By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor
I know that many of you would have preferred this week’s WNY Refresh cover story extolled the health benefits of beer, cake or pizza.
I know this because these are three of the things most subjects of our What are you eating? column tell me are the foods and beverage they find hardest to resist.
You’re going to have to settle on red wine – though some nutritionists might argue for protein shakes, veggie juices and no-fat chocolate milk.
The blend of alcohol and other compounds in red wine – when consumed in moderation – lower your risk for heart disease, stroke and many inflammatory diseases, a growing number of studies suggest.
Some bent on doubling down on the health benefits of wine are even greater sticklers than most of us.
They’re willing to pay more for organic varieties, and even more for the cleanest of all: biodynamic wines.
Those interested in the latter will want to check out Tawes Winery on the “Beamsville Bench,” the stretch of the Niagara Escarpment outside St. Catharines, Ont. that is one of many lakeside wine regions along the Great Lakes.
It’s a winery for those concerned about how both their foods and wines are produced.
“We’re finding a trend up here in southern Ontario that people want to know exactly where their wines are coming from,” said Ken Hernder, senior wine consultant at Tawes.
The winery has gone biodynamic in several of its eight vineyards. In a holistic approach, no pesticides or herbicides are used in those vineyards. Insects have been introduced to control unwelcome pests, while horses, lambs, ducks and chickens help keep the weeds in check and fertilize the soil.
“The vineyard has everything it needs,” Hernder told me earlier this week. “It is it’s own ecosystem.”
The costs for wine from these vineyards generally are higher, but that’s because the grape yields are lower and it takes years to bring a single vineyard into biodynamic certification, Hernder said. It also might never happen if nearby vineyards don’t operate to the same exacting standards.
But the vines become healthier, more resistant to pests and easier to control.
“This results in a bit more light energy in the glass, a cleaner, crisper flavor,” Hernder said.
For those who think any old grape, or wine, will do, he compared them to children:
“If you feed your kids Coke and Twinkees, yeah they’re going to grow up but they’re not going to be the healthiest kids.”
Those who might want to shell out less than $30 for a bottle of wine – that would be me – can be reasonably assured of a healthy wine if it’s made from red European vinifera grapes, in particular.
Here are some ideas for your Thanksgiving table:
Bill Mahoney said he would pick Cannonau di Sardegna Costera, a blended red grown in Sardinia Italy. A bottle sells for $13.99 at Premier Wine & Spirits on Transit Road in Amherst, said Mahoney, the wine manager. Wine experts recommend it as a table wine good with beef and sharp cheeses.
Kurt Guba, cellar master and sommelier for Freedom Run Winery in Cambria, urged thinner skinned European grape varietals, including pinot noir and Gamay. He also recommends a Beaujolais on your Thanksgiving table, but not necessarily the nouveau, or new wine, which comes out the third Thursday in November, just a few weeks after the grapes have been harvested, giving it a fruitier flavor. Guba suggests a bottle that has had more time to age.
But mostly, he suggested folks pick something grown closer to home.
“New York State pinot noir, I’m all about, even cab franc,” said Guba, who also teaches winemaking and sensory evaluations at the Niagara County Community College Culinary Institute in Niagara Falls. “They’re underappreciated and underexplored. You look at these lighter weight reds, if they had an Italian label on them, people would be totally accepting of them.”
These reds, he said, are great with meals.