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It Takes Two

It Takes Two

 

All of us have heard about the health benefits of wine. The antioxidants present in wine, particularly in red wine, have been linked to lower risk of cardiovascular disease, and a glass or two per night is a common suggestion for those looking to lower their bad cholesterol. If you want a refresher, check out my article here!

It turns out, though, that just drinking a glass or two of Pinot Noir each night is not enough. In a new study by the European Society of Cardiology, people who drank wine 5 nights a week had their cholesterol levels tracked over the course of a year. The trial, entitled “In Vino, Veritas,” looked at both men and women, who were divided into two groups; half the participants drank a pinot noir and the other half drank a chardonnay-pinot noir (white) blend. Both wines came from the same vintage and the same region of the Czech Republic. Participants kept a log of their wine and alcohol consumption, medication use, and exercise habits.

This study is extraordinary for a couple reasons. First of all, Professor Milos Taborsky, the lead researcher on the project, was looking for a rise in HDL cholesterol, which is “the main indication of a protective effect against cardiovascular disease.” However, at the end of the year the HDL cholesterol level s were not markedly different from the participants’ beginning stats. This points to the conclusion that neither red nor white wine contributes to the prevention of heart disease. LDL cholesterol was lower in both the red and white groups at one year, while the total cholesterol level was lower for the red wine drinkers only. So while Professor Taborsky concluded that neither red nor white wine “had any impact on study participants as a whole,” consuming either type of wine does appear to have a beneficial effect on the drinker’s cholesterol levels.

This is the first randomized study that attempts to look at the comparative benefits of red wine vs. white wine on cardiovascular health. By controlling the vintage, varietal, and appellation of the wines drunk by the participants, we are able to compare the risks and benefits of the wines in real-life circumstances, rather than posit theories based on our understanding of what should happen. The traditional view of red wine as a healthier option than white wine must be reevaluated in light of these findings.

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Fall Back in Love with Red Wine

Tis the season for red wine!Autumn is coming again, even if it still feels like the heat will never subside here in the Bay Area! With the endless Back to School and Labor Day sales, we're all getting ready for the leaves to change, the wind to pick up, and the cold-weather clothes to come out of storage.

As I look forward to the brisk days of fall (even as I get sunburnt while wearing shorts and tank tops to walk the dog), my taste in wine shifts away from the crisp white and rose that kept me refreshed through the dry summer days and I get excited to break out those full and complex reds that pair perfectly with fall breezes and autumn dinner parties.

For early fall pairing, you have several routes to take. Football season and weekend cookouts need the bold fruit and spice of Livermore, Lodi, and Paso Robles Zin, Syrah, and Petite Sirah. Red blends are always welcome, too! They don't have to be anything fancy, since you don't generally keep crystal stemware next to your outdoor grill. Just get something that has a big enough body and tannic grip to stand up to the smoky flavors of the burgers, sausages, and ribs with which the wines are served. Daytime wines are all about power.

 

For the cooler evenings, focus on grapes that show more finesse.

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Wine and Cheese Party Dos and Don'ts

Whether you’re a guest at a friend’s event or planning your own, there are a few tricks to pulling off a successful wine and cheese party:

Don’t skimp on the cheese!

     Contrary to popular belief, it’s not a subtle art picking out the proper cheeses to serve at a wine-and-cheese party. Just make sure you have at least three different options; one soft (like an aged triple-cream brie), one medium (Like Manchego or chevre), and one hard (like parmigiano reggiano). You’re going to have a range of different wines to taste, so don’t worry too much about which wines pair best with which cheeses. Let your guests experiment!

      It’s also helpful to have labels for the cheese you pick, in case attendees are not a fan of bleu cheese or goat cheese. Though in either of these cases, these people are not your friends. Bleu cheese and goat cheese are delicious, and perfect for wine-pairing.

      Also, keep plenty of cheese-knives ready! Disposable plastic knives and forks are not helpful when trying to grab a reasonable portion off a wedge of cheddar. Dinner knives are better, just as long as the blades are sharp and strong enough to handle the hardest of the cheese you have selected.

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Lightheart Cellars Pinot Noir

Lightheart Cellars Pinot Noir

Last night, I had my second chance to taste Lightheart Cellars' 2011 Carneros Pinot Noir. I'm going to keep this review (and all my wine reviews) simple, since I think the best way for anyone to learn about wine is to drink it themselves, not read about what others thought!

This wine is from a "rough" vintage in California, though you'd never know it judging by this wine. The color is light orange-red. not as pink as most California pinot noir, and there's a hint of cloudiness to the liquid (which you can see in the photo). It has a lot of blood orange, raspberry jam, and cherry jelly to the nose--there's a lot of interplay of tartness and fruitiness here, which I find really refreshing. I'm a huge fan of acidic wines (if it feels like it's going to burn a hole in my tongue, I want more!) but this is nicely tempered with the bold fruit. There's a hint of toasty vanilla and rye bread, which is surprisingly strong on the nose, considering that the wine was aged in neutral French oak. A little bit of smokiness and salinity add depth to the wine and speak to the Thompson Vineyard in Carneros, where the grapes were grown.

I enjoyed a glass of this sans food, which was quite enjoyable. This wine shines without the need of a dish to complement its flavors, but would also be great with a salad with some bitter or acidic elements, such as goat cheese, arugula, or pomegranate seeds. Because of its light body and great acidity, this is not a pinot you want to serve with salmon or white chocolate (two classic pinot noir pairings), but it would be great with tilapia and mango salsa or lots of lemon juice.

Lightheart Cellars is a great example of a small-production winery--I attended their Holiday Party a couple months ago, and got to taste through their portfolio of wine, mead, and cider! The tasting room is wonderful, and I'd highly recommend a visit; there's a great likelihood that you'll meet the winery managers and winemakers, and the entire experience is delicious!

For more information on Lightheart Cellars, please visit their website at www.lightheartcellars.com.

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Brut Rosé for Valentine's Day

 I haven’t made any plans for Valentine’s Day yet. I think that particular Friday night is going to consist of me, my boyfriend, and a couple friends cooking dinner at home and avoiding the public chaos that descends on the restaurants in our neighborhood for the evening. But I’m still going to be in charge of handling the wine for our dinner.

Wine for Valentine’s Day is easy, though. Get some bubbly, get a bottle of red with the three-course prix-fixe steak dinner, maybe do a glass of port with dessert.

Then continue the romance by getting too stuffed on the rich meal, sleepy from the wine, and dealing with some interesting gastrointestinal sensations for the rest of the night.

There’s a way to do wine for Valentine’s Day that isn’t predictable, won’t cause the discomfort that the traditional choices do, and will feel just as romantic.

First thing to keep in mind: don’t over-drink. That red wine and steak pairing may be classic (and delicious) but the temptation to go through the whole bottle once your waiter places it on the table is high. Couple that with the aperitif Champagne flutes and several courses of buttery, rich foods, and you’ve got the recipe for a full-blown food coma, an early end to what should be a romantic night, and the potential temptation to drive while intoxicated. Don’t do it!

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