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Tuesday Tributes
Alcohol Will Make You Drunk

By Charles Olken

Three decades and seven years ago, when Connoisseurs’ Guide was in its infancy, we ventured up to the Napa Valley to interview Louis Martini. He informed us that the problem with wine was that it contained alcohol.

Well, yes, we countered, and thought to ourselves but did not say, tell us something we don’t know. But, happily we kept that smartass comment to ourselves and Mr. Martini proceeded to explain that he felt constrained by the alcohol because he could not drink all the wine he wanted to drink. And with that comment, the light went on. Connoisseurs’ Guide may have started with the intent to make people more aware of California wine, but we also had somehow wandered into the minefield of moderation and we unwittingly had become part of the forces of moderation.

Today, we are still fighting the same battles over how much wine is enough and how much is too much. The Government helps us, of course, by passing drunk-driving laws with measurable standards, and, in its enforcement of those standards, we learn how much is allowed and how much is intolerable. Never mind that the limits have changed over time and that they are different from place to place. The United States seem to like blood alcohol levels of 0.08% as a national standard. In other parts of the world, the standard is 0.05%.

The resulting decreases in public drunkenness and drunk-driving accidents are certainly positives, and we would not want to eliminate the laws that have brought about those societal changes. Still, there is much about blood alcohol levels that remains somewhat mystical. In Australia, for example, bottles of wine have a statement on the back that tells the average-sized person how much he or she can drink of a given wine. No consideration is given to the effects of drinking with food as opposed to drinking with an empty stomach. And no consideration is given to the known ability of the body to adjust itself to varying drinking habits.

An article in the San Francisco Chronicle this past Sunday does more to shed light on this issue than all the previous polemics and theories to date. That it is written by a serious, thoughtful doctor, and a doctor who is a teacher of other doctors explains in large measure why it is such a useful read. And that it was written by Dr. Michael Apstein, one of the most pleasant, honest and gentle souls who has ever put pen to people in winewriting further explains why I now suggest that you follow the link below to his comments.

Click on this link if interested in the topic:


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