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The 4H Club: Safety Tips for Responsible Drinking

Certain questions are inevitable for we who work in the wine biz. That’s why year-in and year-out, I end up writing answers to “What wine goes with turkey on Thanksgiving?” “How long will an open bottle of wine last?” and “What cheap wines taste good?” With New Years Eve coming up and all, I felt it was probably about time to write the annual piece on hangovers – how to avoid them, that is, since enjoying wine or other alcoholic drinks responsibly is an important grown-up skill to master. If you’re still drinking like a college frat boy or imagining yourself as one of the SATC gals slurping down Cosmos, you need to rethink things.

Oddly enough for a sommelier, I come from a Mormon family; while I feel like it’s my moral obligation to drink up tasty wines on behalf of all my deprived pioneer forbearers, I certainly don’t need to do it in a single night. So much misery is wrought from over-consumption of alcohol that I can understand why faiths like Mormonism or Islam forbid it all together. Yet balanced against that is an increasing body of medical research that showcases how moderate drinking, particularly of antioxidant- and resveratrol-rich red wine, is healthy. From cholesterol fighting to anti-ageing benefits to the potential reduction of Alzheimer’s risks, most medical researchers agree moderate consumption is good for you.

Just what is moderate drinking? Typically, it’s two daily glasses of wine for men and one to two for women, although that is entirely dependent on body weight and other health factors. I had a college roommate (unsurprisingly Asian) who could never finish an entire glass of wine without blushing bright pink, and another friend for whom even moderate consumption of red wine would trigger massive migraines. For both of these women, half a glass to no wine at all was the healthy choice. You decide for yourself. I myself am not much for alcohol outside of wine, although I will try a cocktail once in a while if I am at a restaurant. The same general wisdom applies, no matter what your poison of choice may be.

This is my “4H Club” guide for safe drinking, if you will. Bear the 4Hs in mind in the New Year as part of your overall plan for healthy living. It goes something like this, folks:

One H is for Healthy: Pour yourself only a single glass of wine and sip it with healthy foods. You can’t go wrong and you’ll still get the benefits of all the good stuff with little to no risk of adverse effects from this limited amount of alcohol. A single glass of wine is approximately 4-5 ounces by the way, not 12 ounces.

Two Hs are for Happy: This is where I tend to end up. I like to sip a glass of wine while I cook and get dinner on the table and more often than not, finish a second glass after we get the kids in bed and settle in for the evening. Two glasses of wine make me feel happy.

Three Hs are for, ahem, Inclined: You get my drift. But if your spouse pours you a third glass and manages to find Sade on Pandora, you might want to consider an Advil. I find that three glasses of wine makes me feel REALLY happy in the moment, but not so good the next morning.

Four Hs are for Hungover: Most of us have been there. Four glasses of wine is almost an entire bottle, yikes. It’s four rounds of drinks at the bar. It’s 2/3 of a six-pack of beer. It’s too much alcohol, whether you’re driving or not. If you count up to 4Hs, do yourself a big favor and be sure to drink a pint of water for each drink. This will help to counter-balance the dehydration that causes horrific morning-after headaches. No one likes to start the new day (or the New Year) feeling crappy, so do yourself and your body a favor by choosing moderation. You have a whole healthy lifetime to fill with fermented goodness.