-oknow-its-barcelonas-turn.html

- There is a bar that is famous for serving Absinthe. It's been around forever. Unfortunately, I don't remember the name or address. I believe it is located near the Ramblas/Gothic neighbor. Ask your consierge. Somebody will be able to help you out. BTW...absinthe in Spanish is "absenta."

- Stay out of the Gothic neighbor and Ramblas at night. During the day they're OK, and you should definitely check them out.

- Stay away from any joints touting sangria or flamenco. They're bound to be cheesy tourist traps.

- Be sure to check out the Gaudi buildings. La Sagrada Familia is fantastic, but don't waste your money going inside. The outside is the important thing. However...do go inside La Pedrera--especially its rooftop and top-floor museum. Check out Casa Batllo from the outside (you won't be allowed inside). If you've never seen Gaudi's architecture, you're in for a psychedelic experience.

- Also, be sure to visit Parc Guell. It's another Gaudi creation. You've never seen a park like it.

- The Gracia neighborhood is interesting and Bohemian. A good area for bars and ethnic restaurants.

- You mentioned on your blog that you're looking for a cheap place to stay. Check out the NH Hotel chain. There are several in Barcelona. These are businessmen's hotels, so they're not artsy...or even interesting. But they're clean, modern and not too expensive.

- There's an Erotic Museum located on the Rambla. It's actually pretty interesting. Not sleazy. Well...it's a bit sleazy, but in a socially-acceptable, intellectual way. Even my parents visited it.

- If you're a foodie, be sure to visit La Boqueria (also on the Rambla). It's Barcelona's largest food market. It's an incredible place. Not a supermarket, but a huge pavilion with hundreds of stands selling everything from fruits to fish to horse to internal organs.

- If you feel like seeing a town outside Barcelona, I'd recommend Sitges. It's a half-hour train ride. It's on the sea, has a huge gay population (thus, lots of interesting, artsy stores, bars, etc.). It's also a good place to eat paella.

- If you are feeling adventurous, try "Arroz Negro" (i.e., black rice...or a black paella flavored with squid ink). It's better than it sounds. Another local specialty is Fideua (like a paella, but made with thin maccaroni rather than rice).

- As for wines, Costers del Segre wines are great. Penedes wines are also very good. Priorat wines are fantastic, although they are a bit pricier (although probably not by British standards). BTW...these are wine regions, not brands. All three regions are around Barcelona.

- Drink cava (Spanish champagne made near Barcelona) as an aperitif; not a digestif or dessert.

Hey...that should keep you busy for a weekend. If you have more Q's, just ask away...either here or write me at the email address at the top of my blog. Sorry that I live five hours drive from Barcelona...otherwise I'd meet you for a bottle. Or two. Or three...

Sal

 
At 10:53 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Euro-Trac:

Google to the rescue! Here is that absinthe bar that I mentioned above:

http://www.bcninternet.com/touristinfo.php?contentid=299

The neighborhood is fine, but since it's located around the Rambla...I'd go during the daytime.

Sal

 
At 11:20 PM, Blogger Tracie B. said...

HA HA! hey everybody, Sal over here knows how much a bottle of Night Train costs...how do ya know THAT, huh?

;)

 
At 11:23 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Tracie B:

How do I know? Because the liquor store was out of Mad Dog 20/20 last week.

Sal

 
At 11:25 PM, Blogger christina said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 11:30 PM, Blogger christina said...

(sorry, typos galore in above comment)

Hmm...were you makin' fun of me with that teacher comment, Sal? No? OK then.

Proper Pronunciation of Porsche:
pour-sheh, but NOT an "eh?" sort of sound at the end and not an "uh" either - it's really more like "meh" without the m, just a little whisper of a thing.

Make any sense?

Next lesson:
Schwarzwälderkirschtorte
Zwetschgenknödel
Kartoffelpuffer

 
At 12:08 AM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Christina:

OK...let me get this straight.

It's pronounced "por-sheh."

The end is NOT pronounced "eh."

It is pronounced like "meh" without the "m."

So here's my question. Isn't "meh" without the "m" in fact "eh?"

Christina...forget it. I'll buy the Ferrari instead.

Sal

 
At 12:15 AM, Blogger ironporer said...

I didn't mention of course that even though my wife said she loved the Vega, one of her favorite American beverages (I can not bring myself to call it wine...no, never) is Boone's Farm. Whatever flavor..she loves it. Must be from drinking a crappy bottle of Tio Pepe with 3/4 glass of Gaseosa.

No hay Casera??? Nos vamos...

 
At 1:11 AM, Blogger euro-trac said...

Wow Sal - Thank You!! I'll come back to all this later on in the week,

I'm staying in Perpignan to start with. Thinking I might get a train down to Barcelona or somewhere for a few days after!!

I'm actually drinking Cava as I type!! My husband bought a lovely vintage bottle to celebrate me going away!???? Mmmmm!?

I'm not sure that I could visit an Absinthe bar by myself...Eeeeek! I barely survived the last time I tried that... but you never know!! :o)

I'm not even sure where I'm going to go after Perpignan yet... Sitges sounds cool!! Cheers for all that, I'll pop back and read this nearer the time! x

 
At 5:19 PM, Blogger Alison said...

I'll trade you all of the Belgian beer in my house for some spanish wine :) (except Lindeman's raspberry beer which is the only one I really like). I was never a wino until I moved to europe. A decent bottle in Nova Scotia cost about 20$. I can get a great bottle here for 6 euro. *sigh* no wonder alcoholism is rampant among expats.

 
At 8:19 PM, Blogger CanadianSwiss said...

Sal- After reading your reply to Euro-trac: If we find a free weekend (I might invite Orange for a surprise trip) I'll make sure it's not too far from where you live and then you'll be invited to a bottle, or two, or three (you get to pick)...
We will be going to Canada first in July though, and get us a bottle of Sortilège (a whiskey with maple syrup; not too sweet.) Btw, has the Spanish word "absinta" have anything to do with absent??

 
At 9:33 PM, Blogger Expat Traveler said...

Sal great article. I guess you'd go crazy in Canada. Liquor gets majorly taxed. I'm willing to guess a cheap bottle of wine carries a $6 tax on it and can be bought for about $9. But you are looking for more like $10 to $14 for ultra cheap here in BC...

We've been venturing towards spanish wines because they are cheapest and pretty good in taste. We will have to check out more soon!

 
At 10:30 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Alison and Expat Traveller: I didn't realize that boozing was to expensive in Canada. $6 tax?! It's no wonder Canada is such a peaceful, low crime country. No one can afford to get drunk and rowdy up there. You do, BTW, have some great beers in Canada...my favorites being those from the Big Rock Brewery in Calgary.

C-Swiss: Hey, you're Canadian too. And so is Christina. And so is The Big Finn. And so is Franje. And so is Nyana...kind of. I won't dare make a joke about the entire population of Canada fleeing the country to become expats, because I've been to Canada several times and like it up there. I also like Rush, Triumph, The Guess Who...but I don't like Brian Adams at all. Anyway, C-Swiss (and Orange-X)...it's a date. I hope to see you around here sometime in 2006. As for the origins of "Absenta," I'm not really sure. But it very well may be a shortened version of "Absent of mind, good taste and common sense."

 
At 11:15 PM, Blogger christina said...

Just checking out the prices for Spanish wines at the "British Columbia Liquor Distribution Branch" I would shop at were I there.

SOMONTANO CABERNET SAUVIGNON - VINAS DEL VERO 01/03 - $9.99

LA MANCHA TEMPRANILLO - FINCA ANTIGUA 02/03 - $16.99

TORO - TELMO RODRIGUEZ DEHESA GAGO 03/04 - $19.99

A bit pricey, eh?

No wonder we all fled the country.

 
At 11:55 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Christina:

Wow. Those are some serious mark-ups. But I heartened to see that even in Canada, the great wines of Somontano are still a relative bargain. Viñas del Vero is a kick-ass winery. I drink it often, and have toured the facility a few ties. $10 a bottle is steep compared to VdeV's Spain pricing, but still...it's a good deal.

Rheinheitsgebot!
Sal

 
At 11:58 AM, Blogger GC PHILO said...

Great article, Sal! I have to admit, I have tried my fair share of Spanish wines and am still not completely hooked, although maybe I just haven't been trying the right ones. The only thing that does it for me is maybe a good glass of fortified sweet wine like Moscatel of Pedro Ximenez but that's about it - and that's not really wine, now is it? I'm still a beer man and must admit that, ever since my stay in the Czech Republic, will probably always remain one. I would prefer a nice cold half-liter of Czech Pilsner to a glass of wine anyday - unfortunately, I'm in Spain (and Spanish beer is horrible) so fortified wine it is...

 
At 10:38 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Hey GC:

Living where you do, I can't believe you're not hooked in fino, manzanilla, amontillado and oloroso. I understand, however, that Czech Pilsner is a formidable adversary. I loved the stuff in the US, and I'd imagine it wasn't one-tenth as fresh as the stuff in the Republic. I also agree about Spanish beer. i don't like any of it much, but I like Cruzcampo best. Fortunately, Belgian beers are pretty easy to find in Spain.

When I moved here, I was a hard-core craft-beer lover. I couldn't imagine that wine would ever take it's place. But once my palate grew accustomed to the higher alcohol and more assertive flavors of wine, I lost my enthusiasm for beer. It just seemed "weak" in comparison.

What would we do if we lived in Edinburgh.

BTW...enhorabuena on your engagement!

Sal

 
At 10:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sad news:

Just when you thought that glass of wine did you good!
Medical Studies/Trials
Published: Friday, 31-Mar-2006

http://www.news-medical.net/?id=16986

Just when you thought those one or two glasses of wine were of benefit to your health, a new study is now saying that is not necessarily the case.
According to researchers from Canada and Australia the benefits of alcohol for the heart are exaggerated.

Lead author Kaye M. Fillmore, Ph.D., of the University of California San Francisco School of Nursing and her team analyzed 54 previous studies on alcohol use and mortality, which included deaths from coronary heart disease.

Of the studies 47 included in the "abstainer" category individuals who were not long-term abstainers but had only recently stopped drinking or cut down to once per month or less, says Fillmore.

The studies were published in the 1980s and 1990s, although they spanned 1950 to 2004 and the researchers found a systematic error in the design of previous studies that may have exaggerated alcohol as a health boon.

The studies in the main divided groups into "drinkers" and "abstainers" and among the abstainers were people who had reduced or quit drinking for medical reasons.

The researchers say the abstainers had higher death rates than drinkers.

Initially it appeared the abstainers were at higher risk for heart disease because they refrained from drinking alcohol, and so did not get its protective benefit, when in fact Fillmore says those in the abstainer category were often already frail and predisposed to death.

British heart specialist Gerry Shaper first suggested this research discrepancy in a 1988 study, and many researchers since have taken his observation seriously, trying to allow for the problem in their work.

But Fillmore's study suggests these allowances may still be inadequate.

Fillmore and her team looked at seven studies without this error and found that both groups were at equal risk of dying.

When Fillmore reconstructed the error back into the data for the abstainer group, she found the abstainers were at a higher risk of dying than moderate drinkers.

The study authors warn that their report does not deny the positives of light alcohol intake, defined as two drinks or fewer per day, but say much is still unclear.

Fillmore says it is worth remembering that there are other things that do exactly the same thing for your health and are probably less dangerous than alcohol.

Other experts also say that the positives of moderate alcohol intake, raising HDL, the healthy cholesterol; reducing overactive blood clotting; and helping insulin sensitivity, can be duplicated in a less riskier way with healthy diet and exercise.

Many question recommending drinking as a wise lifestyle choice as on the whole alcohol causes more problems than it prevents.

Others warn however about interpreting Fillmore's study as the last word on alcohol intake.

Many experts do not regard the study as convincing proof that the evidence on the positive health effects of alcohol is wrong.

Fillmore herself hopes future studies will take into account the drinking history of their subjects and calls for more research on the subject.

The study is published in the online edition of the journal Addiction Research and Theory.

-- DJG

 

Post a Comment

<< Home