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The surprising downside of drinking wine

You would think that drinking wine for a living is a dream job. It’s pretty close to it, but as Eddie McDougall, aka The Flying Winemaker, tells us, there are some downsides.

The Flying Winemaker warns of the downside of working with wine
Eddie McDougall is The Flying Winemaker

“Time and time again, journalists and industry professionals harp on about the health benefits of drinking wine. These benefits stretch from anti-ageing and heart condition improvements to blood pressure correction and, blah, blah, blah, the list goes on. As a professional in the field, I struggle to see why these commentators are not making efforts to inform the wine lovers around them about the detrimental effects of excess tasting and consumption. I know everyone is in the business of selling more wines, but surely we don’t want to harm our fellow vinophiles?

As a winemaker and international wine judge, it’s not uncommon for me to spend a day tasting up to 300 barrels, or 60 different wines, in a short 50 minutes at a competition. The tasting, not drinking, is incredibly fatiguing and gruelling on the mind and the taste buds – not to mention my pearly whites. Yes, I’m talking about my teeth. A regular wine taster could easily do as much harm to their teeth from sampling wine as they could by standing up to Manny Pacquiao in the ring!

Many of the average slurpers out there have no idea that wine is incredibly acidic. Wines of all styles carry varying levels of acids. The most active of the acid types are tartaric, malic, citric and lactic – all of which play a significant role in the wine’s style, structure and liveliness. If you can remember back to high school chemistry, acidity is measured on the pH scale. Neutral is pH7, very acidic is pH1 and alkaline pH14. Wine pH is between pH2.8 and pH4. Surprised?

The direct influence of acidity on the human tooth is related to the loss of the protective enamel. The enamel layer, made up of minerals and mostly calcium, is easily eroded by these common wine acids, and this causes hypersensitivity and softening of the tooth structure.

Not long ago, I found myself under local anaesthetic while my dentist repaired my tooth after enamel erosion. The excruciating pain caused by hypersensitivity was unbearable and tear jerking every time I put something in my mouth. I guess I’ve learnt my lesson, so I will put into practice the advice given to me many years ago.

Let me share those tips with you before it’s too late:

  • If you’re tasting lots of wines, always cleanse with a liquid with a higher pH – for example, a creamy and rich dark ale, milk or sparkling mineral water.
  • Try to avoid hard brushing of your teeth after a day of tasting. Allow the enamel to rebuild overnight naturally. Brushing your teeth after the acids have eaten away the protective layer is like putting a drill to your teeth.
  • Learn to love cheese. The creamy goodness is a great way to protect your teeth. Head to your dentist and buy some re-mineralising dental mousse and anti-sensitive toothpaste. Finally – and this is perhaps the most important tip, drink well, not lots.

The Flying Winemaker is at Suite 604-605, 6/F, Yu Yuet Lai Building, 43-55 Wyndham Street, Central flyingwinemaker.com.hk

This article first appeared in the Feb/Mar edition of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.

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