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bombshell report:  feds plan to declare 'no alcohol is safe.' what this means and how we should react

05/21/2024

Yesterday, Tom Wark, executive director of the National Association of Wine Retailers, reported in his newsletter that the leaked statement, “No amount of alcohol is acceptable for a healthy lifestyle" will be published in the coming Federal Dietary Guidelines (AKA Health.gov).

This is a bombshell story in the beverage alcohol sector, and it is important to know why this is happening and how tens of millions of people will be negatively impacted by such an irresponsible decision.

In 2018 the World Health Organization began a goal-driven initiative to attack the global beverage alcohol industry. It partnered directly with neo-prohibitionist organizations in this initiative, acting as a collective "think tank" that would throw a wrench in the global attitude towards alcohol consumption. The biggest organization that the World Health Organization partnered with in its effort is known as the International Organization of Good Templars, which is a temperance/total abstinence organization that was founded in the mid-1800s and would be instrumental in the passage of the Volstead Act (Prohibition). The organization has been caught trying to conceal its identity as it relates to temperance and teetotalism in the same ways that, in 2024, Super PACs disguise themselves in American political ads and with misinformation spam on social media.

 

Why would they do that?

 

Well, the Organization of Good Templars’ initiatives have always been religion-driven and 'values'-driven, while they have nothing to do with science and health. The other organizations that bulled their ways into the World Health Organization initiative are Global Alcohol Policy Alliance and EuroCare, whose collective leader has been a member of the Organization of Good Templars since he was a kid. This person’s head has been up the World Health Organization’s ass for years, and he and his counterparts have succeeded in cultivating legislation from their “values” in the same way that conservative evangelicals like Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Perry have done over the years in efforts to ban abortion in the USA. For perspective, imagine if the World Health Organization's board consulted, say, Bacardi USA in a collaboration to promote alcohol safety. Its work with temperance organizations is equally as corrupt.

And what we're left with is the bogus statement, “No amount of alcohol is safe," -- essentially word art disguised as useful data, as the WHO goes on to cite a misleading population study from the UK that emphasizes the ill health of alcoholics (five or more drinks per day on average), not light-to-moderate drinkers (one to two drinks per day).

This is the same approach that the government of Saudi Arabia takes on alcohol. And, as Wark says, "These claims are akin to saying, 'There is no safe amount of auto travel.'"

Now, it is left up to individual governments to further embrace the World Health Organization's statement or to dismiss it. Also on the table:  whether to additionally follow the WHO's new suggestion to significantly raise taxes on alcohol, as Iceland recently did.

So why is this all fucked?

There’s a lot of research that has shown for decades that light to moderate drinking has health benefits and prolongs life, as evidenced by the famous “J-Curve,” especially as it relates to the “French Paradox,” a study that connected French people’s low rate of heart-related issues to their regular consumption of red wine. It is argued and believed by many, me included, that it is "safer" to be a light-to-moderate drinker than it is to be sober.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In its simplest terms, wine contains resveratrol, a chemical compound that is an anti-inflammatory and promotes blood health by helping prevent clots. Basically, red wine, especially tannic varieties such as sagrantino and tannat, act as a tincture, providing a heart-healthy shot of goodness when consumed responsibly. Light-to-moderate drinking has also been found to prevent isolationism, loneliness, and a slew of other mental health problems.

 

This research has been ignored by the World Health Organization, whose words have already been turned into legislation in Ireland and Canada.

And, in the USA, not only is there the threat of new language, but groups are subsequently attempting to pit alcohol as “the new tobacco”.  Just last week, an anti-alcohol conference held in a Washington DC suburb had a seminar entitled "Alcohol and Cancer: A New Litigation Strategy Against Large Producers," which takes legal aim at wine purveyors like Jackson Family Wines and E&J Gallo, treating them as Phillip Morris International were in the 90s.

 

The bottom line is this: I believe so strongly in wine as an essential ingredient to culture, the Mediterranean diet, laughter, celebration, history, travel, science, togetherness, farming, environmental responsibility, and the fight against loneliness and depression. The World Health Organization's statement that "No amount of alcohol is safe" takes direct aim at the wine industry rather than addressing a system of issues and solutions within the beverage alcohol industry that cannot be denied. "Alcohol" not only includes wine in this instance, but it is lumped together in the same breath as Crown Russe Vodka, Taylor (not Taylor’s) Port, Jack Daniel’s, and Captain Morgan--some of the predatory substances whose empty pint bottles litter our city streets, the substances that actually wreck homes while triggering aggression, anger, career issues and gun violence. By succumbing to neo-prohibitionist groups, the WHO just got shoved up against its middle school locker and had its lunch money stolen by a tiny group of bible-thumping clowns. Fuck the World Health Organization and fuck these born-again, policy-obsessed low-lives.

The effect if the feds release the leaked statement?

Wark puts it best:

“The federal government releasing such a statement has the potential to kill off numerous small wineries, distillers and brewers over the course of a few years as younger Americans take this kind of statement to heart.”

Should our youth grow up in a binge-drinking culture built on frat drinking culture? No.

Should our youth be subjected to an economy in which alcohol acts as a forbidden fruit until hell breaks loose when kids rush to the bar when they turn 21 years old?

 

No.

Should our youth grow up in broken households fueled by alcohol abuse?

 

No.

Does releasing the false statement “No amount of alcohol is acceptable for a healthy lifestyle” solve those issues?

 

No.

 

What will help is legislation that attacks big spirit and ready-to-drink (RTD) companies who target products to the 13-year-old palate (we're looking at you Sunny D, Simply Lemonade, FourLoko, and Skrewball) and to those that target to the poor and desperate (Olde English, Nikolai, and 99 Apples).

My proposed solution?

It’s time that we widen the gap between commercial alcohol products and what looks, tastes, and smells like juice/soda. The wine sector has only recently done this (thanks to Stella Rosa Spicy Pineapple Wine).

It’s time that we widen the gap between a fucking can of aerosol/bottle of Tylenol and a pint of vodka—products whose purpose is to provide a quick high for some of Earth’s most desperate sufferers.

It is also time that we take pints, half pints and "airplane" shooters off the shelves, as airplane bottles promote shot culture to young people and small-format bottles most often end up in the hands of the addicted.

It’s time that our governments use their legal rights to take these products off shelves, like they did with flavored vapes and tobacco, and push people closer to wine, when, instead, many are moving away from wine as a trickle-down effect of the World Health Organization's 2023 statement.

If you work in beverage alcohol, pay for a liquor license, or are passionate about responsible consumption of alcohol, consider this Armageddon for our industry. If you are a “regular” at your local watering hole, if you love visiting wineries, if you collect fine whiskies, if you love craft cocktail culture, if you love dancing and night life, call your congressional reps. Explain why you love wine and artisanal alcohol products. Explain what responsible consumption has meant to celebrations, culture, and dining (literally) for over 8,000 years, dating back to when the grapevine was first domesticated in the Caucasus (modern-day Georgia). Explain how towns like Lawrenceville Pa. rely on the sale of alcohol from their bars and restaurants in order to exist in an age in which brick-and-mortar stores will not exist much longer, and explain how the lives of over 25 million purveyors, distributors, distillers, brewers, orchard managers, vintners, bar/restaurant workers, and others would forever change if our government began a new campaign levying higher alcohol taxes, issuing new warning labels, and advertising against what us enthusiasts consider to be culture.

It will take a major rally to turn this proposed language around, especially as (sigh at the mention of their names) both Biden and Trump claim to be lifelong teetotalers themselves.

Thanks for reading. I'll leave you with a relevant excerpt from an article I recently read that struck a chord from wine writer Kate Spicer:

Whenever I stop drinking, I stop going out. I occasionally ride an incredible wave of good humor (possibly mania) but mostly I just become rather quiet and pro-faced. When I try to abstain, I realise how firmly drinking is wedded to our identity, our life and our enjoyment of it. All of which is to wonder, am I sick in the head?

…or are we designed to drink?

Hear me out. Over many millenia, we have become habituated to the psychoactive compound in booze - ethanol - and there are theories that it has a number of important functions in human evolution. Paleogeneticists trying to find the root cause of alcoholism have discovered that millions of years before Homo Sapiens evolved, a single crucial mutation in apes meant they could metabolize ethanol and turn it back into sugar.

Chimps have ingested booze aeons longer than Lewis Hamilton has promoted no-alcohol tequila or Kylie 0% Prosecco. This is the “drunken monkey” hypothesis…When we came down from the trees and started hanging out on the ground, we developed an appetite for those extra-sweet, slightly rotting fruits that were lying on the forest floor in what a winemaker might call a state of early fermentation. Long before humans made Beaujolais, gorillas were seeking out the smell of fermenting fruits. Boozing is therefore hardwired into our DNA - so it’s no wonder it’s hard to knock on the head. (While the drunken monkey hypothesis was developed to help better understand and thus remedy alcohol abuse, I hope you like the way I am artfully interpreting complex academic papers to justify making my life a slow symphony of delicious pops.) The problems have come with your distilled spirits, and your 20% Thunderbirds. Fermenting fruit is closer in ABV to a nice Kabinett Riesling (7-11%).


Our taste for the stuff evolved with us and started fermenting on purpose. Perhaps it was to enable food shortage. Perhaps we just enjoyed the vibe. Because there’s another theory that booze helped us to stop clubbing each other to death. Without drink, we might never have settled down in communities and instead stayed roaming around, running at anyone who came near us with flint-head axes. Which, to be fair, does sound like something that might happen after too many WKD Blues - but never a few glasses of Gevrey-Chambertin. Wine, as Baudelaire pointed out in his essay comparing Du vin et du haschisch, “makes good and sociable”. It helps us to bond with fellow members of one species, to make other people not hell. And this bonding aspect is not just important for a good lunch, but also for the lesser endeavour of human survival.

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Has the International Riesling Foundation Misled a Generation of Consumers?

09/19/2023

The International Riesling Foundation (IRF). What is it? Who is behind it? And does it promote nothing but misleading nomenclature whose purpose achieves the opposite of what it sets out to do—which is to help everyday wine drinkers buy a bottle of riesling based off its sweetness level?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was first introduced to the IRF and its now-famous ‘scale’ (above), which wine producers slap on the backs of their bottles, at a tasting about six years ago. And until last week at another tasting, I had never questioned the scale’s accuracy.

The wine in question was a single-vineyard riesling from a producer in the Finger Lakes. On the back of its bottle is an IRF scale that listed the wine a hair-width away from the far-left wall of IRF’s scale, suggesting that it’s bone-dry. 

But upon tasting, the wine appeared off-dry. My guess was that its residual sugar (RS) sat near 10 g/L, and likely higher.

After the tasting I was curious enough to look more into the IRF on a site called www.google.com. What I found online was, essentially, nothing.

 

I was shocked.

In articles from previous years (2007-2016), the IRF and its unnamed spokespeople claimed “to increase awareness, understanding, trial and sales of Riesling wines through a comprehensive, integrated system of industry cooperation, research, trade education, and consumer communication.”

But the IRF no longer has a registered website (previously www.drinkriesling.org), and its social media pages have remained dormant since pre-pandemic times.

One blog post from 2008, the only listing I could find that set out to detail the IRF scale and how sweetness levels are determined, detailed (without citation, but it is assumed that the old IRF website is the source) the specifications for the IRF’s dryness levels. The following was pulled directly from the blog The New York Cork Report:

"Dry: Here the ratio between acid and sugar would not exceed 1.0 acid to sugar. For example, a wine with 7.5 grams of acidity and 6.8 grams of sugar would be in the same category as a wine with 9.0 grams of acid and 8.1 grams of sugar. Similarly, a wine with 12 grams of sugar and 12 grams of acid would be dry. Notice also that wines that are totally or “near-totally” dry (such as 4 grams per liter) will have a much lower ratio. For instance, a wine with only 3 grams of sugar and a total acidity of 6 grams per liter will have a ratio of .5, and clearly the wine is dry.)

As to pH: we assume that the range of pH for most rieslings is between 2.9 and 3.4. So 3.1 is the “base” pH with which most wine makers will be working. So if the pH of wine is 3.1 or 3.2, it remains in this dry category. But if the pH is 3.3 or 3.4, it moves up to Medium Dry. (And if the pH is 3.5 or higher, the wine maker may wish to move the wine to Medium Sweet.)

Medium Dry: Here the ratio is 1.0 to 2.0 acid to sugar. Example: a wine with 7.5 grams of acid could have a maximum sugar level of 15.0 grams. And if the pH is above 3.3, it moves to Medium Sweet, and if the pH is as low as 2.9 or lower, the wine moves to Dry.

Medium Sweet: The ratio here is 2.1 to 4.0 acid to sugar. Example: a wine with 7.5 grams of acid could have a maximum sugar level of 30 grams. And again, the same pH factor applies as a level two wine: if the pH rises to 3.3, you move up to Dessert, and if the pH drops to 2.9 you move to Medium Dry. And if the pH is 2.8 or below (highly unlikely), the wine could be called Dry.

 

Sweet: Ratio above 4.1, but using the pH adjustment, a sweeter wine with a ratio of, say, 4.4 might actually be moved to Medium Sweet if the pH is significantly lower."

….. what the fuq?

Why would any advocacy group, especially one in an industry whose ingredient transparency standard bearer is the Nutrition Facts label in the United States, list sweetness levels based off the acid to sugar ratio? How many millions of people, (how many freaking diabetics!) has the IRF’s scale duped since its inception in 2007?

Let’s start by addressing the first thing that came to my mind. By the IRF’s standards, fucking Coca-Cola (108 g/L of sugar) is dry. And Mountain Dew, Red Bull and the rest of them and so forth. This is because they draw the same pH as a fucking lemon. The sugar levels in these sodas, which equal sugar levels in Tawny Port, just attempt to mask the acidity and vice versa.

Wine, and most beverages for that matter, contains many types of acids that can deceive any drinker into thinking a wine could be drier or sweeter than it actually is.

Take Vouvray demi-sec, for example. Vouvray demi-sec is generally bottled with near-high acidity and an off-dry sugar content (4 g/L-12 g/L RS). When you drink Vouvray demi-sec, you may think the wine is dry because its acid structure is so piercing and zippy that it cuts through sugars and darts to taste receptors, stabbing at them and triggering them to send high-protein mucus to the scene as a shield against the acid, while your sugar receptors are less sensitive and remain in check. And without reminding yourself where exactly in the mouth sugars are tasted (primarily the tongue) and where acids are measured (primarily the sides of the tongue and far corners of cheeks), you may assess a wine with the structure of Vouvray demi-sec as ‘dry’ rather than ‘off-dry’.

So, in essence, the IRF and the wines whose producers I’m assuming pay money for the rights to use its garbage scale are driving drinkers toward false perception rather than what's important, what literally defines sweetness, which is a product's sugar levels. We began this custom not to determine whether a product tastes good, but to determine if a product might be deathly unhealthy for us to consume. By the IRF's standards, if a Riesling is balanced, it is dry. If its acids exceed actual sugar levels, the wine is automatically dry. And the greater the gap between a higher sugar reading to a lower acid reading, the sweeter the wine is, all of which is just wrong.

A final thing of note here is this:  riesling is naturally a high-acid variety, and its wines should show elevated acidity, even in moderate-leaning climates it’s sometimes planted in (Columbia Valley, Carneros, Baden, etc.). Many producers, even though the IRF has zero online presence anymore and its legitimacy is a mystery, still use its scale for their rieslings in 2022 bottlings—Chateau St. Michelle, Willamette Valley Vineyards and many prominent Finger Lakes producers are clients, as is a range of international producers. Its scale discourages producers from making rieslings that are naturally high in acid. It encourages the vinification of flabby products and perhaps even the inclusion of chemicals, synthetics and other additives.

The conclusion here is this:  the more wine you drink, it is probably best to seek outside interpretation less and less. Don’t judge a wine by its cute label, don’t read reviews, don’t order the heaviest 750 mL bottle at a restaurant just because it's the heaviest 750 mL bottle in the restaurant and don’t ever read sweetness labels on the back of bottles.

Also, if we need another reason as to why blind tasting is so important, look no further. A seasoned taster should be able to see through horse shit like this.

***If anybody has more information about the International Riesling Foundation, please reach out with it. I was mainly motivated to write this entry because of an appalling lack of information out there. If any of my findings are inaccurate, your criticism is welcome.***

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