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It’s not always bad news…

Reason #41- Wine

It’s only fair, after touting the benefits of craft beer, that I include wine as a reason for happiness.  After all, I’ve been drinking wine for over 30 years and still enjoy stopping at wineries for tasting.

Wine has been produced for thousands of years. According to Wikipedia, the earliest evidence of wine is from ancient Georgia (6000 BC), Persia (5000 BC), and Italy (4000 BC).  New World wine has some connection to alcoholic beverages made by the indigenous peoples of the Americas, but is mainly connected to the later Viking area of Vinland and Spanish traditions in New Spain.  We can thank Europeans for developing wine and the industry to what it is today, but it is produced in most countries in the world.

Like the world, the United States has also had a bit of a wine producing explosion, with states that don’t grow grapes well simply importing from those that do.  I was fortunate to live in the midst of the Washington State wine country when I first started to imbibe.  Back in the ‘80s there were almost 100 wineries in the Yakima Valley Wine Country, and let’s just say my home was Wine-Country-adjacent. I found most winery owners more than pleased to talk to visitors and many insisted on giving personal tours of their facilities.

Similar to most wine novices, I started drinking sweet wines, such as Rieslings, Gewürztraminers and blushes.  Over time, my taste changed and these began to taste as sweet as Kool-Aid.  I was ready to go dry.  Two years later, I was heavily into Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio for whites and started delving into some red wines.  Soon I was drinking Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. I can no longer drink anything remotely sweet. And blends!  Those glorious red blends from Spain and Italy are wine nirvana.

What makes wine different from hard alcohol is the process and alcohol content.  Both use fermentation to convert sugar or starch to alcohol, but hard spirits like vodka, whiskey and rum add a distillery process.  Wine typically has a 9-16 percent alcohol content, while hard spirits are normally 28-60 percent, depending on the product.  Compare that to beer at 3-9 percent ABV (alcohol by volume), and it is easy to see that beer and wine allow more beverage to be enjoyed before inebriation (if you can say “inebriation” aloud without stumbling over it, you probably aren’t experiencing it).

The medical and health benefits of drinking wine are numerous.  Studies have shown that compounds found in red wine tannins help promote cardiovascular health, and occupants of those regions of the world in which wine is part of the normal diet tend to live longer. Researchers in Spain found that adults who drank two to seven glasses of wine per week were less likely to be diagnosed with depression. 

Modest wine consumption, meaning one glass a day, may decrease the prevalence of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.  Wine’s antimicrobial effects on the skin also helps reduce bacteria on our teeth.  There are many studies suggesting that the risks of various cancers are reduced by consuming red wine.

Aside from wine’s health benefits, it also provides you with various social benefits.  It can boost one’s confidence and help overcome shyness.  Being drunk is an anti-social behavior, so I am discussing wine in moderation.  Similarly, drinking wine in social settings can help you connect with others and expose you to different people and places than you are used to.  Wine itself can be a conversation starter and many friendships have developed over the love of wine.

What candlelit dinner is complete without wine or a celebration without champaign?  Wine has been used in romance and ceremony for as long as wine has been produced.  Wine and nature go hand-in-hand, just as wine and travel enhance each other.

Another great thing about wine is its effect on the taste of food.  There is a reason there are suggested wine pairings for most of the meals you enjoy.  Red wine tends to cleanse the palate between bites of beef or pasta, while tones of white wines can enhance the flavor of poultry and pork dishes.  For every food offering, a perfect wine variety can be found to maximize the enjoyment of its consumption.

The advent of craft beer has crept into what was once wine’s sole environment, but it is not a total social replacement.  There are times I want beer, for example, in long nights of sports viewing or playing, since the alcohol content can dictate the duration of the entertainment.  But wine is still my go-to drink for feast and cheer.  I rarely drink hard alcohol, which usually makes for short nights, and sipping my wine is much more pleasurable than downing shots.

All told, wine is a luxury in which everyone can indulge, and with the wide range of flavors and sweetness, there is a wine for almost everybody and every occasion.

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To complete the discussion, I’ll include the shortest quote I’ve used thus far.  Nineteenth-century Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “Wine is bottled poetry.”  I just can’t argue the point.



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