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Wine, Health, and Life

There is a great article in Slate Magazine about the odd American fixation on searching for health benefits in wine drinking. A couple snippets from the article:

Personally, I’m thrilled to learn that red wine could help me avoid cancer, outlast opponents on the tennis court, survive a nuclear attack, and lead a long, lucid, and Viagra-free life. However, a little caution is in order. Most of the testing with resveratrol has been done on mice, and they have been given ungodly amounts of the stuff. As the New York Times pointed out in a 2006 article, the mice in one experiment were injected with 24 milligrams of resveratrol per kilogram of body weight; red wine contains around 1.5 to 3 milligrams of resveratrol per liter, so to get the equivalent dose, a 150-pound person would need to drink 750-1,500 bottles of wine a day. I weigh 195 pounds and can finish a bottle of Beaujolais and feel no different than if I’d had a bottle of Gatorade, but tossing back 1,100 liters of wine in a 24-hour period? Probably not.

It is great that science is uncovering so many possible ancillary benefits to merlot and pinot noir, and I hope that resveratrol is indeed the cure-all that mankind has been hoping for. But if and when a proven resveratrol tablet hits the market, I won’t be liquidating my cellar, nor do I intend to load up on any of the resveratrol-enhanced wines that are apparently coming our way (unless, of course, they happen to be seriously good). Likewise, if it turns out the mice have been screwing with us and that red wine carries none of these magical side effects, there will still be a bottle on my dinner table every night. Wine is a habit that requires no rationale other than the pursuit of enjoyment.

Cheers to that! The author here is at one with the prophetic images of wine in the Bible and in the life of Jesus in which wine serves no other purpuse than spontaneous and liberating joy. Indeed the constant quest to search for health benefits in wine is a rather disgustingly modern instumentalization of what the Bible, and nearly all of historic wine-drinking cultures simply view as a celebratory and delicious part of life. Rather than grasp after ways to justify wine as healthy, lets just enjoy if for the awesome, tasty thing that is.


  1. parishioner wrote:

    But Halden, you can drink your wine and have a smooth face, too! Think outside your wine-box, baby face . . .

    Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 5:47 pm | Permalink
  2. bobby grow wrote:

    Wine, in the bible wasn’t all “bubbles” and “joy,” don’t forget Timothy, and even Jesus on the cross . . . it was used instrumentally and pragmatically for “medicinal” purposes as well.

    And it can be considered a source of foolishness (Proverbs), and is often associated with God’s judgment (Isaiah).

    Just thought I would add a little more context to the culture-of-wine in the bible :-).

    Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 8:46 pm | Permalink
  3. Halden wrote:

    Drunkenness is foolishness to be sure. But wine in the prophets especially is often used in connection with the glories of the eschatological consummation:

    “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.: (Isa 25:6)

    “Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” (Isa 55:1)

    Interestingly there is also a strong association in Isaiah of drunkenness and judgment with “bitter” wine (cf. 24:9) whereas good wine is directly associated with Joy, singing, and gladness (cf. Isa 24:7, 11).

    Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 9:16 pm | Permalink
  4. bobby grow wrote:

    No doubt, Halden!


    Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 10:08 pm | Permalink
  5. Halden wrote:

    And what I said above was not meant to refute your point at all, just a little further analysis that was stimulated.

    Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 10:10 pm | Permalink
  6. Bobby Grow wrote:

    Oh no, I didn’t take it that way at all . . . and just to be clear I wasn’t intending to throw a wet blanket on what you were saying about the “biblical cheer” that wine often symbolizes in the scripture . . . let alone the eschatological anticipation that it projects into the sacrament of communion.

    Hope all is well, Halden.

    Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 10:18 pm | Permalink
  7. Colin wrote:

    While I was reading this I remembered that we used to sell resveratrol tablets at the health food store where I worked in high school. Of course, none of them were proven tablets as the author requires…

    Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 10:45 pm | Permalink
  8. Just to be clear:

    If you don’t love wine, you don’t love the Bible and must be considered a heretic.

    Let the inquisition begin henceforth.

    Monday, March 9, 2009 at 9:37 am | Permalink

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