Those of you who read my last blog, “Garda: A Lake of Wines” might have been left with the impression that my wife and I did nothing but eat and drink wine while we were there. That’s not entirely true – we did plenty of walking and explored the wonderful scenery too, although I’ll share a secret with you: we both exceeded the Government’s recommended limits for units of alcohol consumed in a week. But, hey-ho, we were on holiday and, with such a great choice of wines wherever we stopped for lunch or dinner, who could blame us? We’ll certainly return to sample more but, perhaps, not for a few years. Also, as many of the wines we saw aren’t on sale in the UK, I was keen to taste them while I could – within reasonable limits, of course.
And, thinking about those that are available here, have you noticed that wines somehow never seem to taste quite the same at home as they do when you’re in the region they’re produced? Some would argue that it’s that wines don’t travel well; I disagree with that – after all, unless you live in a winemaking area, all our wine has had to travel before it reaches our shelves. No! I think it’s more to do with us, with our state of mind whilst on holiday, the fact that we’re there to relax and enjoy ourselves. And, in moderation, I think wine is a part of that.
But, even when on holiday, I can’t deny my interest and my wife always waits for my first ‘there’s a vineyard over there!’ comment. In and around Lake Garda, it would be difficult not to spot one – unless it was hidden by the olive groves that produce the other great local speciality: fragrant, tangy olive oil.
I have some bad news for those of us who enjoy a glass of wine (or two): a recent study published in The Lancet, the respected international medical journal, found that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption. The previous view that moderate drinking may protect against heart disease remains true but the latest view is that the greater risk of cancer and other diseases outweighs any pluses.
But, before we all reach for a bottle to drown our sorrows, let’s look behind the eye-catching headlines at what the report actually says about the risks:
Taking 100,000 non-drinkers, 914 could expect to develop certain cancers in any one year. A similar size group who have 1 drink a day causes this figure to rise by just 4 people. With 2 drinks, it becomes 981 and with 5 drinks a day (which equates to a little more than half a bottle of wine) to 1252. So, share a bottle of wine with a friend every day and you have just over a 1 in 100 chance of contracting one of these diseases. If you don’t drink at all, your chance is just under 1 in 100. In other words, even drinking at the highest level surveyed, you have almost 99 chances in 100 of avoiding these ailments – and ultimately dying of something not alcohol-related!
Of course, nothing in life is completely without risk; just ask my wife, Hilary, who is currently recovering from a broken ankle sustained while she was crossing the road, while completely sober! You just need to manage that risk which, for those who enjoy a glass of wine involves drinking responsibly and in moderation, avoiding binge drinking or drinking before driving.
Ignoring sensationalist headlines that really don’t reflect the true findings of this important study may also lower your blood pressure!