By Kristen Oliver
EDITOR’S NOTE: National Geographic fellow Dan Buettner visited Gainesville in April to share his nine “Blue Zone Power Approaches” to living a longer life. This series is dedicated to those approaches and how they can be implemented in Hall County. The fourth power approach, “Wine at 5” states moderate alcohol drinkers outlive non-drinkers. The trick is to drink one to two glasses per day with friends and food. There are pockets of the world where people live longer — in part — because they drink wine moderately and regularly.
In the Barbagia region of Sardinia, on the Aegean Island of Ikaria in Greece, on the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, and in Okinawa, Japan, people are living healthy lifestyles that include a glass or two of wine a day shared with friends and food, National Geographic fellow Dan Buettner said. And these places are called Blue Zones.
The potential health benefits should appeal to residents of North Georgia with its bustling wine industry, where people can stop by a tasting room in Dahlonega or visit several wineries throughout Lumpkin, White and Habersham counties.
MODERATELY AND REGULARLY
According to Buettner and the American Heart Association, alcohol drinkers should always drink in moderation, meaning an average of one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.
“And no, you can’t save up all week and have 14 drinks on Saturday,” Buettner said during a presentation to Hall County residents five months ago at the Brenau Downtown Center.
A report from the heart association states many effects of alcohol are still hard to determine, and there are many known negative side-effects.
But the best-known effect of alcohol is a small increase in HDL cholesterol, or “good cholesterol.”
A glass of wine a day isn’t the only way to increase that number, the report added. Regular physical activity can do the same.
But alcohol and some substances found in wine are capable of preventing platelets in the blood from sticking together, which reduces the risk of heart attack or stroke. All the same, the American Heart Association does not recommend drinking wine specifically to gain these potential benefits.
Emily DeFoor, general manager of Habersham Vineyards and Winery, said while these potential benefits have been studied, winemakers cannot advise using the drink for health benefits.
“Technically as an alcohol producer, I can’t speak to the health benefits of alcohol,” she said. “The federal government does not allow us to tout any health benefits of alcoholic beverages.”
WITH FRIENDS AND FOOD
But the Blue Zone theory argues a glass of wine a day is as good for the soul as it might be for the heart, if shared with friends and food.
Opportunities for a tasting with a meal are endless in North Georgia, including Habersham Winery’s tasting room at 16 N. Park St. on the Dahlonega square. The winery itself is at 7025 S. Main St., Helen, in the Nacoochee Village.
Currently, Three Sisters Vineyards at 439 Vineyard Way in Dahlonega is hosting its SWine Weekends, combining wine, food and friends from Sept. 17 to Oct. 30. For seven weekends, the winery will have live music coupled with barbecue and wine tasting from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and 12:30-5 p.m. Sundays. Food trucks, including Atlanta’s Mac The Cheese and Scratch Cuisine, will be on site as well.
More than 15 other wineries are sprinkled throughout the region, with their own events and offerings. The Winegrowers Association of Georgia, a nonprofit corporation organized to promote and market Georgia wine and increase public awareness of Georgia wines, includes more than 20 across the state producing 1,000 cases or more annually.
To find a winery near you, visit www.georgiawine.com/georgia-wineries.