Wine amount & health

You cheered when studies asserted health benefits of wine consumption.

The “Mediterranean Diet” was first fusillade. Benefits were found in an active lifestyle and a diet that included plenty of plants, fresh fruit, olive oil, cheese and yogurt, four or fewer eggs a week, fish and poultry in low-to-moderate amounts, red meat in small amounts, and generous amounts of wine.

Other studies extolled heart-healthy benefits of the powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral properties of flavonoids found in wine, particularly red wine.

Ecstatically euphoric wine drinkers raised sloshing-full glasses in bacchanalian celebration. Inevitably came fine print: “in low-to-moderate amounts.”

Today, the generally accepted definition of “low-to-moderate” in the U.S. is one glass of wine per day for women and two glasses for men. Women get short pour because of their smaller size and possible correlation between alcohol and breast cancer.

The definition of “moderate” is a moving target, however, and the U.S. definition is among the lowest in the world. In 1979, the United Kingdom’s Royal College of Psychiatrists determined moderate daily consumption was “one standard size bottle of wine.” In 1987, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council suggested four servings per day for men (almost a bottle) and two for women (almost half a bottle). Update: in 2001, Aussie council adjusted guidelines to two drinks a day for both men and women. In France, current standard is 4.5 drinks for men (just under a bottle) and 3.5 for women.

Note well: wine drinking may or may not be good for you, but no study ever has encouraged drinking and driving.

Tasting notes:

• Bolla Chianti 2010. Flamboyantly fruit forward–plum, cherry, raspberry; bit thin, fast finish; easy-drinking value; sip, recall simpler college days. $6

• Mouton-Cadet Bordeaux Rouge 2010. Merlot-cab-cab franc; cherry, chocolate; right-bank Bordeaux with no real wow, but nice enough everyday value. $7

• Alexander Valley Vineyards Homestead Red Blend 2009. Blueberry, cherry, vanilla, spice; rich, tasty, medium-bodied cab-syrah-zin blend. $17

Last round: When I was younger, happy hour started with wine at 5:01 p.m. Now, happy hour is a nap after lunch.