Gout not the wine drinker's curse
I have a sore hand. Gout. Which makes writing painful, but not impossible.
And, because I can still hold a glass thank God, allows me still to enjoy the odd wine.
But doesn't wine, red in particular, cause gout, the so-called "disease of kings" suffered by Leonardo da Vinci, Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, the musical genius Beethhoven, and the gluttonous King Henry VIII?
Also suffered these days by one in 40 Britons, a rise of 64 per cent in 15 years, and, even more disturbingly, by more elderly New Zealanders than any other people in the world.
First, what is gout?
It is a painful arthritic condition that results when too much uric acid builds up in the body. The uric acid forms crystals, which settle in the joints, usually of the big toe, instep, heel, ankle, knees, wrists, fingers, and elbows.
The uric acid works to break up natural substances called purines, which are usually present in the tissue of the body as well as most foods. When the kidneys don't effectively process the acid or too many purines are consumed (usually by eating certain organ meats and mussels) the uric acid begins to build up, leading to - ouch, gout.
Gout can also be caused by obesity, which could include having high blood pressure or diabetes, having close relatives with gout or having long-term kidney problems.
What about alcohol?
In one of the largest studies of its kind a group of leading American researchers has for 12 years charted the effect of alcohol consumption on gout among 47,000 people.
The results - Beer: Contains the most purines and is the greatest offender. As few as two to four beers per week increase the risk of gout by 25 percent. Those drinking two or more per day increase their risk by a whopping 200 per cent.
Spirits: Those consuming as little as one drink per month are at increased risk of a gout attack. Those who drink daily increase their risk by 6 per cent.
Wine: The clear winner when it comes to the drink of choice for gout sufferers. Though wine also contains purines, the study concludes it has no measurable effect on the instances of gout.
Less comforting are the results from another study, published this week in the Neurology journal, which looked at memory loss.
After studying 5000 men and 2000 women over a 10 year period, researchers have discovered that those who had 2.5 drinks of wine, spirits or beer a day had an accelerated memory loss of up to six years - particularly the middle-aged men.
The memories of those who did not drink or drank only moderately did not seem to be affected.
It means we can only guess at the effects of a drink recently launched at a Washington DC restaurant in the United States. It's a mixture of chocolatey porter ale and lees, the stuff (including dead yeast) that falls to the bottom during the fermentation of wine.
It tastes like a mixture of prunes and dried cranberries.
I'll take my chances with these, thank-you-very-much:
Forrest Estate 2013 Gewurztraminer, $22
A lovely soft, medium-dry Marlborough gewurztraminer that smells as good as it tastes. Tropical fruits with a hint of spice and a lick of honey make it ideal partner, especially for Middle Eastern dishes.
Spy Valley 2012 Envoy Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, $32
This is by most standards a rather pricey sauvignon blanc. Different, too. Showcases the skills of French winemaker Paul Bourgoise and his team at Spy Valley. Fermented and aged in oak but vibrant and intense.
Mt Maude 2012 Wanaka Chardonnay, $28
A very smart white from the Deep South that should by now be starting to reveal its many charms. A fresh and appealling mix of grapefuit and oak (not oat) biscuits imparted by the puncheons in which it was fermented and matured.
The Southland Times