Some random thoughts, mainly about alcohol

Been doing a lot of thinking lately. This year seems to have brought a # of things into focus for me, mainly around drinking, the impact of alcohol, my passion too for Champagne, and where next. If you find something in this topic or my thoughts to follow that resonate with you, share with me.

  1. Alcohol, mainly wines with lots of it, now causes a war with my body. It’s been an ongoing skirmish for the past few years but really in the past six months, I just struggle to drink any amount of wine that carries high amounts of ABV. What’s high? Well, basically anything exceeding the mid 13% range has become hard on me. Mostly migraine headaches and just a heavy fatigue that I don’t enjoy anymore. Not sure where I go from here but I am really struggling with these wines now, and while I don’t own many anymore, I still have some in the cellar. These will be a dying breed.

  2. Bottle after bottle. I used to love slogging through 15-20 bottles and doing notes, but given the alcohol thing, I just can’t muster this kind of a setting anymore. Next month, I will be doing some tastings with some people I respect, along with their craft, and I will take some steps to lessen the blow. I do still the value in tasting through a vintage or range from a producer, and I can do it, but the days/evenings of offlines with 10 or 20 bottles, of big red wines in that setting too, are over for me. Just doing 10 this past Sunday left me with a crushing headache.

  3. Champagne. The only thing saving me from the two struggles above is Champagne. I have really cut back my still wine purchases, leaving it concentrated to the core producers I enjoy, and the cuvees they make that I most enjoy. But past these purchases, Champagne continues to grow in my cellar, now close to 40% of it. And to think a 3-4 years ago, I owned basically none. Why this matters is that Champagne conveys energy, complexity and thrill without the alcohol. So, finding it has been a real blessing. I liked it for what it was initially, but now along with that original attraction, I like it for how it treats my biology now, too. Storing it is another problem, as it doesn’t fit my Vinotemp all that well but we’re making it work. In the end, I find the stuff thrilling and am constantly curious and appreciative about the small, grower/producers who do so much, often with so little.

Some rambling, without the usual TNs. Any replies, always appreciated.

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Frank, 1) and 2) above really resonate with me. I just cracked 40 and over the last few years I can definitely feel it not just when I “over do” it but also even when I just “moderately do” it.

Unless there’s a compelling reason I try to stay under some threshold that is increasingly lower. It was 14.5% a few years ago but it’s getting closer to 13% with each passing day. In fact tonight I had a lovely and surprisingly robust 2017 Chinon that only clocked in at 12.5%; the perfect “weeknight wine” for me.

As for 3), I’ve trended towards more sparkling in general and while I definitely want to continue discovering more Champagne I love, I find the tariff a bit hard to swallow. Consequently I’m looking for sparkling wine outside of Champagne, but still in France.


I love Champagne but are you concerned it will eventually become somewhat monolithic in nature. Its great as part of a celler but i cant see it being dominant

Frank, it’s been a fun ride to watch the evolution in your palate and preferences over the years! We all do it do one degree or another.

Fortunately, I haven’t really noticed any changes in how my system handles alcohol, but I’ve always tried to be very moderate in how I drink. I always spit at offlines, and at producer tastings or other events where I’m likely to be trying a lot of wines. Of course I don’t always succeed, and sometimes overdo it, sigh. Aside from a bit of headache the next day (but nothing like migraine), the biggest effect on my system is through the gut. Of course, drinking often accompanies food, so it can be a double edged sword.

While I love champagne, I haven’t yet arrived at the point where I think I can get the pleasure from drinking mostly champagne that I get from the wide variety of still wines. As for champagne being lower in alcohol, I would say that you can achieve whatever level of total alcohol intake you wish just by controlling the amount you drink. Most of the still wines we both like aren’t much more than a percent or two at most higher than the average champagne. So drink 10% less of other wines, and you’ll have about the same total alcohol intake [cheers.gif]

Frank, have you considered spitting at tastings? Even spitting 50% of the time, or 25% of the time, or part-but-not-all of what’s in your mouth?

It makes a big difference, far bigger (on the subject of the effect of alcohol on you - not in terms of what style of wine you prefer of course) than drinking Rhys instead of Sea Smoke or whatever.

Of course, it’s not something you’re going to do when going out to dinner with the neighbors or coworkers or whatever, but for wine geek tastings (which I think is where you’re having the issue), it’s not really taboo. It does take some practice, though, and buying a nice covered spittoon is nice too.

Here is the problem for me. I am a light sleeper, been that way all my life. Give me 5 hours and I’m good all day and night. One good glass of wine no problem, any more than that and I wake up after a couple of hours can’t get back to sleep or sleep poorly for the next few hours. With only a few hours sleep instead of 5-6 I feel like a zombie for a lot of the next day and my exercise routine etc are thrown off. Not fun so like Frank I am being much more careful about how much wine I consume.

PS: This happens even if the excess wine is consumed very early evening 6:00 - 7:00 pm

Thank you Frank! Your points all resonate with me; I’m not quite 35 but am already getting to the point where I don’t want to deal with the physical consequences from consuming excessive amounts of alcohol, whether it be from high alcohol wines or too many bottles. Champagne has gone from being an occasional purchase to perhaps a third of what I buy. I have also started spitting at tastings now and that’s helped a whole lot

In the last 5 years the negative affect on quality of sleep has accelerated.

And I’m talking about two beers sometimes.

3am and I’ll be staring at the ceiling and can’t fall back to sleep. No REM for you!


Found that drinking tons of water helps a bit.

I gotta say, I don’t understand all this fuss and hoopla on this board over 1-2% ABV in wine.

The difference in alcohol content between 13.5% and 14.5% is 7.4% more alcohol. So taking 14.5% wine in 7.4% smaller sips or drinking a glass of wine over 32 minutes instead of 30 minutes will give the same alcohol effect on the body. This is in the noise.

I don’t drink much hard alcohol but when I do I drink it in very small sips so the drink lasts about the same as a glass of wine would. It has a higher alcohol taste but has roughly the same effect on the body as a glass of wine over the same time.

It may be suggestibility on my part but I find certain kinds of wine create more annoying headaches / hangovers. Perhaps there are chemicals other than ethanol that contribute

Tom - this can be caused by a drop in blood sugar levels. The body’s response to alcohol is to produce insulin, which can drop your blood sugar levels a few hours after drinking.

I don’t drink during the day because of this effect and try to limit how much I drink in the evening like you.

Moderation is the key. #1 and #2 are certainly not moderate at all:

Moderating/controlling alcohol intake seems to be a big problem with many members here, but they don’t realize it because their tolerance level has crept up over the years. Age, as you’re now finding out Frank, will remind you that you should scale back. Crushing headaches are not something that hobbyists are supposed to suffer from. I’ll stop just short of using the “a” word, and I don’t mean a$$hole.

I’m with you one the alcohol. I feel it more than ever. We have cut back on drinking during the week and have gravitated to lower alcohol wines in general, including Champagne.

I’ve also started spitting at trade tastings and make sure I drink a lot of water.

Ian, I understand what you’re saying.

Alcoholism / dependency is a serious issue but what we’re talking about is the change in the affects of alcohol as you age.

Ethanol is metabolized into acetaldehyde which is highly toxic and then broken down to acetate. Drink a single beer and you’re making poison.

Clearly, many people are increasingly less tolerate of that process with age.

Yes, for me too alcohol is felt more with age. At tasting I always spit.

I have also observed the kind of reaction (but perhaps less severe) to high-alcohol wines you described. To me it happened with Amarone, which is often at 15 ABV if not more, but it’s a wine I don’t really like, so it is not a problem to stay away from it. I have never had such a reaction with Barolo even though it is often at 14 if not 14.5 ABV.

To me a better solution than Champagne is Riesling! Much cheaper too…

At 15%, drinking and entire bottle of wine yields 3.75 oz of alcohol.

13% takes it down to 3.25 oz of alcohol.

If you killed two entire bottles on your own, the difference would be 1 oz of alcohol consumed.

It wouldn’t seem that from drinking an entire bottle’s worth of wine the extra half ounce would be such a deal killer.

When you notice such negative effects, how much wine are you talking about?

No doubt folks on this board are probably more inclined than most to ‘over-participate’, but I think even mentioning the “a” word seems really aggressive here. The words on the page seem to be of someone who enjoys consuming wine, but doesn’t enjoy the ill-effects, and is searching for ways to mitigate them. Not through ‘hangover cures’, or by finding some way to consume the same amount of alcohol without the negative feelings.

It seems to me a healthy and adult-like progression in dealing with a hobby that at it’s very essence, as was pointed out above, involves consuming poison.

A couple years ago someone posted an explanation, with links, showing why there is a significant difference. Don’t recall exactly, but think it was some threshold beyond which alcohol is more readily absorbed into the cells in your mouth. That’s alcohol directly entering your blood stream, while that’s quite a delay (and ongoing process) of intoxication through your digestive system.

A bit of a tricky thread to follow as it seems to be branching off in a bunch of different directions. I agree that 14%+ alcohol wines give me more of a hangover - even if I drink substantially less of it than a 13% wine. I don’t know why this is but I’ve certainly noticed it. Add to that that I generally don’t like 14% wines - in most cases I just can’t get past the alcohol - and it makes it easy. With rare exceptions I just don’t drink them. It’s the same with beer - for me the threshold is 6.8%. After that, with very few exceptions, the alcohol begins to dominate on my palate. I guess with wine it’s around 13.5% - I rarely buy anything with more pow than that.

But you need to counter this with the fact that sparkling wines get into your bloodstream much faster due to the effervescence . . .