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Improve Your Kidney Health With an Occasional Glass of Wine

According to the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), kidney disease kills more than 90,000 people in the U.S. each year. What’s even more alarming is that most people suffering from the disease don’t even know that have it. But researchers have found an effective way to significantly lower the risk of kidney disease in a rather unorthodox place: wine.

Researchers at the University of Colorado discovered that drinking one glass of wine a day (not an entire bottle, FYI), resulted in a 37% lower risk of chronic kidney disease. The study, led by Dr. Tapan Mehta, involved the examination of data taken from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2003 and 2006 on 5,800 individuals, many of whom had kidney disease.

Dr. Tapan Mehta and his team concluded that people who drank just one glass of wine daily experienced a 37% reduction in their risk of developing kidney disease as opposed to those who did not drink wine. Researchers also noted that people already suffering from chronic kidney disease who drank a glass of wine daily were less likely to develop heart disease.

Those [with healthy kidneys] who drank less than one glass of wine a day had a 37 percent lower risk of having chronic kidney disease than those who drank no wine,” said Dr. Tapan Mehta, a renal fellow at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Center, in Aurora and the study’s coauthor.

Dr. Tapan Mehta acknowledged that he and his team are not sure why exactly wine consumption lowers the risk of kidney disease. However, he noted that it could be linked to the reduced protein compounds in the urine. When you consume wine, there’s naturally less protein in your urine, which may benefit the kidneys by the lowering the risk of chronic kidney disease.

On a side note, Dr. Tapan Mehta says that while there’s a certain stigma surrounding alcohol, it’s perfectly fine and even beneficial in some cases when consumed in moderation. Drinking 3-4 glasses of wine a day probably isn’t the best idea, as the alcohol will overload the kidneys and liver, but drinking a single glass allows your body to reap the benefits of the nutrient-rich wine without suffering from any of the ill effects associated with alcohol.

The Brat Pack wine photo by Flitran via Flickr Creative Commons.

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Spotlight: Eco-Friendly ‘Paper Boy’ Wine

Earth Day is officially over (it was April 22, FYI), but many people still have the environmental protection and conservation on their mind. While some wineries and vineyards use eco-friendly practices to develop their products, one wine in particular comes out on top in this criteria. If you’ve got Earth Day running through your mind and want to drink what’s possible the world’s most eco-friendly wine, we have the solution.

Produced by the Truett-Hurst winery, Paper Boy is a revolutionary new wine that’s breaking all the traditional barriers of wine. But it’s not Paper Boy’s actual wine that’s raising eyebrows from wine drinkers and collectors from across the country, it’s the packaging.

Paper Boy is the world’s first wine to be packaged in cardboard. Let me say that again: Paper Boy’s bottle is made of cardboard, not glass! How is it able to pull this off with the wine remaining intact? The company signed a deal with Green Bottle to develop a unique 100% recyclable bottle that’s made almost entirely of corrugated cardboard.

Paper Boy touts itself as being 80% lighter than traditional glass bottles, which means there’s fuel required to ship and transport the product. According to the company, a single cross-country trip with Paper Boy saves 61 gallons of diesel fuel. Considering that most wineries make dozens if not hundreds of cross-country trips, it’s easy to see why this is such an eco-friendly choice.

Paper Boy is a wine that breaks rules.  Breaks barriers.  Breaks the way we enjoy wine, even where we experience it.  From mountaintops to impromptu pool parties. Heck, even the final frontier – space. 

It’s the first 100% fully recyclable wine that is 80% lighter than glass and made with ultra-green packaging.”

But packaging isn’t necessarily an indication of quality. Although I’ve yet to try this eco-friendly wine, most reviews from other sites are not to promising. Some critics claim certain varieties of Paper Boy are overly bitter and lack the attention to detail necessary for a palatable blend of flavors.

There are some varieties which have received a positive response by critics, such as the 2012 Paperboy Paso Robles Red Blend. This rich, fruitful red wine hits home, with critics praising it for its delightful blend of aromatic nuances and fruitful flavors. And at just $15 bucks a bottle, what do you have to lose?


Photo of three different Paper Boy wine varieties.


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Former WHO Scientist Says Drinking a Bottle a Day is Okay

Do you feel guilty of drinking an entire bottle of wine by yourself? Most of us have been told to limit our intake of wine to just 1-2 glasses per day to reap the benefits of wine without suffering from any ill effects of. However, Dr. Poikolainen, a former World Health Organization (WHO) scientist, recently published a paper that suggests that drinking a bottle of wine a day is perfectly fine.

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1 in 6 Americans binge drinks (ie: drinks at least 4-5 alcohol beverages in a sitting). The CDC reports that women should limit their daily wine intake to a single glass, whereas men should limit their daily wine intake to no more than two glasses. I think we’ve all been guilty of indulging ourselves with more than this recommended amount at some point in time, but this is the general rule set forth by CDC officials.

Dr. Poikolainen offers an opinion on wine consumption that’s in stark contrast to the CDC’s. According to the former WHO scientist, both men and women can drink a bottle per day (slightly more in some cases) to reap the positive benefits of wine.

The weight of the evidence shows moderate drinking is better than abstaining, and heavy drinking is worse than abstaining. However, the moderate amounts can be higher than the guidelines say,” Dr. Poikolainen.

More specifically, Dr. Poikolainen states that wine consumption only becomes harmful when a person consumes 13 or more ‘units’ per day. So, how much is a unit? A typical 750 ml bottle of wine boils down to roughly 10 units, meaning you can drink just over a bottle without suffering from any ill effects — at least that’s the thinking behind Dr. Poikolainen.

So, why are we allowed to drink massive amounts of wine but no beer or other alcohol beverages? Dr. Poikolainen failed to address this question, but the answer likely stems from the high concentrations of antioxidants (specifically resveratrol) found in wine. We’ve talked about the health benefits of drinking red wine on a number of occasions; it reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, regulates blood sugar levels, promotes youthful skin and more.

The jury is still on whether a bottle of wine is really okay to drink. Dr. Poikolainen seems to think so, but other health experts disagree with his view.

Bottle of 2003 Ernest & Julio Gallo Twin Valley red wine: photo by Vox Efx.

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Why You Should Drink Red Wine (Besides Its Flavor)

Most people drink red wine for its delicious flavors, aroma and texture, all of which combine to create a pleasurable experience. Whether you’re a wine aficionado or someone who enjoys an occasional glass with dinner, there’s nothing quite as refreshing as the rich flavors in a glass of premium red wine. However, drinking moderate amounts of red could actually prove beneficial to your health.

Regulates Cholesterol Levels

One of the many health benefits associated with red wine is its ability to regular cholesterol levels within the body. Drinking just a single glass of red wine per day is known to lower bad cholesterol levels (LDL) while simultaneously raising good cholesterol levels (HDL).

Reduces Blood Clotting

Red wine consumption is directly linked to lower rates of blood clotting. As you may already know, a stroke occurs when a blood clot is released and sent to the heart. Red wine has natural anti-clotting properties that help prevent this from occurring.

Reduces Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cardiovascular disease is the #1 cause of death in both men and women, taking the lives of an estimated 600,000 Americans each year.

You can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by consuming red wine on a regular basis. Going back to the benefits mentioned above, red wine works to lower a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease by regulating cholesterol levels and reducing blood clotting.

Fights Hypertension

Do you suffer from high blood pressure? High blood pressure (medically known as hypertension) stresses the organs while increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease (notice a trend?).

The good news is that red wine is believed to fight hypertension by promoting a healthy circulatory system. One particular study, published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, found that the ingestion of 250 ml of red wine led to a reduction of “postprandial blood pressure of centrally obese, hypertensive subjects.”

How Much Red Wine Should I Drink?

Now for the million dollar question: how much red wine should I drink to reap these health benefits? Since wine contains sugar and alcohol, it’s important to consume it in moderation. Drinking half a dozen glasses on a daily basis will eventually take its toll on your body, negating all of these benefits.

A good rule of thumb is to drink one glass daily for women and two glasses daily for men.


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How To Decode a Wine Label

Inexperienced wine drinkers are often confused and perplexed by the labels used on wine. Whether it’s a new Pinot noir produced here in the U.S. or a French Bordeaux, most wineries use complex labels filled with a variety of information. Once you learn and familiarize yourself with the different parts of the label, however, you’ll have a better understanding of the wine.

Wine Maker

The most prominent element on a wine label is the maker or brand. This is typically displayed in the center of the label and reveals who’s responsible for producing the wine.

Wine Type

Next to the maker, you should see the type of wine located on the label. By law, all wines sold in the U.S. (and most other countries) are required to display their respective type on the label. You might see Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Zinfandel, etc. on the label, indicating its produced with a minimum percentage of the respective grape.


A wine’s appellation is the country or region from which the grapes were grown. In the U.S., federal law states that at least 75% of the wine’s grapes must be harvested from the appellation listed on its label. If you purchase a bottle of Sonoma Valley red wine, for instance, you expect it to contain at least 75% of grapes grown and harvested from this region.


Contrary to what some people may believe, vintage does not refer to a wine’s date of production. Instead, it refers to the year when the grapes were harvested.

It’s important to note, however, that vintage isn’t a required element for wine labels. Some of the lesser quality wines that contain a variety of grapes won’t display a vintage year. Also, don’t assume that vintage is a clear indicator of quality, as there are plenty of delicious non-vintage (NV) and plenty of bad vintage wines.

See Understanding Vintage Wine for more information.

Alcohol By Volume (ABV)

Just as the name suggests, alcohol by volume (ABV) indicates the wine’s alcohol percentage. American wines tend to have a slightly higher ABV than their European counterpart. However, many people prefer the smoother, more subtle characteristics a low-ABV wine.

ABV is required by law on all wines produced and sold here in the U.S. Federal law allows for a 1% margin error on ABV, meaning a wine labeled with 14% ABV can legally possess 13 or 15%.

Bottle of 2008 Vignes De Nicole Syrah: photo by Alessandro Valli.

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New York Aims To Boost Wine and Beer Industry

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is looking to boost the state’s wine and beer industry by pumping an estimated $60 million into an awareness campaign. The campaign, known as Taste NY, draws attention to New York’s wineries and brewers. And according to Governor Cuomo, it has already generated over $4 billion in economic activity for the state.

What Is Taste NY?

According to the organization’s official website, “Taste NY” will help tell the story of New York’s wine industry. We have wine regions, beautiful trails and world class wines. Whether you prefer a Riesling or merlot, sparkling white or ice wine, or a glass of honey meade, a taste of New York wine is a taste of New York agriculture at its best.”

According to public financial documents, the state has invested over $60 million in its Taste NY campaign. While opponents of Cuomo immediately criticized the governor for spending such a large amount of tax revenue on a marketing campaign for beer and wine, the move has apparently paid off for the state. Taste NY is believed to have attracted over $4 billion in revenue, which is a pretty good return on investment (ROI).

New York probably isn’t the first state that comes to mind when you think of U.S.-made wine. The undisputed winner in this category is California, which produced 667,552,032 still gallons of wine in 2012. However, New York is actually in second place, producing an estimated 26,404,066 gallons of wine in 2012. It’s certainly nowhere near as much as the sunny state of California, but New York remains the runner-up in terms of U.S. wine production.

Beer, Wine, Spirits and Cider Summit

In addition to his Taste NY campaign, Governor Cuomo also held the annual Beer, Wine, Spirits and Cider Summit near the state’s capital last week.

During the summit, he announced plans to lessen restrictions and requirements on New York wineries and breweries through the Craft New York Act. Governor Cuomo also noted expanded marketing expenses, lower license registration costs, and other elements designed to improve the state’s wine and beer industry.

We are fully cognizant we have further to go, because we want this to work better.” Cuomo said. “We’re taking liquor producers and we’re making them marketers, restaurateurs, tourism destinations — these are not normal connections and it’s not normally what [the State Liquor Authority] does,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.


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Iowa’s Wine Industry Continues To Grow

Iowa probably isn’t the first state that comes to mind when you think of U.S.-made wine, and for good reason: it currently sits in 24th place in terms of wine production with 243,571 gallons of still wine produced in 2012 (California is 1st with 667,552,032). But the wine industry here is stronger than ever, adding a substantial amount of revenue for the state.

The consulting firm Frank, Rimerman & Co. recently released a study that highlights the economical impact of Iowa’s wine production. According to the study, Iowa’s wine industry rose from a mere $234 million in 2008 to an impressive $420 million in 2012. In case you’re bad with math, that’s an 80% increase in just a 4-year period!

The industry is at a critical juncture. Iowa-produced wines have captured 6 percent of the state’s wine market, and now Iowa has the potential to lead the region in wine production and sales,” said Murli Dharmadhikari, the director of the Midwest Grape and Wine Industry Institute at Iowa State University.

But it’s not just direct wine sales that are providing the state of Iowa with additional tax revenue, it’s also the tourism. Dharmadhikari says that 358,000 people visited wineries in Iowa during 2012, which is 51% greater than the amount of people who toured Iowa’s wineries in 2008. According to the study, there are 2,678 wine-related jobs in Iowa.

Today, wine vineyards can be found in 86 of Iowa’s 99 counties. The wine industry continues to grow by leaps and bounds, despite the fact that Iowa has the fourth largest excise tax in the country. (note: excise tax in Iowa is $1.75/gallon)

If you ever find yourself traveling through Iowa, take a couple hours out of your day to stop by one of the 95+ wineries. Most of the wineries here are small-family owners businesses, not large commercial businesses. The small, personal nature of Iowa’s wineries create a pleasant atmosphere that you’re sure to enjoy.

There some hurdles faced by Iowa vineyards and wineries, including the high humidity levels. The hot and humid summer days promotes the growth of mold and fungi, often destroying entire crops of vineyards. Wineries must combat this problem through the use of fungicide as well as removing tainted plants from healthy ones.

Iowa wine barrels: photo by ezioman.


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The Link Between Red Wine and Health Health

Let’s face it, most people drink red wine for its rich, delicious flavors and fragrant aromas. Whether you consider yourself a wine connoisseur or someone who enjoys an occasional once-a-week glass, you’re sure to appreciate the bold flavors of a good glass of red wine. However, recent studies have revealed some rather surprising benefits of drinking red wine.

Can Red Wine Lower The Risk of Heart Disease?

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among men and women in the U.S. 600,000 people in the U.S. die from heart disease each year, which translates into roughly 1 in 4 deaths. In addition, the total costs of heart disease is estimated to be $108.9 billion.

Consuming moderate amounts of red wine on regular basis, though, may help reduce a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease. Numerous studies have been done which reveal a direct correlation between red wine consumption and lower rates of heart disease. People who drank red wine on a daily basis (1-2 glasses) were less likely to suffer from heart disease than people who did not drink red wine.

Why Does Red Wine Lower The Risk of Heart Disease?

This is something medical experts and scientists are still trying to figure out. With that said, there are few plausible theories regarding the link between red wine consumption and lower rates of heart disease.

You see, red wine contains a plethora of beneficial organic antioxidant compounds known as flavonoids. These antioxidants work to neutralize potentially damaging free radicals that roam throughout our body. Free radicals are found in the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink, and even the beauty products we use on our skin. Small amounts of free radicals won’t cause any serious damage to our bodies, but larger amounts are believed to cause early aging, illness and even increase the chance of developing certain types of cancers.

Heart Health Benefits of Red Wine:

  • Boosts good cholesterol levels (HDL).
  • Reduces bad cholesterol levels (LDL).
  • Reduces blood clotting; thus, promoting healthy circulation.
  • Lowers your overall risk of cardiovascular disease.

It’s important to note that red wine should be consumed in moderation to reap the full potential of its heart health benefits. A “normal” serving is approximately one 4-ounce glass daily for women or two 4-ounce glasses daily for men.

South African red wine: photo by Tim Parkinson.


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Debunking 5 Common Wine Myths

There’s a lot of misinformation out there on the subject of wine. And being that wine tasting is such a highly social activity, these myths and misconceptions are easily spread around. In an effort to separate the facts from the fiction, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most common wine myths.

Myth #1) The ‘Vintage’ Year Indicates When The Wine Was Made

It’s a common belief that the vintage year printed on a bottle of wine indicates when it was made. However, this isn’t entirely correct. In the U.S., Canada, Bordeaux and France, the vintage indicates the year when the grapes were harvested. Some wineries may harvest their grapes long before they are actually turned into wine.

Myth #2) Corked Wines Are Better Than Screwcaps

In the old days, nearly all wines were bottled using cork. This offered a safe and effective way to preserve the wine while keeping it safe from oxygen exposure Today, though, a growing number of wineries are opting to use aluminum screwcaps instead.

The truth is that both corks and screwcaps are equally as effective at preserving wine. In fact, some people will argue that screwcaps are the better choice since they last longer and don’t degrade in the same was as cork.

Myth #3) Wine Is Better With Age

Yes, it’s true that some wines are better with age, but other varieties begin to spoil as they grow older. Generally speaking, most white varieties should be consumed within three years of release. Holding onto your whites for longer than three years may result in unwelcome flavor changes.

Premium red wines may improve in flavor and aroma through aging.

Myth #4) Cheap Wines Are Bad

Contrary to what some people may believe, price is not a clear indication of quality when it comes to wine. There are a countless number of inexpensive wines that are far better than the so-called premium varieties on the market. Don’t assume that a bottle of wine is bad just because it’s sold for $10 bucks.

Myth #5) Popping The Cork Helps Aerate Wine

If you want to aerate your wine before drinking it (which is always a good idea), don’t pop the cork and let it sit for an hour. Instead, pour it into a decanter before serving it in a wine glass. Popping the cork only exposes the top of the wine to oxygen, not the entire contents.

Wine photo by Chris Gladis.


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Judge Lowers Compensation For Koch In Fake Wine Case

If you keep up with the Blog, you may recall a story we covered last year involving counterfeit wine being sold to customers, one of whom was billionaire investor and businessman William Koch. Well, the $12 million that a judge had originally awarded Koch in compensatory damages has now been slashed to just $712,000.

Koch Buys 24 Bottles of Fake Wine

In April 2013, a jury had awarded Koch with $12 million in damages after he purchased 24 bottles of fake Bordeaux from Californian businessman Eric Greenberg at a local wine auction. But just because a jury awards someone with compensatory damages doesn’t necessary mean they will receive it.

Greenberg petitioned the court to lower the compensatory damages set forth by the jury, claiming it was “exorbitant.” Earlier this week, U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken agreed with Greenberg before clashing Koch’s damages from $12 million down to just $712,000.

The jury found that [Greenberg] had shamelessly defrauded customers with ‘garbage.’ Yet his conduct did not cause a particularly egregious harm: he was dealing in luxury goods marketed to a sophisticated and wealthy subset of the population. The harm was strictly economic, and the victims were far from vulnerable consumers. These facts merit a relatively low award of punitive damage,” wrote District Judge J. Paul Oetken.

A spokesperson for Koch responded to the judge’s decision, saying Koch’s goal was never to win money, but rather to bring more attention to the growing problem of wine fraud. Considering that Koch’s net worth is around $4 billion, I think it’s safe to say he doesn’t need to the additional compensatory damages from this case.

Wine Fraud

Wine fraud is a topic that many people would rather ignore than tackle head-on. Just because a particular bottle has a label and all the right markings doesn’t necessarily mean it’s real. Wine fraud is a multi-million dollar industry that continues to swindle wine collectors and consumer out of their money. 

The most common form of wine fraud involves relabeling. Thieves and crooks meticulously apply authentic labels to cheap wines in hopes of pulling a fast one on buyers. Filling authentic ‘premium’ bottles with cheap wine is another form of fraud.

Do you think Koch should have been awarded the full $12 million?

William Koch standing in front of the courthouse alongside his lawyer.

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