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Wednesday Warblings
Pick Your Poison Carefully—Lest It Pick You

By Stephen Eliot

“Poison, in this case, refers to being careful about what you choose to believe”.

There is wine news you can use and that which you can’t, but some of the silly stories that appear on particularly slow days do serve to brighten my mornings and leave me wondering just who comes up with this stuff.

I am especially fond of the new revelations born of an amazing parade of formal “studies” undertaken by seats of higher learning—things like the notion that wine professionals are biologically “different” than other folks, or that people seem to believe that better wine will be found from producers with difficult to pronounce names. You may remember those “enlightening” findings which led to laughter in these parts on earlier occasions.

Let’s be clear, however. I am not in the least anti-academic. I have very happily spent a good deal of my adult life in just that realm both searching for higher education and, then, later in life, attempting to dispense it.

But real humor inhabits that world as well, and over the past week or two, the findings of several new studies have set me to chuckling once again. Did you know, for example, that university educated women consume more alcohol than those who are not? That is the conclusion of a lengthy, multi-year study from the London School of Economics.

This, of course, prompted a response from the Alcohol Concern charity in the UK that “this raises concerns which need to be addressed.” I am unclear, however, as to what use this seeming “truth” may have and to whom. Should well-educated women be profiled as likely abusers? Will marketeers of wines and spirits devise campaigns specifically directed to this “vulnerable” group? Apparently the patterns of women’s alcohol consumption can be predicted by looking at school test-scores in girls as young as five. Now, I do seem to recall a recent story of a London wine shop selling a bottle of Champagne to a seven-year old girl, who, I must assume, was an especially bright one.

Another study that made minor headlines yesterday is a new one from France that has proved that people with tattoos drink more than those who eschew such decoration. This startling insight came from data gathered by breathalyzer-wielding researchers who tested willing subjects as they exited bars on a Saturday night. Commenting on the results, a Professor Emerita from Texas Tech not involved in the research, said that prior studies have shown that people with only one tattoo do not differ from those who have none, but that those with seven or more fall into a group high at risk of over-indulgence. I suppose we should now all be on guard for tattooed imbibers, and be especially wary of educated women who are heavily inked and holding a glass. I do wonder who pays for these studies, and just what their intent in conducting them may be.

Finally, from psychologists at the University of Illinois comes this useful tidbit. It seems that there is evidence that moderate imbibing makes for a quicker and more clever mind. When two groups of healthy young men, one stone sober and the other comprised of individuals each having consumed two pints of beer (roughly equivalent to a half bottle of wine,) were given “brain teaser” tests, the beer-drinking group performed faster and with better results. One author of the study said “the bottom line is that we think that being too focused can blind you to possibilities, and a broader, more flexible state of attention is needed for creative solutions to emerge.” No surprises there. I feel more creative and flexible after a couple of good-sized glasses of wine myself, but “blind”, all by itself, does lurk somewhere just a bit further down in the bottle. And I intend to keep a sharp eye open then next time I drive through Urbana-Champaign campus.


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