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Tidbits for the watercooler

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And the list gets longer

Seems as though every week there's another study released about how wine is great for you. This week, my favorite beverage fights diabetes in mice, according to the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The study says a relatively low dose of resveratrol, a chemical found in red grape skins and in red wine, can improve insulin sensitivity. The potential benefits of this are wide-reaching – diabetes currently affects more than 170 million people worldwide, and that's expected to grow to 353 million by 2030. And here's the even better news – the small dose of resveratrol also reduced insulin resistance in mice with high-fat diets, giving hope for the bacon, cream and sausage eaters among us. So eat, drink and be buzzed ... at least until the next study proves all the others bunk.

Too much buzz

In an odd twist, Americans are starting to bitch about too much alcohol in their wine. With hotter weather comes riper grapes plump with concentrated sugar, which creates high alcohol wines. In years past, wines weighed in at 12.5 percent to 13.5 percent alcohol, but lately we've frequently seen 15 to 16 percenters. At that level, nuances in fermented juice are more difficult to detect, and more often, you'll taste mostly sweet fruit and little acid. Although perfect for catching a buzz, these bombs aren't great with food. To get the most from a wine, it needs a balance of both fruit and acidity, something alc-y, brawny wines can't achieve. The rise in strength is probably a trend that will be abandoned as fast as Britney's babies, but beware the three-glass dinner.

Click and ship

With successful legislation in 34 states to allow direct shipping of wine, it can now reach 78 percent of the adult population directly. Many companies, like ShipCompliant, are helping wineries wade through the legal quagmire leftover from Prohibition. Direct shipping is the best way to help smaller-production wines reach consumers' lips outside of their home wineries. I, for one, am looking forward to this new trend in bucking the 21st Amendment.

Your favorites ... revealed

Recently, a research company called Winemetrics released a "wine list report card" – a compilation of more than 10,000 U.S. casual and fine-dining restaurant wine lists. The data comes from 24 of the top 30 metro markets for wine consumption, organized by brand. Why study this? Industry sources suggest that more than 75 percent of consumers taste a wine they like in a restaurant, then seek it out later at a retailer. Basically, Winemetrics asserts that restaurants are ground zero for consumer wine decisions. Some of the facts in the report: 65 percent of consumption is red wine; we drink a lot of cabernet, 16.2 percent, followed closely by chardonnay at 14.9 percent; 58.8 percent of the wine on our lists is American, with French coming in way behind at 17.3 percent; Silver Oak is the top cabernet on wine lists, and Kendall Jackson tops the chardonnay names; overall, Beringer is the No. 1 brand on wine lists across the country, with KJ and Mondavi right behind. I was glad to see Washington's Chateau Ste. Michelle come in at No. 5, since it provides the most bang for your buck on many wine lists out there. To find out more about this study, visit winemetrics.com.

Recommended wines

Foley 2005 Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills (California) Expensive, but damn, is this good wine. Gorgeous, juicy cherry and raspberry followed by an earthy, mushroomy finish. Smooth, even acids make this so easy to drink, you're smiling. Sw = 1. $37. 4.5 stars

Honig 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Roasted cherry, silky vanilla, eucalyptus, nice acidity and a finish that leaves you wanting more ... good thing there's a whole bottle. Sw = 1. $28. 4 stars

Sweetness (Sw) rating is out of 10, 10 being pure sugar. 1 (star) rating is out of 5, 5 being wine nirvana.

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