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Better red than dead

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The jury is still out on the medicinal powers of red wine, but the most recent scientific data gives a thumbs up to drinking it down

"(Wine) sloweth age, it strengtheneth youth, it helpeth digestion, it abandoneth melancholie, it relisheth the heart, it lighteneth the mind, it quickeneth the spirits, it keepeth and preserveth the head from whirling, the eyes from dazzling, the tongue from lisping, the mouth from snaffling, the teeth from chattering and the throat from rattling; it keepeth the stomach from warbling, the heart from swelling, the hands from shivering, the sinews from shrinking, the veins from crumbling, the bones from aching, and the marrow from soaking." — Josph Lyons, copied from a 16 th century manuscript.

"Drink a glass of wine after your soup and you steal a rouble from the doctor." — Russian proverb.

They may have used leeches, bled out evil humours by slicing into arteries, and drilled holes into one another’s skulls to let the demons out, but it seems that medieval and renaissance doctors knew a thing or two about wine.

Ten years ago, the CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes did a 10-minute spot on the medicinal benefits of red wine. It seems that Europeans, who tend to have at least one glass of wine with dinner, every single night from the age of 10, had far healthier tickers than their fried chicken and beer bingeing American cousins.

Studies showed that red wine, consumed in moderation, could lower your cholesterol, clean your blood, ease stress, and reduce your chances of having a heart attack.

People know a good bandwagon when they see one and jumped on with aplomb. For the past decade red and white wine sales increased dramatically in the U.S., Canada and around the world. Vineyards popped up all over the map, and the wine racks at your local liquor store got a lot more international as demand exceeded the supply.

Wine consumption doubled in the last decade, with more than 20 per cent of North Americans choosing to pull corks rather than twist caps. The average consumer drinks five gallons of wine a year, or roughly 150 glasses – one-tenth (!) of what French, Italian, German and Spanish wine drinkers typically consume.

Between 1997 and 1998, wine consumption in the U.S. only increased by one per cent, yet the size of the market grew by almost 6 per cent. This is because people are moving away from basic white wines, jug wines and screw-caps to the more expensive varietals. The market is worth more than $20 billion in North America, with an annual growth rate in the 1990s of between 5 and 10 per cent for different segments within the market. Red wines are up, California wines are up, imports from Europe and South America are up.

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