That Whole Wine Thing

Alcohol is not forbidden on the Atkins plan, but it is not exactly encouraged, either. Under their blood-sugar-centric theory, alcohol is not converted to sugar like white bread or Twinkies are. The metabolic process of "fat burning" does not get disrupted.

On the other hand, alcohol is not "free" either. Your fat-burning metabolism is "put on hold" while alcohol is digested, so if you drink too much you end up delaying what weight loss you would have experienced if you had simply abstained. At least that is my understanding of it.

Beer and white wine are mostly off the list (too many carbs in addition to the alcohol) while red wine and most of the clear distilled spirits (vodka, gin) are permitted. I could enjoy a martini, but I'd have to count 4 carbs for three ounces of dry vermouth -- 20% of my daily total. It'd have had to have been a really rough day for me to take that charge to my carb count.

Adam Gopnik, in the recent "food issue" of The New Yorker, (Through a Glass Darkly, 6 Sept. 2004) discusses wine writing and what it is that is talked about when reviewing wine. It opens memorably:

Somewhere in the middle pages of “1984,” Winston Smith is being inducted into the shadowy and, as it turns out, nonexistent “Brotherhood” of resistance to Big Brother, and, to celebrate, the Inner Party member O’Brien pours him a glass of wine. Winston has never had wine before, but he has read about it, and he is desperately excited to try it, since he expects it to taste like blackberry jam and to be instantly intoxicating. Instead, of course, the wine tastes the way wine tastes the first time you taste it—a bit acidic and bitter—and a single sip, or glass, isn’t intoxicating at all. The intensity of this experience as a model of disappointment was significant enough for Orwell so that he inserted it in his dystopia right there among all the greater horrors—as though the future weren’t bad enough, that whole wine thing will go on, too.

Until I read that I never realized that I've felt that disappointment with every bottle. At least, with every crappy bottle I've bought for myself. And every expensive bottle I've drunk has been accompanied by a setting or ceremony or context that practically commands me to enjoy this, and if I didn't enjoy it then I'm an uncultured rube whose palate needs education.

So I am on the look-out for a red wine I enjoy without reservation. I'm reliably told we live in a golden age of vintnerism, where a $5 bottle of Spanish table wine is the match of a moderate-price bottle of similar provenance ten years ago. Tips are welcome.


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