Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2010

piuze chablis

Patrick Piuze is a Canadian – a Québécois. And a rising star in Chablis, where he’s now regarded to be one of the top producers. He started working in Burgundy in 2000, and then was hired as winemaker at Brocard. He started making wines under his own name in 2008. I had this at lunch today and was blown away.

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2010 Burgundy, France
Wonderfully mineral, spicy nose with a bit of nice reduction. Deliciously minerally on the palate with citrus and pear fruit. Subtle creamy notes in the background, but overall this is a powerful, fresh, driven Chablis with a complex, expressive personality. It’s just beautiful. 95/100

Find this wine with wine-searcher.com

Champagne Krug 2002 and friends

champagne krug 2002

Krug 2002 has finally been launched. On Tuesday evening a group of us gathered in a studio in Shoreditch which had, for a week, been turned into the home of Krug. It was quite pretty. Eric Lebel (above left), who’s been chef de cave here for 18 years was presenting, along with Olivier Krug and brand manager Jessica Julmy (who’s in between them).

champagne krug 2002

‘At Krug, the vintage is the story of the year,’ said Eric. ‘At no point will there be a focus on the best in class. There is no hierarchy in our Champagnes. They are the same quality.’ Krug’s vintage wines represents 10% of production, and Krug’s production (not talked about openly) is 0.2% of all of the Champagne region’s.

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We began with a recap of the 2003. Frost in April took 40% of the crop. This was a very hot year with early ripening, especially for the Chardonnays, and the harvest date of 23 August meant that it was the first time there had been an August harvest since 1822. There were lots of over-ripe grapes, but there were some plots that were underripe because the heat had just stopped photosynthesis. The Krug plot-by-plot approach meant that they could leave the under-ripe plots and then do a second round of harvesting in October. Many of the late-ripening plots were Meunier. ‘Let’s see what we can make with such an interesting year,’ Eric said to himself. ‘There was a freshness that was very surprising.’ The final blend was 29% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir and a whopping 46% Pinot Meunier.

champagne krug 2003

Champagne Krug 2003
ID: 114002, which means this was disgorged in the first quarter of 2014. Tight, still, with bright acidity and some pithy notes. This is not what you’d expect from 2003. Distinctive toast and citrus, a bit of white peach and some hazelnut, with nice brightness. This is taut and direct with a crisp, somewhat clipped finish. 92/100

‘2002 was everything you wanted to make a grand Champagne,’ says Eric. ‘Everything was in abundance, and it was a close managing process to make sure it wasn’t too much: you had to reign it in.’ He says that when he was blending the base wines, each individual wine tasted like a blend of different wines. ‘They were so generous and expressive. Everything about 2002 was a question of abundance, energy and charisma.’

Each year there are some 250 lots of wine to taste, and Olivier and Eric tend to taste the wines daily: they’ll typically look at 15 wines each day. Theirs is a parcel by parcel approach. ‘Terroir can be erased by the volume of vinification,’ says Olivier. ‘If three pressings come in, totalling 60 hl, in every other house they would end up in the same vat,’ he says. ‘Here, they will be three wines. We are keeping the individuality of the terroirs and bringing it to the blend. This is the major difference between Krug and the other houses.’

champagne krug 2002

Champagne Krug 2002
ID: 414071, disgorged 4th quarter of 2014. Fine, multidimensional, focused aromatic nose with some toasty notes. Complex pear, peach and citrus flavours with lovely complexity. Real breadth but also some focus. It’s certainly very rich in style and a bit showy, with complex grapefruit, lemon, toast and hazelnut characters at its core. Showy but ultimately quite serious. 95/100

Then we looked at a couple of Grand Cuvées.

Champagne Krug Grand Cuvée NV
Current release, edition 163, ID 414067, disgorged fourth-quarter 2014, 183 different wines ranging from 1990 to the base wine of 2007. Toast, pears, citrus and a bit of peachy richness. Very refined, but not terribly fizzy (this was shared with all the bottles sampled tonight). There’s a lovely balance of freshness and richness, with nice fruit and acidity alongside the richer notes. 94/100

Champagne Krug Grand Cuvée NV
This is edition 158, based on the 2002 vintage. 58% 2002, 42% reserve wines. It was disgorged recently, but normally GC has six years on the lees and one year in bottle before release. Fine toast, butterscotch and fresh baked bread notes, as well as some nuts and herbs. Lovely refined toastiness here, with great finesse and balance. A truly beautiful wine. 95/100

Internal change, living in the now, and our approach to wine

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How we approach life is so important. If we change our viewpoint, it changes everything. But this sort of change is incredibly hard for most.

In our pursuit of happiness, we seek external change. Likewise, in our avoidance of pain, we seek this external change. We look to change the environment. Move to a better neighbourhood. Buy new stuff. Seek out new experiences. Holiday in exotic places. Make new (better) friends. Achieve more at work. Even find a new significant other.

Like a drug, though, this novelty quickly wears off, and leaves a resistance to further stimulation. We are left needing more to get the next high; the next numbing. The novelty certainly lifts us, but just for a while. It holds the pain at bay. But we haven’t changed, and so our need remains the same. It is fed, but never enough. The hunger remains. The pain returns.

What is really needed is a fresh set of eyes. If we learn to see differently, the mundane is transformed. If we begin to really live in the present, suddenly – even though our environment hasn’t changed – we experience joy and vitality where before we only experienced boredom, pain and a nagging hunger to change things.

It’s this internal change that we should be seeking. We’re too busy trying to change outside stuff to notice or realize this. And even if we know, in the back of our minds, that internal change is needed, it seems a bit scary and difficult and we don’t know how to effect it.

How do we change? I’ve spoken before about how changing our daily routine can often be a way to open ourselves up to change, as can reading (and the arts more broadly).

As we read, we hear ideas voiced that we thought were just our own. We find companionship in the discovery that others have gone before us, faced similar challenges, experienced the same highs, and have plummeted to the same depths. Reading exposes us to fresh perspectives: it re-tells our own story through the experiences and emotions of others. Re-telling our own story is important. …For change to occur, there must be a retelling of our own narrative – the internal story that configures how we see ourselves in the world. If that is changed, then change can follow quite naturally. Two things are needed … First is a change of scene. Our familiar routines keep us trapped in our own perspective. It’s important to change those routines from time to time. Take a different route to work. Go somewhere new. Order a different coffee. … The second is to expose ourselves to the worlds of others: to hear stories. Films, plays, visual art and books all play a role here, but it is reading that I think has the most power to effect change. This is because, as we read, we take the words in to our minds, and add to them. They become part of us. [See full post here.]

But there’s also another route to this internal change. It’s making a commitment to living in the present, and accepting that difficulties aren’t always to be avoided, and pain isn’t always to be numbed. We can never avoid trouble or pain. We shouldn’t seek them out, but they will find us. If we flee them or try to numb ourselves, we will have cut off one of the great routes to this internal transformation that has the potential to bring true happiness. More stuff, higher status, fresh experiences and new highs will never get us there. Striving and ambition will leave us unhappy and eventually destroy our souls. But the acceptance of the now, and allowing troubles – honestly and bravely faced – to transform us from the inside, is what allows us to be fully us. Your best you; my best me.

There’s a Japanese term: Kintsugi. It translates as ‘golden joinery’, and it refers to the act of repairing pottery with a lacquer mixed with powdered gold or other precious metal. The repair is part of the object, rather than something that must be hidden away. This mended pot takes on a beauty greater than one that has never been broken. There’s a parallel between kintsugi and the Japanese notion of wabi-sabi, in which beauty is found in the flawed or imperfect. We should celebrate our flaws, not hide them away. We should allow ourselves to be integrated. Let us live in the now, and begin to see with fresh eyes. We are surrounded by what we consider to be ordinary and mundane, but which is actually quite beautiful. There’s a joy in the normal, if we were only able to grasp it.

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How does this relate to wine? We can approach wine in different ways. Do we sometimes fail to live in the present with wine? It’s possible to be hung up with seeking an ever-greater wine experience. We’re discontent with the wines we have because we know that there are ‘better’ wines out there. Wine becomes a competitive sport, and whether it’s about the value of the wine, its scarcity, its age, or the number of points it has been awarded, there’s a striving on the part of many to drink ‘better’ wines. On social media, we see others drinking grand bottles, and seemingly having more fun than we are. A 100 point wine dinner becomes seen as the ultimate wine experience. We find significance and value in the prestige and status of the wines we drink and cellar.

This is all bonkers, of course. And it robs us of the real joy that wine can bring. The pleasure of sharing wine with friends over food. The thrill of a glass of Champagne with a loved one. Wine in context, as part of the occasion, which is enhanced by wine’s transforming effects. Wine enhancing the now. And to do this we need an internal shift in the way we see wine. Why does natural wine appeal to so many? Because it is about drinking and sharing; not cellaring and competing. Because it often has edges – a beauty and elegance that is enhanced, wabi sabi style, with flavours that are vital, alive and which trained enologists sometimes misdiagnose as faults. It’s similar to the fragrance of jasmine, which contains an off-flavour, indole, that integrates into the whole and brings out the beauty of the other components. Whatever your views on natural wine, we can learn from this. If we allow ourselves to undergo an internal change, and live in the present, suddenly we can begin to find great joy in sharing wine together. We will no longer be lost in the vain pursuit of ever-better wines. We will begin to find beauty in the authentic now.

And when we are lucky enough to experience great wine, we will be set free to enjoy it fully.

Some white Burgundy 2014 highlights from yesterday

burgundy 2014

Some white Burgundy highlights from yesterday’s Berry Bros & Rudd tasting. Usual caveat: these are cask samples, not bottled. So treat the score as a very approximate guide. These wines are available here. 2014 is looking like a pretty amazing vintage for white Burgundy.

Bret Bros Domaine de la Soufrandière Pouilly Vinzelles Les Longeays 2014 Burgundy, France
Fresh and concentrated with nice citrus and pear fruit. Pure and textured with nice acidity. Stylish. 93/100

bret brothers

Bret Bros Domaine de la Soufrandière Pouilly Vinzelles Les Quarts 2014 Burgundy, France
Lovely fresh, floral lemony nose. The palate is very pure and vivid with precise, linear, lemony fruit. Classy and intense. 94/100

Domaine Hubert Lamy St Aubin Les Frionnes 1er Cru 2014 Burgundy, France
Powerful and lively with pear, peach, apple fruit. Very mineral with nice acid and a bit of good reduction. 94/100

Domaine Hubert Lamy St Aubin La Princée 2014 Burgundy, France
Complex with a touch of matchstick on the nose. Broad, focused and mineral with pear and peach fruit. 93/100

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Domaine Hubert Lamy Santenay Clos des Gravières 1er Cru 2014 Burgundy, France
Lively, lemony nose is very fresh and intense. Pure, mineral and powerful. Stylish. 94/100

Jean-Claude Bachelet St Aubin Le Charmois 1er Cru 2014 Burgundy, France
Intense, powerful yet still possessing delicacy. Lovely citrus and pear fruit with a hint of pith. Bright and focused with lovely acidity. 94/100

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Jean-Claude Bachelet Puligny Montrachet Les Aubes 2014 Burgundy, France
Multidimensional and mineral with a lovely directness. Lemons, nuts and just a hint of oak. Superb. 95/100

Jean-Claude Bachelet Puligny Montrachet Sous Les Puits 1er Cru 2014 Burgundy, France
Precise with lovely citrus and pear fruit. Tight and linear with lemons and herbs. Stylish. 94/100

Sylvain Loichet Ladoix Bois de Gréchons 2014 Burgundy, France
Some richness here: nutty and stylish with real purity. Pears and lemons: textural. 93/100

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Sylvain Loichet Ladoix Les Gréchons 1er Cru 2014 Burgundy, France
Lively and lemony with nice precision. Very pretty with pear and white peach, as well as some nutty richness. Lively acidity. 94/100

Jean-Philippe Fichet Meursault Les Gruyaches 2014 Burgundy, France
Very lively and detailed. Pure and fresh with powerful flavours. Nuts and some minerals and even some spice. Detailed and citrussy. 95/100

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Jean-Philippe Fichet Meursault Le Tesson 2014 Burgundy, France
Lively and fresh with high acidity. Lemons, minerals, subtle toast and some nuts. Linear. Amazing wine. 95/100

Pollen Cider, wine-like, natural, and delicious

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I was really impressed by this. It’s a new cider made by Ben Slater, who comes from a wine background (he works for The Sampler). He’s made a pretty natural cider that would really appeal to wine folk, with its almost vinous quality.

‘The vision for this was really to make a quality, balanced cider that is focused on the provenance of fruit in it,’ says Ben. ‘When I say balanced, I mean I wanted to bring some acidity to focus and carry the fruit in the same way as wine does. This has been done by fruit blending alone right down to me trudging fields and taste testing for individual trees to bring it in as I wanted.’

‘Honestly I feel that the heritage around, expertise within (that which hasn’t died off unheard) and just outright quality of our cider apple crop is a massively undervalued thing. My grower has travelled the world studying fruit farming and brought all sorts of vineyard techniques such as biodynamic practices and proper soil work to bear on his farm, only to see his crop get blended with concentrate and sugar to be dumped into Bulmers’.

‘I believe Pollen is different because there’s been no compromise. I’m not interested in sweetening/manipulating/standardising and making a session drink (cider is a fermented fruit juice after all and is nothing like beer despite the best efforts of some companies to suggest otherwise), and I’m not interested in copying wine outright in terms of how I make or label it – it is not brut or method Champenoise, it is a dry, bottle conditioned cider.’

‘What I want to do in the long run is develop a two or three line product range (in development now) and help passionate, quality focussed growers to innovate and raise the standard of cider apple farming by offering them price incentives to do so. There are all the possibilities in terms of diversity and quality of cider that exist in wine but in its own right. It is a fruit we in England can ripen well and make truly compelling drinks from consistently.’

Pollen Cider (2014 vintage) Herefordshire
6.5% alcohol. This bottle-conditioned cider is lovely, with high acidity and a slightly sour note. It’s a dry cider with real bite. Lovely focus and concentration. Refreshing, spicy and detailed with a nice savouriness to the bitter apple fruit. 8.5/10

Contact: www.pollencider.com

On writing

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Everyone wants to be a writer. At least, it seems that way. Few get to write for a living. But people so love to work with words that they are often drawn to occupations where they are dealing with other people’s words, even if they aren’t writing themselves.

I remember that when I worked as a science editor, every couple of years I would recruit an assistant editor. It was not a high-paying or terribly interesting job: it basically consisted of the bits of my job that I found too boring to do myself. It was also a training/stepping-stone job for someone who wanted to begin a career in editing. We’d get lots of applicants. Lots. My bosses and I would sift through the 200+ CVs, and they would flag people with PhDs and firsts or 2:1s from Oxford and Cambridge, while I’d pick those to interview who I actually thought would be a good fit for the job. We’d interview, give a short editorial test, and I’d select someone who had some aptitude, and who I thought would survive sharing an office with me . People love to work with words.

I’m lucky. I now write for a living, and I have an amazing degree of freedom concerning what I write about. But it’s only recently that I’ve begun to consider myself a writer. Working as an editor, I was dealing with words all the time, and I have always been a reader. If you want to write, filling your brain with words has to be a good thing. Being able to grapple with ideas is important. And having a personal style that’s accessible to others matters too.

When I began to write for others, I just did it without thinking. Gradually I did more of it, and got paid for it, and then ended up doing even more. I guess I realised I was a writer for the first time when I wrote Wine Science, back in 2004/5. It was a physical book. My copyeditor told me that it was a relief to edit something that was well written. I was surprised, and thrilled. A writer. A proper writer.

With writing, it’s very hard to assess how good you are. Self appraisal is almost impossible, because you get too close to the text. Also, writing is highly personal. Sharing your work with others makes you feel vulnerable. It’s a bit like the first time you sing in front of a friend. You feel exposed. What if I’m actually very bad at this? So a degree of self-confidence is needed, because fear kills good writing. Unless you believe that what you are doing has the potential to be good, then you won’t be fluent. You’ll agonize over every word and phrase. It will be a painful, long labour before your work is finally born. Fear also inhibits the vital attributes of creativity, honesty and bravery that the best writing possesses.

Honesty is important. Your writing needs to have your own voice, not a copied or borrowed one. For sure, you can learn from others, but then you have to integrate what you learn into your own style. Trying to demonstrate cleverness in writing is a huge mistake, I reckon. If you are smart, you aren’t afraid to write in a plain, accessible style. It’s the ideas that are smart, not the big words.

I don’t think there is a universal standard for good writing. Good writing is that which connects with a reader. You will likely not connect with all readers. But the better you are as a writer, the more likely you are to engage a wider audience. Some people have an easy, friendly style, suitable for mass consumption, while others are edgier and riskier, likely to connect with fewer but on a deeper level. It’s fast food versus fine dining. Or safe high-end hotel restaurant menu versus experimental modernist cuisine.

I’m currently writing a book. It’s almost finished. It is one I have wanted to write for a long time, and since it was commissioned in September it has come to fill my thoughts and dominate my life. Having a book on the go gives purpose and structure to what is normally an unstructured way of living. On a personal level, this commission came at just the right time for me, too. I love the process of research, followed by bringing together ideas from different streams of thought, then synthesizing them, and finally writing and re-writing to produce something that ends up being much bigger than the sum of its parts.

So many books are written, and the world is so full of ideas, that it seems perverse to be adding another. Does the world really need another book? Well, I have to believe that I have something useful to offer, or I wouldn’t be motivated to write. Others will judge whether or not all this effort is justified. Once the copy is delivered to the publisher, it will be a case of waiting. This, in my experience, is a frustrating time. The work is done, but there will be a long delay before I get to see the book, and get any response from readers and reviewers. After having invested so much of me into this work, it will be hard not getting anything back for a while. But one of the advantages of this gap is that by the time the book arrives, I will have sufficient distance from the text to be able to read it with fresh eyes.

I like books, and I’d like to be able to write more of them. For now, I must get back to I Taste Red, the current project. Today I’ll be working on how we use prediction and modelling to generate conscious experience, the reason we like the wines we do, and individual differences in perception. Plenty to be getting on with.

Eulogio Pomares Albariño Crianza Oxidativa 2011 Rías Baixas, Spain

eulogio pomares

Eulogio Pomares is the viticulturist and winemaker at Zarate in Rias Baixas, Spain, and he has also his own project, Grandes Vinos Desiguales.

He makes two wines, both from Albariño: a skin contact white, and this, his Crianza Oxidativa. The unusual conditions of 2011 meant that the grapes failed to accumulate sugar in the normal way. So harvest was delayed until December 1st, and the resulting wine had an astonishingly high acidity of 10.5 g/litre, which would be extreme even in Champagne. So Eulogio aged the wine for three years in tank, but there’s no malolactic fermentation. During this process it developed a light flor on the top, and so it has a small degree of oxidative development. It’s a beautiful, nuanced, delicious wine of real interest. Quite profound.

UK agent is Indigo Wine

Eulogio Pomares Albariño Crianza Oxidativa 2011 Rías Baixas, Spain
12.5% alcohol. Yellow/gold in colour, this has a lovely nose of ripe apples, herbs and lemons, with hints of honey and wax. The palate is quite profound, with a lovely textured citrus fruit character, a touch of lemon peel, some pink grapefruit and a touch of nuttiness. But the most amazing thing is the acidity: it’s just so keen and intense with a mouth-watering quality. But there’s no harshness to it: it’s perfectly integrated into the wine. The finish persists for ages. The acidity is still just as high, but the ageing process has integrated it. A thrilling wine. 95/100

Find this wine with wine-searcher.com

The Guigal La Las from 2001

guigal cote rotie la la

Tried these three at The Sampler. Guigal’s single-vineyard Côte Rôties, known colloquially as the La Las. These are often thought of as the ultimate expression of Côte Rôtie, and they certainly attract the highest prices at auction. I’ve had a few in my time – not all that many, though – and while they have invariably aged impressively, they don’t seem ever to be ready. And they don’t show as much expression of place (in my own opinion, of course) as the likes of Jamet and Ogier. It’s so hard to review wines like these which come with such a big reputation. They’re certainly good wines, but if you’d bought them ($$$) you might expect a bit more, I reckon. But credit has to go to Guigal for the prestige they have brought to this region. They put it on the fine wine map.

Guigal ‘La Mouline’ 2001 Côte Rôtie, Northern Rhône, France
Taut and focused with bright raspberry and cherry fruit, together with some spicy, tarry notes and fresh acidity. Powerful, structured and fresh with grippy tannins and a bit of caramel and spice from the oak. Linear, focused and polished. 93/100

Guigal ‘La Landonne’ 2001 Côte Rôtie, Northern Rhône, France
Fresh and lively with raspberry and cherry fruit backed up by nice acidity. Quite dense and focused with some earth and spice adding savoury notes. Dense and still quite primary. 92/100

Guigal ‘La Turque’ 2001 Côte Rôtie, Northern Rhône, France
Earthy, spicy nose leads to a dense, grippy palate with some citrus peek notes and a bit of earth. Firm and grippy but with some good acidity. Quite savoury and drying on the finish. 91/100

Find these wines with wine-searcher.com

 

Spoiling pleasure: why we should be angry about the UK Chief Medical Officers Alcohol Guidelines Review

cheif medical officers alcohol guidelines

Today, the UK government has controversially published revised guidelines on safe drinking levels which see the recommended limits for men fall to 14 units a week, down from 21. The recommendations for women stay at 14. [You can access the report here.]

As wine lovers, we should be angry about this. Not because it’s telling us something we don’t want to hear, but because it is based on a highly questionable interpretation of the data. It seems as if the scientists and civil servants at the Department of Health are on a crusade to stop us drinking. They have an anti-alcohol agenda and this has led to a particular interpretation of the scientific literature on drinking and health which is, to put it bluntly, unprofessional and veering towards incompetent. In essence, we are looking at neo-prohibitionism manifesting itself in the guise of public health.

Drinking, when not to excess, is pleasurable and life-enhancing. Sharing a bottle of wine with a meal is a great pleasure. Drinking a negroni with a friend is a joy. Having a beer with a mate is life-enhancing. Alcohol, used correctly, is one of nature’s great gifts to humanity. Wine is deeply embedded within European culture, and it’s a rich, engaging part of life.

Alcohol abuse is terrible. Sharing a bottle of wine with a meal every night is not alcohol abuse. But this message from the government is evil in its intent: it wants to strip us of this joy, and make us feel guilty about doing something that is part of the pleasure of life. For no good reason. It smacks of control. Why would you want to take away fun from people, and then lie to them about why you are doing it? Can the government scientists really stand behind their conclusions as professionals? What is their real motivation?

So, let’s look at the science. The thorn in the side of neo-prohibitionists is the consistent observation that in Western populations moderate drinkers live longer than non-drinkers, who in turn live longer than heavy drinkers. This is called the ‘J-shaped curve’. It’s a consistent finding in what is known as “epidemiological” studies—those that look at the incidence and distribution of diseases, and their causal factors.

The J-shape refers to the curve on a graph you get if plot mortality (the risk of dying) against alcohol consumption. Moderate drinking increases life expectancy, mainly through its protective effects on the cardiovascular system—your heart and blood vessels. Heavy drinkers also enjoy this benefit, but their risk of death starts to increase because they are more likely to suffer from the various conditions related to heavy drinking, such as cirrhosis of the liver, stroke, certain cancers, and increased risk of accidental or violent death. It is a pretty robust finding that has been replicated in countless studies to the degree that it is no longer controversial.

It’s also quite a significant effect: one large study looking at research spanning back 25 years on the subject indicates that moderate drinkers cut their risk of heart attack by as much as one-quarter.

This message was reinforced by two papers published in the British Medical Journal in 2011, both from William Ghali and colleagues. These papers represented what is known as a meta-analysis, which is a study that attempts to bring together all published evidence on a particular subject from the medical literature in order to draw a more robust conclusion. In the first paper, Ghali carried out a review of the literature looking at studies that had examined the effect of alcohol consumption on biomarkers of coronary disease. They screened almost 5,000 articles, and included the results from 44, which were the relevant studies that met their criteria for suitable data. Overall, 13 biomarkers were included in the analysis. Alcohol was shown to significantly increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, with a dose–response relationship, and it decreased fibrinogen levels. It didn’t change triglyceride levels but it increased adiponecting and apoplipoprotein A1. All of these changes are reported to be cardioprotective. The authors noted that these changes are “well within a pharmacologically relevant magnitude,” meaning that alcohol is acting as a prescribed medicine might. They point out that the degree of HDL cholesterol increase is better than can be achieved with any single therapy. Alcohol, consumed moderately, seems to be acting as a good drug.

The second paper looked at selected cardiovascular disease outcomes. It examined 4,235 studies, and 84 turned out to be suitable for inclusion in the meta-analysis. The results examined the relative risk of dying for drinkers versus nondrinkers, and once again came up with some significant results. A moderate drinker has 0.75 risk of dying of cardiovascular disease compared with a nondrinker, and 0.71 risk of incident coronary heart disease. An alcohol consumption of 2.5–14.9 g/day (roughly one or two drinks) results in a 14–25% reduction of risk of cardiovascular disease compared with abstainers. Both studies together suggest that alcohol may be having a causal role here: there is a dose–response relationship, and the association is specific, in that alcohol is not uniformly protective for other diseases, such as cancer.

I don’t drink because I think it’s healthy. But to deny this body of scientific evidence in order to produce a simple public health message is dishonest.

The other issue is risk. All drinking, we are told, carries a degree of risk. But as the evidence shows, the risk of dying only increases once you pass a certain consumption level. This is where the public health guidelines on healthy drinking should be focusing. And this point will differ for each individual: age, sex, weight, physical condition, psychology and biological make-up will all be factors here. But it is a much higher limit than 14 units.

So we should be angry about this report. We should be angry about being lied to. We should be questioning the motives of people who want to strip others of joy and make them feel guilty about doing something that’s more than just harmless – it’s actually a good thing. And there must be a lot of people within the department of health who realize that this latest set of guidelines are flawed, but who are scared of speaking out against the crazy neo-prohibitionist agenda.

Video: New Year's Blind Champagne Tasting (lite)

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For the last few years, a feature of new year’s eve has been a blind Champagne tasting with my brother in law Beavington. This year we couldn’t meet up, but anxious not to break the continuity I did a slimmed-down, sawn-off version with three Champagnes. So here it is!