Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Deadly Wine

WINE. ETC. The editorial staff of has always displayed an interest in "fringe science." As it happens, I've been dabbling in some fringe science lately, so when IP invited me to write some guest posts, I knew right away where to start.

Perhaps you have, like venerable Harry, enjoyed wine from time to time. Perhaps, like him, you've even enjoyed enough at one sitting to experience an intoxicating effect. But let's not dwell on such excesses. For this journey of imagination, let's merely stipulate that you enjoy one single, modest serving of wine every evening while you curl up in your Snuggie in your favorite cozy chair, savoring the latest drollery of Maureen Dowd or James Wolcott. A comforting, yet intellectually stimulating, routine.

But one night, a friend stops by and insists, quite insistently, that you read a book. A book he claims may -- no, will -- change your whole life for the better. A book that, if you chose to believe it, would mean giving up wine for life... or at least indulging in it only on the very most special occasions. Certainly not on a nightly or near-nightly basis.

The author is a doctor who has seen thousands of patients. His years of experience have convinced him that the wine sold in stores today bears little resemblance to the wine that people have been drinking since before the dawn of writing. Yes, its flavor is similar or even better; but the twentieth century introduced innovations in winemaking that not only reduced wine's nutritional value, but made it actively harmful to humans. So harmful, in fact, that "Frankenwine" by itself may account for a good portion of America's increases in health problems over the last few decades.

He has spent considerable time and effort searching the corpus of scientific knowledge for relevant information. He has found much that he believes supports his theory, and includes citations for all of it.

The author claims that if you are willing to undertake the experiment of going without your daily glass of wine for one month, you will notice significant positive benefits. Your mood will improve, possibly within days. Your energy will increase. Your excess weight will begin to melt away. Your skin will clear up. Your chronic aches and pains, particularly those related to inflammation, will diminish or vanish entirely. And so will your cravings for wine.

All you have to do is go without wine! -- Though you do have to be scrupulous about it. Drinking one glass of wine may be enough to halt your progress for three days. You also have to keep an eye out for wine lurking where it isn't advertised; for example, in your Chicken Marsala, or in your Mimosa. Sorry, champagne counts as wine.

The author also maintains a web site. It is usually updated daily, and many people visit it. Oftentimes the comments on a given blog entry will include posts from people who just stopped by to thank the author for changing their lives. Some even write impassioned personal histories, or lament that the knowledge came too late to save a relative who died of a wine-related illness.

You take the time to determine whether this author has detractors, and of course, he does. But you notice a curious consistency among them. They don't seem to disprove the author's arguments. Some point out that wine has been around for a long time. Some say wine allergy is a well-known problem among a small percentage of the population, and the book has no broader application. Others refute assertions the author never made. Still others complain that the author failed to include wine-free recipes.

In the meantime, while you contemplate the book and the words its detractors have written, you grow ever more fat, tired, and depressed, and you need to buy a bigger Snuggie.

So. Are you ready to give up wine?

You may have guessed the scenario isn't hypothetical. But before you make up your mind, I should mention there's one detail I changed. The substance in question is actually wheat, not wine.

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