Wine vs. Health in 2019 (OMG We’re All Going To Die!)

Each year a fresh set of stories about wine and health is published. While we don’t like to admit it, most of these headlines are taken at face value:

“A glass of wine is worth an hour at the gym.”

“Extra glass of wine a day ‘will shorten your life by 30 minutes.'”

These are actual headlines.

Suddenly, more of us choose to drink wine instead of go to the gym. Or, in the latter example, more of us conclude that wine is a death sentence. Oh my!

Health Benefits of Wine Compared to Scientifically Proven Health Benefits

Time to hit the brakes. Let’s look at the topic of wine and health and where we stand in 2019.

TLDR: Two new, reputable medical studies on wine and health use big data to show that moderate drinking is best – if you drink.

                         On Wine vs. Death

                   In 2019, life still comes with a 100% risk of death. So, the question is more about how much wine increases our basic risk of dropping dead at any moment.

(long awkward pause…)

Two studies came out last year looking at alcohol consumption by crunching many (hundreds) of cohort studies with big data-style statistical analysis.

Drink Wine for Science Poster by Wine Folly - original 2012

The reason none of these studies are direct is because asking people to drink wine for science is unethical. (For shame, I tell you!)

Alcohol Consumption Visualization Infographic Chart by Wine Folly - Interpreted From The Lancet

The first study showed that if you’re over 40 and routinely drink two or more glasses of wine a day, your risk of death increases by 20%. Oh no!

Oddly enough, the study also showed a bizarre correlation among non-drinkers, ex-drinkers, and moderate drinkers (those drinking just one glass of wine a day). Those who drank one glass of wine a day had a lower risk than a non-drinker and an ex-drinker of dying.

(BTW, there were many possible reasons for this… check this chart image for more detail).

                       On Wine vs. Disease

The second study showed how drinking increases general risk of disease. It measured outcomes of 23 disease conditions (including things like breast cancer and tuberculosis) and their relationship to alcohol use.

Relative Disease Risk Based on Daily Alcohol Consumption - The Lancet Data - Infographic by Wine Folly

The study is fancy (i.e. it’s very hard to read) and was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In fact, it was one of the most cited studies in 2018. The most damaging thing in the study states:

“Our results show that the safest level of drinking is none.”


But wait! When we look at the absolute risk of this study (shared by British Statistician, David Spiegelhalter) we can see that risk increase is not significant for moderate drinkers:


                                     Absolute vs. Relative Risk of Getting a Disease Based on Daily Alcohol Consumption - Chart by Wine Folly - Data From The Lancet



  • If you drink zero drinks per day, your absolute risk of developing a health problem is 0.914%.
  • If you drink one drink per day, your absolute risk of developing a health problem is 0.918% more (0.44% more than non-drinkers).
  • If you drink two drinks per day, your absolute risk of developing a health problem is 0.977% (7% more than non-drinkers).
  • If you drink five drinks per day (1 bottle of wine), your absolute risk of developing a health problem is 1.25% (37% more than non-drinkers).

So, the conclusion made in the Bill and Melinda Gates study seems a bit extreme. An increased risk of 0.44% for having one drink per day is insignificant.


How Many of Us Are Actually Drinking in Moderation? Data: The Lancet - Chart by Wine Folly

That said, if you’re a health-policy maker, the numbers look much scarier at scale. On a country-wide level, you’re dealing with the risk (and cost) of alcohol abusers (those five drink per day-ers), along with everyone else. Let’s not forget drunk drivers and people who cause crimes of aggression while drinking.

(Yep, I know. They’re ruining it for the rest of us!)

                              Conclusion Time

The two recent studies using big data analytics showed that moderate drinking (one glass of wine a day–regardless of sex) has an insignificant level of risk associated with it.

We also learned that drinking a bottle of wine by yourself in a day is still a terrible idea.

What was annoying about these studies was that none of them separated wine drinkers from other alcoholic beverage drinkers. This is a problem because wine is often singled out in other studies due to how it performs differently – better – than other alcoholic drinks.

Final conclusion: If you want to be healthier, you might reduce your wine consumption to a glass of wine a day.



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Wine Tasting Engages Your Brain More Than Any Other Behavior, Says Neuroscientist

It's all about how we create the flavors

April 07, 2017

Any good wine snob knows that, despite the term’s intended negative connotation, the label should really be worn like a badge of honor. Sure, some beer lovers or, even worse, casual wine drinkers might find that snobbery worthy of derision, but they clearly don’t understand the difficulty, dexterity and dedication necessary to reach that level. Thankfully, however, a scientist has finally tossed us wine snobs a life preserver—a Yale neuroscientist nonetheless. In his recently published book, Neuroenology: How the Brain Creates the Taste of Wine, Gordon Shepherd argues that wine tasting actually stimulates your brain more than allegedly highfalutin activities like listening to music or even tackling a complicated math problem. Remember that time you did trigonometry while sipping wine with Beethoven playing the background? That’s basically the closest you’ve ever come to being Albert Einstein.

Image result for wine glasses with wine

According to Shepherd, tasting wine “engages more of our brain than any other human behavior.” His book – essentially an oenologic extension of his previous publication, Neurogastronomy: How the Brain Creates Flavor and Why It Matters – delves into this process with extreme detail, from the fluid dynamics of how wine is manipulated in our mouths; to the effect of its appearance, smell and mouthfeel; to the way our brains process and share all that information. He suggests that unlike something like math that utilizes a specific source of knowledge, wine tasting engages us more completely. Speaking to NPR, he explained how even basic steps of wine tasting can be more complicated than they seem. “You don't just put wine in your mouth and leave it there,” Shepherd said. “You move it about and then swallow it, which is a very complex motor act.”

However, possibly the most complex part of wine tasting—one of Shepherd’s central points and the subtitle of his book—is his argument than when we drink wine, our brains are actually need to create the flavors for us to enjoy. “The analogy one can use is color,” he explained to NPR. “The objects we see don't have color themselves, light hits them and bounces off. It's when light strikes our eyes that it activates systems in the brain that create color from those different wavelengths. Similarly, the molecules in wine don't have taste or flavor, but when they stimulate our brains, the brain creates flavor the same way it creates color.”

It’s a pretty intense philosophy to wrap your head around. However, I will tell you, one time I drank so much wine that all the sights, smells and flavors of wine completely disappeared. So maybe he’s on to something.

More articles like this at Food & Wine 

The Natural Wine Trend Lands in Cleveland

Julian Bruell, of Zack Bruell Restaurants.

Julian Bruell, of Zack Bruell Restaurants.

I'm no sommelier, but I know enough about wine to not ruin a meal. But when I picked up the list at a trendy French bistro in New York City recently, I felt like an uncouth rube on his first day out in the Big City. Filled with obscure all-natural bottles, the roster might as well have been penned in Greek. So I did what I always do in those situations: texted the list to a friend who is a sommelier. Before long my wife and I were giddily devouring a funky, fruity and slightly effervescent wine with electric acidity. Oh, and it was the color of a sweet potato.

Welcome to the wild world of natural wines, a broad category of options that often (but not always) translates into exciting, highly drinkable wines with effusive personality. If you are a wine lover who pays attention to trends, then you doubtless have been following along as this anti-establishment movement continues to attract devotees. Even if you've never heard about these so-called "real" wines, you likely already have enjoyed one or two without even realizing it.


So, what do we mean when we say "natural wine"?

"There's is no clear definition, so there's not a lot of clarity around it," says Maggie Harrison, a veteran sales rep for Vintage Wine Distributor. "But generally speaking, it means that nothing is added and nothing is taken away."

The current interest in and demand for natural and minimal-intervention wines has been building for years, as rebellious young vintners in the Old World and New have been taking a more hands-off approach to winemaking that favors tradition over manipulation. From the vineyard to the winery, every effort is made to let nature take its course, resulting in wines that best express the fruit and terroir, or sense of place.

"In the '90s, you could tell that wines were changing and it was getting harder to differentiate a cabernet-based wine from France versus one from Napa Valley and other places," explains Adam Fleischer, owner of the Wine Spot in Cleveland Heights. "People like to talk about the Robert Parker Effect on wine. If wineries around the world wanted a good rating from Robert Parker, they needed to start doing things to their wine to match his preferred style."

Far from the old-fashioned way of doing things, winemakers would irrigate vineyards and apply chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The manipulation continued in the winery where sugar was added to the juice prior to fermentation to boost alcohol, grape concentrate was used to adulterate color, powdered tannin and tartaric acid were employed to tweak those levels, and the resulting product was buried beneath a somber cloak of new oak. Before it's bottled, the wine gets fined, filtered and preserved with a lethal dose of sulfites.

Practitioners of natural winemaking, however, take an altogether different route. It starts in the field, where hardy native vines or old varietals plucked from obscurity are grown sustainably, organically or biodynamically. After harvest, the ripe fruit is crushed, exposing the juice to indigenous "wild" yeast on the skins and thus kick-starting spontaneous fermentation. Wines are aged in neutral vessels such as stainless steel, glass, concrete or earthenware pots; no new-oak barrels. Little to no sulfites are added and the wine is bottled unfiltered and unfined.

"Many, many wineries around the world are doing it this way," Fleischer says. "These are really interesting wines that we enjoy. If we enjoy them and our customers keep asking for them, I would be doing a disservice by not paying attention to them."

Given the laissez faire approach to winemaking, results are across the board when it comes to appearance, aroma and flavor. Pop a top and you might get an orange wine politely described as untamed and funky — or impolitely compared to horse manure — or one that is smooth-drinking, pleasantly tart and delicious.

"There is a huge range of taste profiles and presentations you can get, from high to low quality and from cloudy to clear and brilliant," adds Harrison. "The flavors can range from a cidery tartness to funky and barnyardy. Because they tend to be lower in alcohol and higher in acidity, they are going to be more food friendly, making them well-suited to chef-driven restaurants."

Pick up the wine list at any Zack Bruell restaurant and you'll enjoy what is likely the largest natural wine selection in the region. Julian Bruell, director of service and beverage, encountered the movement while working in Brooklyn, and it was one he was eager to showcase across the board at Zack Bruell Restaurants.

"They're great with foods," he says. "The Alley Cat menu is real funky and wild right now, with three fourths all-natural. I just feel like that style of wine goes great with seafood."

Bruell has experienced no shortage of pushback from conventional wine lovers who've heard disquieting anecdotes about off-putting aromas and flavors, but he's more than happy to help clear up misconceptions.

"A lot of people associate natural wines with cloudy, unfiltered, kind of dirty, funky-smelling, cidery ... but most of them are clean, fruit-driven and fresh," explains Bruell. "My father calls it hipster, but to me, it's just an old style of winemaking that goes back to before there was modern technology. It's a total hand-sell, but I love them."

As with most trends, Cleveland has been slow on the jump when it comes to natural wine. Selections are sparse at retail shops and on restaurant wine lists. We can blame Robert Parker and his 100-point scale for getting us here, but his influence on modern winemakers has been waning for years.

"In cities like Chicago and San Francisco and New York, there are bars and restaurants that are entirely natural wines," reports Harrison. "Cleveland is always a little behind the times. The pendulum is swinging back to 50 years ago. It's not for everybody. If you like something, go for it. At the end of the day, it's just another option."



Galaxy Wine & Food Festival Highlights

Watch the Holiday Wine Festival at Galaxy Restaurant, an annual showcase of the years most exciting wines from the best distributors paired with an exquisite offering of culinary selections. Over 100 wines of the best wines from around Ohio were showcased and sampled. The festival included great food, live music, and a silent auction benefiting the Salvation Army. If you missed it, here are some highlights filmed by Socially Good TV! Enjoy!

Orange Wine 101

All About Orange Wine

Orange wine is a bit of a misnomer. It is not wine made with oranges, nor is it a Mimosa cocktail ( a blend of 1 part orange juice to 2 parts sparkling wine.) Orange wine is something entirely different. 

 What is an Orange Wine? Orange wine is a type of white wine made by leaving the grape skins and seeds in contact with the juice, creating a deep orange-hued finished product.

What is Orange Wine?

What is Orange Wine by Wine Folly


To make an orange wine, you first take white grapes, mash them up, and then put them in a large vessel (often cement or ceramic). Then, you typically leave the fermenting grapes alone for four days to sometimes over a year with the skins and seeds still attached.


Orange winemaking is a very natural process that uses little to no additives, sometimes not even yeast. Because of all this, they taste very different from regular white wines and have a sour taste and nuttiness from oxidation.

Let’s thank Simon Woolf over at Decanter,  who found out that the term “Orange Wine” was coined by British wine importer David Harvey at Raeburn Fine Wine . He used it to describe this non-interventionist style of white winemaking.

You may also hear the term “Ramato,” which means “auburn,” in Italian and typically refers to Italian Pinot Grigio made in an orange wine style.

What Does It Taste Like?

The taste of orange wine


Orange wines have been described as robust and bold, with honeyed aromas of jackfruit (a fleshy tropical fruit), hazelnut, brazil nut, bruised apple, wood varnish, linseed oil, juniper, sourdough, and dried orange rind.

On the palate, they’re big, dry, and even have tannin like a red wine with a sourness similar to fruit beer. Often they’re so intense that you might want to make sure you’re sitting down when you taste your first orange wine.

 TIP: The deep color of orange wine comes from lignin in grapeseeds.

Food Pairing with Orange Wines

 Food pairing with Orange Wines by Slovenian producer Klinec

Because of their boldness, orange wines pair excellently well with equally bold foods, including curry dishes, Moroccan cuisine, Ethiopian cuisine (like those spongelike pancakes called Injera), Korean dishes with fermented kimchi (bibim bap), and traditional Japanese cuisine, including fermented soybeans (Natto). Due to the high phenolic content (tannin and bitterness) and the nutty tartness they exhibit, orange wines pair with a wide variety of meats, ranging from beef to fish.


For more about Orange Wine visit