Wine for health? How old are you?

All right, everyone, let’s be honest: Don’t we get a little joy out of all the studies that seem to show a connection between moderate alcohol consumption and heart health, overall health, and outright longevity?

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Not so fast!

While there’s little remaining doubt that frequent modest alcohol consumption can be beneficial to cardiovascular health, a study earlier this year revealed a disturbing wrinkle in the data: In order to enjoy wine’s life-lengthening benefits in your older years, we have to survive alcohol’s life-threatening aspects in our youth.

According to a study published earlier this year in The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, the kind of cohort studies that have shown a health benefit have tended to enroll people age 50 and older. “Studying people at this age range eliminates all those who have died before age 50 because of alcohol consumption,” points out an article about the study in Science Daily.

Simply put, the Science Daily article continues, people who have already died, obviously, cannot be enrolled in cohort studies. “Those who are established drinkers at age 50 are ‘survivors’ of their alcohol consumption who [initially] might have been healthier or have had safer drinking patterns” compared with others, according to its authors, who were led by Timothy Naimi, M.D., M.P.H., of the Boston Medical Center.

Sobriety check point ahead

Many early deaths are attributable to over-consumption, including ultimately fatal conditions like alcoholic liver cirrhosis and behavioral issues like alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes. Older individuals who survived to show beneficial health effects of alcohol may have already established more moderate, safer, approaches to consumption.

In other words, the study summarizes, “Studies of health effects of alcohol consumption may underestimate the risks of imbibing, particularly for younger people.”

The lesson for us? We already knew it, I’m sure: Young or old, alcohol in moderation may be good for us. Alcohol in excess clearly is not. Drink up … moderately.

Want to read more? Here’s a link to the Science Daily report, “Is alcohol consumption more helpful than harmful? It depends on your age.”

If you’d like to study the original report in The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, click Alcohol, Age, and Mortality: Estimating Selection Bias Due to Premature Death; where you’ll have the option to read an abstract or the full text.


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Today’s Tasting Report

Our monthly Wine Focus in the WineLovers Discussion Group forum takes us to Spain this month, as we zero in on the adjacent wine regions Rioja and Ribera del Duero. Tempranillo is the dominant grape, particularly in Ribera del Duero, but there’s room for variation, and we’ll hope to explore it. Drop by the forum and tell us about your tasting experiences and quest for value in Rioja and Ribera del Duero!

Here’s my report on a very pleasant Rioja that I think you’ll enjoy. Typical of the genre, its ripe, cherry-focused Tempranillo fruit also shows a distinct oak component; but the Spanish producers, while liking their oak, have generally solved the challenge of using oak as a spice rather than as a sauce.

Viña Alberdi 2011 Rioja Reserva ($17.99)

Viña Alberdi

From the classic producers La Rioja Alta, this 100 percent Tempranillo Rioja is medium-dark ruby, with a clear edge. Fresh and ripe cherries emerge from the glass, framed by earthy oak, a whiff of black coffee, and a mineral scent of red clay. Bright acidity bursts on the palate with cherries and red cherry-berry fruit, adding a soft buzz of tannins as red berries linger in a very long finish. The label claims 13.5 percent alcohol. U.S. importer: Vanguard Wines LLC, Columbus, Ohio. (April 11, 2019)

FOOD MATCH: The winery suggests pairing it with, among other things, lightly grilled meat and fish, the red-wine-and-fish combination apparently fostered by the crisp brown smoky charred edges. I’d nominate it with lamb for a stellar wine-and-red-meat match, or go with cheese-centric dishes, perhaps featuring Spain’s iconic Manchega.

WHEN TO DRINK: It’s certainly drinkable now, although its punchy acidity and tannins call for grilled meat or sharp cheeses alongside. It’s not an investment keeper, but five years or more in a good cellar certainly wouldn’t hurt it.

I was pleased to duck well under’s $21 average retail; still, it’s a good value in the $20 range.

Here’s a winery fact sheet on the 2013 vintage. From the “tasting notes” menu on the right-hand side of the page you can select 2011 and other vintages for more specific details.

Compare prices and find vendors for Viña Alberdi Rioja Reserva on

To read more about Rioja and browse an extensive list of Rioja wines, prices and vendors, use this link.


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