Health benefits

Wine lovers fervently yearn for medical studies affirming health benefits of red wine to be true. Alas, findings are not black-and-white.

Irrefutable studies show moderate drinking of alcohol increases life expectancy, primarily because of cardiovascular benefits, and it doesn’t matter much what alcohol you drink.

Most heavy drinkers of alcohol enjoy excellent cardiovascular systems, but heavy drinking simultaneously increases their risk of violent death, stroke, dementia, cirrhosis of the liver, other cancers, and emotional/psychiatric destruction. Heavy drinkers may die with clean veins and arteries, but they die early from other things. If you have a drinking problem, get help.

Alcohol intake significantly increases high-density lipoprotein (“good cholesterol”). As an added benefit, red wine has antioxidant effects that work against low-density lipoprotein (“bad cholesterol”).

So far, so good. Moderate intake of alcohol, especially red wine, is good for you. Pull cork tonight.

Except, of course, life never is that simple. While numerous medical studies demonstrate a correlation between longer life and moderate alcohol use in general and red wine in particular, scientists throw in a disheartening kicker called the “confounding artifact.”

As it happens, moderate wine drinkers tend to be better educated, wealthier, and possess a more positive attitude toward life. Studies show those same factors contribute to longer lives irrespective of alcohol.

Are you a happy, balanced person because you drink a glass or two of wine? Or, do you drink a glass or two of wine because you are happy, balanced person?

Bottom line: moderate enjoyment of wine correlates with a longer life and some people—wine writers and wine makers, surely—argue a happier life.

The same studies show heavy alcohol drinking correlates with emotional problems, health problems, and a shorter life. It is the same with just about everything: moderation, moderation, moderation. Darn.

Tasting notes:

• Rios de Chile Carmenère 2011. Distinctive inky color; spice, meat nose; cherry, plum, blackberry; soft tannin; fruit and mint finish; try it.

• Bric di Bersan Piemonte Dolcetto 2012. Medium body, bright cherry, sharp plum; some velvet smoothness, bite, too. Nice value for price. $13

Last round: Lord, give me coffee to change the things I can, and wine to accept the things I can’t.