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Socially Unbuttoning Bordeaux

May 21, 2019

This Vino Voices website/weblog is being redesigned by a professional (finally!)

It will soon be more compact and include a visual menu of previous posts.

Stay tuned.

Also, the Etalon Rouge wine website is also being redesigned, and is temporarily offline.

My recent Forbes pieces are here.

Forthcoming Forbes posts will include the story of a natural-wine loving Swedish entrepreneur who just launched a range of luxury electric boats, as well as notes about a vertical tasting of Ausone and Smith Haut Lafitte wines in Switzerland. There will be an article about the mutual influence of the French and Chinese in the wine world, and a list of five wineries (and their best wines) that are worth watching right now—including selections from the islands of Sicily and Majorca, as well as from the French Languedoc.

Château Soutard in Saint-Émilion, lit up during the annual ‘jurade’ dinner

When spring erupts in southwest France, so do social events. This post covers a few of the usual wine and food events here.

View of vines in the commune of Cars, Bordeaux

La Roche Chalais – where zero degrees longitude intersects the Dordogne River

ONE: Open Doors in Bourg.

This is an annual event in the nearby region (and town) of Bourg where wineries open their doors for two days to visitors. This year it was was renamed ‘Tous ô Chais’ (all cellars) instead of ‘Portes Ouverts’ (open doors).

The premise remains the same.

First, pick up a map listing participating wineries. Next, call friends to join you in visiting several wine châteaux for long tastings in a gorgeous rolling countryside.

Five of us spent an afternoon exploring, and met some local characters shown below.

Not surprisingly in France, the first winery we visited was closed for lunch. However, at the second winery (Château Lamothe) the owners let us unpack our own picnic at this massive indoor table, where we opened a bottle of wine and enjoyed an impromptu off the beaten track lunch of baguettes, cheeses, saucisson, tomatoes and chocolate. Parfait.

Exploration partners (from left): South Africans Martin and Jodi, and Chicagoans Melissa and Jody

Château Lamothe, whose owners graciously offered their banquet table for our picnic lunch

Owner Louis Meneuvrier (and son) of Croix-Davids

Château Sauman

Jean-Yves Béchet at biodynamic Château Fougas

Guard dog at Château Sauman

Château Sauman

Madame Lamothe with a 2018 barrel sample

The below list includes a selection of good quality wines scored for value using my proprietary Vino Value algorithm. In general, wine values in this region are excellent

Vino Value™ Scoring of Selected Wines – Open Doors Bourg 2019
Winery Wine 100 Point Score Equivalent Range Retail Price – Euros Retail Price – US dollars Value Score
Château Lamothe 2016 Grand Réserve 92+ 8.10 € $9.07 Excellent Value ♫♫
Château Lamothe 2015 Grand Réserve 92+ 8.30 € $9.30 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Château Fougas 2016 Organic 92+ 8.00 € $8.96 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Château Fougas 2016 Forces de Vies 92+ 19.00 € $21.28 Excellent Value ♫♫
Château La Croix-Davids 2016 La Croix-Davids 92+ 9.00 € $10.08 Excellent Value ♫♫
Château Sauman 2018 Rosé 92+ 5.00 € $5.60 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Château Sauman 2017 MM Émotion 92+ 9.00 € $10.08 Excellent Value ♫♫

TWO: Dinners Asscociated With Primeurs Wine Tastings and VinExpo 2019 Trade Fair

The April ‘primeurs’ wine tastings and this year’s earlier than usual renowned VinoExpo trade fair in Bordeaux city also coincided with dinners throughout the region. Many were formal, with excellent wines and food. I was fortunate enough to attend a Lynch-Bages sponsored dinner in Bordeaux city, as well as the renowned ‘Jurade’ dinner (this year at Château Soutard) in Saint-Émilion. Château Angélus also hosted a rather amazing dinner/spectacle titled ‘Dinner Under The Stars.’

This dinner in Bordeaux city was hosted by wineries that included Lynch-Bages

Legendary wine producer J. M. Cazes at dinner with Blaye wine producer Les Kellen

Jurade dinner at Château Soutard in Saint-Émilion

New Bordeaux Mayor Nicolas Florian (left) with Monsieur De Boüard of Cht Angélus at Jurade dinner

Below is a quick video provided by Château Angélus in Saint-Émilion of their April ‘Dinner Under The Stars’ during ‘primeurs’ wine tasting week. This was was quite the exceptional event—where magnums of wine from past three decades were served.


THREE: Impromptu Social Events

Warmer weather brings everyone out and together. This year has included exceptionally longs spells of sunny days in February, March, April and May.

In our town of Blaye, new South African neighbors recently held a bubbles and cake gathering, to which our French winemaking friend brought several classic old vintages. French neighbor Alice called this event an ‘ambuscade,’ or ambush, because it took place in the courtyard outside her apartment, thereby stopping her on the way home from work to join festivities. This is part of the local culture. Wine, cheese, dinners, desserts and social events seep into many aspects of life here in the spring (as well, honestly, during all other seasons).

Neighbors gather for an impromptu spring cake and wine. Wine not?

Friend Monsieur Marchand brought a few beauties to sample …

Neighbor Celia accepts a quick glass of Languedoc wine from Minervois while passing by

There was also that memorable recent hippie dinner in Blaye.

South African, Russian, French and semi-Italian hippies gather for summer love (and wine)

Neighbor Emilie insists on a selfie (photo courtesy E. Boudrais)

This brief post was just a visual whirlwind to demonstrate social spring highlights around Bordeaux.

Remember—this site will soon be redesigned.

Regardless, upcoming posts cover Majorca, Sicily and Tuscany—and will provide more details about their dynamically changing food and wine cultures.

Again, thanks for visiting this site.

La Palma skyline—Majorca island of Spain

11 Tips For Wine Travel

April 30, 2019

My latest Forbes pieces are here, and include wise words from 10 winemakers and winery owners, U.S. entrepreneurs launching canned South African wine, how a digital negociant helped change the U.S. wine world, and other pieces on Vinitaly, agriturismos, and the 2018 Bordeaux vintage.

Below are a few hints regarding wine related travel.

One: Seek Local Knowledge.

When you reach a new destination, ask a local sommelier which wines he or she recommends, or get input from a reputable winemaker whose style you enjoy. Try to find a contact involved in the wine world before you even arrive, although it’s best to do your homework in order to find one with a decent reputation. Also, that book you may have read about the wine region, which was published five years ago? Since then, winemakers may have adopted a new style, or have begun experimenting with unusual, or unique, grapes for that geography. To get a current handle on the wine vibe of any locale, word of mouth is valuable, but best if that comes from a proven source.

Two: Serial Winery Touring is Overrated .

Let’s say you visit Sonoma or Tuscany or the Loire Valley. You then make arrangements to visit three or four wineries on the same day. Or else you just begin driving from one winery to another. That’s a great way to see the countryside and to get a feel for regional wine styles (although in Europe, you will need to book most visits in advance rather than just driving up).

But after that first perusal, following the same pattern on successive days may be a mistake. First, you’ll only be sampling wines from one winery at a time, and if you hit a dud, you’ll be stuck with a range of poor wines awhile listening to stories of heritage and terroir and the same old ‘wine is made in the vineyard, not in the winery’ story. You’ll then motor onto another locale, and perhaps get the same talk while sipping mediocre vintages. After your initial day of physically visiting vineyards, it may be better to find a wine bar, or a restaurant, and have a local who truly knows the best of the region’s wines pour you several to taste. This is faster and requires less driving. True, vineyard visits are not about speed or efficiency, but life is too short to spend your travel time with vintners pouring mediocre or poor wares. Visiting wineries can be fun, but the novelty wears off rapidly after being toured past stainless steel tanks and barrel rooms five times in an afternoon.

Three: Don’t Swallow Wine Before Lunch.

Swirl, sip, spit, but wait until eating lunch before you begin  swallowing wine. Otherwise you’ll catch a buzz and be less able to appreciate wines you are drinking. If you drink on an empty stomach in the morning (and forget sipping water), you also risk getting a hammering afternoon headache.

Four: When Planning your Trip, Combine Wine with Other Activities and Interests.

For the wine region you visit, consider also food, sport, architecture, history and local literature. The town where I live in France has an annual marathon that passes wineries. Even those who don’t sip wines offered along the trail can enjoy the country by running next to vines. Or perhaps you want to enjoy a morning round of golf before visiting a winery. Or have a guide drive you and tell about the local history, whether related to Romans, monks, or covered wagon settlers. Also, consider buying a book about that region (or even its wines) before you visit. Variety is good for life, and placing your visit within a larger context will help you enjoy your travels even more.

Five: Select Aspects That You Want to Learn More About.

Listen and observe, then select one or two topics that interest you and learn more—whether by reading or asking questions. Whether it is carbonic maceration or the Carménère grape or aging wine in acacia barrels—identify a topic, and make the effort to learn more. This will keep your mind clicking as you travel, and will make aspects of your trip more memorable later.

Six: Respect Lesser Known Regions, Grapes and Producers.

Everyone seeks that ‘hidden jewel:’ that unknown winemaker producing astonishing juice which costs next to nothing. Truthfully—there are plenty out there. However, you’ll either have to taste a lot of mediocre juice first before finding them, or will need to be clued into their identify from locals with knowledge. Just because a château or domaine or tenuta or bodega has produced wine for three centuries and the owner’s offspring are on the cover of a famed wine magazine and their bottles cost north of $75 does not necessarily mean they are the best in town. There is no direct and unrelenting correlation between price and quality in the world of wine. If a guide tells you he or she only associates with the best of the best producers, be wary: the landscape of wine quality changes every year. Remember also that taste is personal. Following big names and famed brands soon turns boring; it is also evidence that you lack any sense of discerning personal taste.

Seven: Don’t Overthink Food Pairings.

There are no perfect food/wine pairings, so don’t regard these combinations as some type of differential equation you need to solve. Allow room for experimentation, and ask the waiter/sommelier/winemaker what they think. Bringing up the topic of food with winemakers often energizes them, and they will often recommend a local dish (have them write it down, with the correct spelling) and may also suggest local restaurants. Here are three keys to remember for wine pairings: simpler dishes are easier to pair with, pairings can be complimentary (e.g. goat cheese and Sauvignon Blanc) or contrasting (e.g. salty oysters, sweet champagne), and ‘wine killers’ include vinegar (this includes balsamic), milk, eggs and earthy veggies (such as beetroot or artichoke). Again, don’t over think it: experiment.

Eight: Pack Appropriately.

In years past I traveled with a spiral notebook, tape recorder and 35 millimeter camera when visiting wineries. Today, an iPhone will take care of all that. It also allows you to take notes, interview locals and snap photos. Its GPS will also help you navigate to your next location, and the internet connection can forward pictures to friends instantly. The world has changed dramatically in the past decade.

If checking a bag in at the airport, I’ll pack a corkscrew. Imagine ending up in a countryside inn with a gifted bottle of Brunello di Montalcino and no corkscrew on the premises. That would be like finding refuge in an arctic cabin during a snowstorm that is laden with canned food, but without a can opener. As for clothing—high heels do not fare well in vineyards or up cobbled Italian alleys. Bring warm clothes if you want to get outside and see vineyards (which you should). I am constantly amazed at vineyard visitors who dress as though they were visiting a Prada store on the Champs Élysées or a garden party in Surrey. Remember—a vineyard is a farm.

Nine: Do Your Research (If You Are So Inclined), But Don’t Consider it Doctrine.

Just because five newspapers and two magazine articles in the last three years profiled a certain winery in Abruzzo (or Marlborough) as having the most dazzling wines imaginable does not negate the value of also putting other wineries on your itinerary for that region. Lesser known wineries often offer a more intimate and memorable experience. And even though Trebbiano d’Abruzzo (or Sauvignon Blanc) may be the dominant white grape in that region, that is actually all the more reason for you also to taste white wines made with the Pecorino (or Breidkecker) grape, just to highlight the contrast.

Ten: There’s More To Wine Country Than Wine.

Wine regions also sometimes include good local beers. Consider kicking off an evening (or afternoon) with a glass of suds before you start popping corks (or twisting screwcaps) to enjoy local grape juice. Remember, there are no rules when it comes to travel and wine.

Eleven: Respect Your Own Sense of Taste.

Finally, no matter what the critics or sommeliers say, you are the judge of which wines you appreciate and do not appreciate. If you are standing in an opulent tasting room with a bedazzling view of snow crusted distant peaks and romantic trimmed vines below while drinking from a Riedel glass and listening to quadraphonic classical music and the wine simply does not do it for you, that’s it. Try another. Or move elsewhere. Don’t let the environment hoodwink your mind into ignoring your taste buds. It’s your trip, your life, your experience. Trust your own taste, and don’t succumb to any groupthink.

Most importantly, Enjoy! Don’t take wine travel too seriously.



A Decade Of Springtimes …

April 16, 2019

Ten years ago (in March) I first arrived to visit Bordeaux city and countryside. In 2017 I wrote a post about that arrival, which included being in a bar where others were dancing on tables when police raided, blowing whistles, because the music was too loud. Several of us escaped out back and went to some woman’s apartment to continue the festivities. What an unusual way to become familiar with a city.

A few years ago, I moved here to live.

During the past four years I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Printemps des Vins de Blaye, a public gathering where, for the price of about $8, you can spend two days visiting the magnificent 17th century Citadelle of Blaye and sampling limitless wines from a hundred local producers.

This year we were graced with excellent sunny weather, and visitors formed a far more international and cosmopolitan gathering than ever before. There was live music (🎼), ample food booths, demonstrations of barrel making (and barrel racing) and plenty of tastings. Altogether, it was a convivial and stellar gathering.

I managed to taste and take notes on dozens of wines. The wines listed below are a few selected based on those that would ‘score,’ on a 100 point scale, between 91 and 96 points, and are also of either excellent or superlative quality in terms of price (as scored using my proprietary Vino Value Algorithm).

It’s a representative list, and there were many other winemakers I would have liked to have visited. All wines are red, unless where noted.

Vino Value™ Scoring of Selected Wines – Printemps des Vins de Blaye April 2019
Winery Wine Retail Price – Euros Retail Price – US dollars Value Score
Château La Cassagne Boutet 2015 Les Angelots 25.00 € $28.25 Good/Excellent Value ♫♫
Château La Cassagne Boutet 2018 Le Puits Rosé 5.00 € $5.65 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Château Magdeleine Bouhou 2015 MB Grand Vin 13.50 € $15.26 Excellent Value ♫♫
Château Magdeleine Bouhou 2015 La Boha 8.50 € $9.61 Excellent Value ♫♫
Château Puynard 2017 Bordeaux Rosé 6.00 € $6.78 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Château Puynard 2016 The Steps 10.00 € $11.30 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Château du Vieux Puit 2017 French Rosé 6.50 € $7.35 Excellent Value ♫♫
Château La Rose Bellevue 2015 The Secret (100% Merlot) 20.00 € $22.60 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Château Florimond 2015 Réserve (red) 8.20 € $9.27 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Château Segonzac 2016 Héritage (red) 12.00 € $13.56 Excellent Value ♫♫
Chateau Bellevue 2016  Amorphae (red) 20.50 € $23.17 Good/Excellent Value ♫♫
Château Nodot 2015 Cuvée Prestige (red) 7.50 € $8.48 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Château Nodot 2016 Cuvée Tradition (red) 10.95 € $12.37 Excellent Value ♫♫
Château Canteloup 2016 Château Canteloup (red) 6.20 € $7.01 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Château Les Graves la Valade 2015 Élevé en Fûts de Chène (red) $6.50 $7.35 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Château Gauthier 2015 Guathier (red) $8.00 $9.04 Excellent Value ♫♫
Château Haut Bourcier 2016 Haut Bourcier (red) $7.50 $8.48 Excellent Value ♫♫
Château Môndésir Gazin 2015 Blaye (Merlot / Malbec) $14.00 $15.82 Excellent Value ♫♫
Château Camille Gaucheraud 2012 Merlot $6.00 $6.78 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Château La Motte Cuvée la Motte (sparkling rosé) $7.00 $7.91 Excellent Value ♫♫
Château Peymelon 2015 Peymelon (red) $8.50 $9.61 Excellent Value ♫♫
Château Petit Boyer 2016 Vieilles Vignes $12.50 $14.13 Excellent Value ♫♫
Château Bel-Air Royère 2015 L’Esprit $12.00 $13.56 Excellent Value ♫♫


My latest Forbes pieces are here, including winemakers from five countries to watch out for, Italian jewels, and some recommendations from Bordeaux primeurs.

Thanks for tuning in again.

French Alpine Wines Of Savoie

March 26, 2019

Savoie, pronounced Sav-WAH, is a wine producing region associated with the French Alps. The whites are notable, although you are likely not familiar with the white grapes of Jacquère or Gringet. The first is crisply acidic, somewhat like a Riesling meeting a Pinot Gris.

This region is where Celts and Romans lived, and was controlled by Italy until 1860. The Alps are gorgeous, the food and wine delicious and many towns include stone fortifications (including those constructed by military architect Vauban, in the town of Briançon) that are both commanding and attractive.

Serre-Chevalier ski resort, southern French Alps

Skiing here is excellent, and after-ski racelette with wine can be delicious.

Jacquère is the most prevalent Savoie grape, making up roughly half of vine production in this region that is splattered from below Lake Léman (think Geneva) all the way south to below the city of Chambéry.

Another widely planted white grape is Roussette de Savoie, also known locally as Altesse. Wine from this grape includes tastes of tropical fruit and honey and can often be aged for several years. Another white wine from Savoie is made from Chasselas, typical and abundant also in the Swiss Vallée region.

Old Town of Briançon

Reds include Gamay (think Beaujolais) and more recently planted Pinot Noir, although these do not generally match the quality of whites. Other reds are made from the grapes Mondeuse (dark colored and acidic; as a blending grape it helps red wines to age) and Persan (herbal, well-structured and rare).

Sunny morning on the slopes

The location of these Alps is in relative proximity to Burgundian and Beaujolais wine country, and also the Rhone valley. This provides a wider range of wines locally available, and towns frequented by visitors offer greater wine selections from such different regions (and countries).

Alpine vista from Briançon

The Alps run east to west and then southward—passing through Slovenia, Austria, Lichtenstein, Switzerland, Germany, Italy and France. Choose whichever country you like, but it is worthwhile visiting these young, jagged peaks for a dose of life that with differing regional cultures (and sports), but also for a taste of distinct local food and wines.

Plaisir Ambré Restaurant in Briançon

In the southern French Alps, dinner and drinks at the Grand Hotel (freshly renovated two years ago) in the town of Chantemerle are excellent, and the little restaurant named Plaisir Ambré in Briançon offers excellent food (and Savoie wine) at reasonable prices. Afterwards, stroll down the inclined main street to view a wildly refreshing vista of snow dusted peaks.

A rare gathering of renowned Alpine Entrepreneurs outside the Grand Hotel in Chantemerle

Whether in summer or winter, alone or with friends, travel here with an open mind, and a hunger to learn about slices of history (and living) far different from what you already know.


Lunch with Savoie wine

My latest Forbes pieces are here, and include articles about South African wine, about an alpinist Instagrammer, about a winemaking mother in the Malibu hills and also about a French winter sports organizer who decided to quit his job in order to be CEO. There is also a brief piece about running through Bordeaux Grand Cru vineyards.

In the coming weeks I’ll cover the general quality of 2018 Bordeaux ‘en primeur’ wines, and will include a second annual tasting of a range of excellent Swiss wines. There will also be a general post that covers wine from the island of Majorca.

Thank you again for tuning in!

South African Wine

March 5, 2019

Latest Forbes pieces are here regarding South African wines.

This post includes additional photos, and a value scoring of many wines tasted ….

The food, wine, countryside and hospitality were excellent.

View from Anthonij Rupert wines near Franschhoek

Babylonstoren, Stellenbosch

Elgin Valley

Elgin Valley

Hemel-en-Aarde Valley

A gathering of Chenin Blanc producers

Bosman Family Vineyards north of Wellington

Olive Hamilton Russell and Chardonnay from Hemel-en-Aarde

Anthony Hamilton Russell with the ever elusive and excellent Ashbourne Pinotage

Hannes Storm of Storm Wines in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley

View from Delaire Graff Estate of Stellenbosch

The winemaking crew from Thokozani and Ovation Wines

A firepit at Delaire Graff Estate in Stellenbosch

A gathering of Chenin Blanc producers

Wines below listed with equivalent 100-point score ranges and are also rated according to their value (price versus quality) as being Superlative (♫♫♫), Excellent (♫♫) or Good (♫) according to my proprietary Vino Value algorithm. This considers factors such as subjective scoring, objective price information and price elasticity.

Prices provided are representative average U.S. retail sales prices, which fluctuate somewhat depending on the state where sales take place.

Vino Value™ Scoring of Selected Wines – Cape Region South Africa February 2019
Winery Wine 100 Point Score Equivalent Range Retail Price – US dollars Value Score
Backsberg Backsberg Chenin Blanc. 2018. 91  to 94 $12.99 Excellent Value ♫♫
Backsberg Tread Lightly Pinotage Rosé. 2018. 91 to 94 $12.99 Excellent Value ♫♫
Backsberg John Martin Reserve. Sauvignon Blanc. 2017. 94 to 97 $22.99 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Backsberg Family Reserve (white). 2017. 97 to 100 $34.99 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Backsberg Pumphouse Shiraz. 2016. 94 to 97 $24.99 Excellent Value ♫♫
Backsberg Klein Babylons Toren Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot. 2015. 91 to 94 $24.99 Good Value ♫
Backsberg Family Reserve (red) 2016. 94 to 97 $38.99 Good Value ♫
Babylonstoren Chenin Blanc. 2018. 94 to 97 $19.00 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Babylonstoren Viognier. 2016/2017. 94 to 97 $26.00 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Babylonstoren Candide (white). 2017. 91 to 94 $27.00 Excellent Value ♫♫
Babylonstoren Shiraz. 2016. 94 to 97 $29.00 Excellent Value ♫♫
Painted Wolf Wines The Den Chenin Blanc. 2018. 91 to 94 $12.00 Excellent Value ♫♫
Painted Wolf Wines Old Vine Paarl Chenin Blanc. 2017. 94 to 97 $20.00 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Painted Wolf Wines The Den Pinotage. 2017. 94 to 97 $12.00 Excellent Value ♫♫
Painted Wolf Wines Guillermo Swartland Pinotage. 2014. 97 to 100 $22.00 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Painted Wolf Wines Swartland Syrah. 2015. 94 to 97 $22.00 Excellent Value ♫♫
Natte Valleij Stellenbosch Cinsault. 2017. 94 to 97 $30.00 Excellent Value ♫♫
Natte Valleij Swartland Cinsault. 2017. 94 to 97 $30.00 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Natte Valleij Simonsberg Paarl Cinsault. 2017. 94 to 97 $30.00 Excellent Value ♫♫
Natte Valleij Darling Cinsault. 2017. 97 to 100 $30.00 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Natte Valleij Natte Valleij Cinsault. 2017. 94 to 97 $19.00 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Rustenberg Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc. 2017. 91  to 94 $15.00 Excellent Value ♫♫
Stark-Condé Three Pines Cabernet Sauvignon. Jonkershoek Valley. 2016. 91 to 94 $35.00 Good Value ♫
Stark-Condé Oude Nektar. 2016. 94 to 97 $45.00 Good Value ♫
Jordan Wine Estate Inspector Péringuey Chenin Blanc. 2018. 94 to 97 $19.00 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Delaire Graff Estate Botmaskop. 2016. 94 to 97 $37.00 Good Value ♫
Delaire Graff Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. Banghoek, Stellebosch. 2015. 94 to 97 $70.00 Good Value ♫
Delaire Graff Estate Delaire Graff White Reserve. 2016. 94 to 97 $42.00 Excellent Value ♫♫
Neil Ellis Cabernet Sauvignon Jonkershoek Valley. 2015. 94 to 97 $45.00 Excellent Value ♫♫
Glenelly Stellenbosch Estate Reserve. 2013. 91 to 94 $27.00 Good Value ♫
Glenelly Lady May. 2013. 91 to 94 $45.00 Good Value ♫
Wildekrans Sauvignon Blanc. 2018. 90 to 91 $17.00 Good Value ♫
Beaumont Family Wines Chenin Blanc. 2018. 90 to 91 $20.00 Good Value ♫
Beaumont Family Wines Hope Marguerite Chenin Blanc. 2017. 94 to 97 $35.00 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Villion Family Wines Chenin Blanc. 2017. 91  to 94 $14.00 Excellent Value ♫♫
Beaumont Family Wines Pinotage. 2015. 91 to 94 $30.00 Good Value ♫
Luddite Saboteur. 90 to 91 $30.00 Good Value ♫
Villion Family Wines Cabernet Sauvignon. 2015. 91 to 94 $19.00 Excellent Value ♫♫
Iona Sauvignon Blanc. 2018. 97 to 100 $13.50 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Creation Wine Estate Estate Chardonnay. 2017. 90 to 91 $16.00 Good Value ♫
Creation Wine Estate Reserve Chardonnay. 2017. 91 to 94 $25.00 Excellent Value ♫♫
Creation Wine Estate Estate Pinot Noir. 2017. 91 to 94 $19.50 Excellent Value ♫♫
Creation Wine Estate Reserve Pinot Noir. 2016. 94 to 97 $36.00 Good Value ♫
Creation Wine Estate The Art of Pinot Noir. 2017. 94 to 97 $62.00 Good Value ♫
Creation Wine Estate Reserve Syrah. 2017. 91  to 94 $25.50 Good Value ♫
Creation Wine Estate Syrah Grenache. 2017. 90 to 91 $15.00 Good Value ♫
Storm Wines Vrede Chardonnay. 2017. 94 to 97 $55.00 Excellent Value ♫♫
Ataraxia Chardonnay. 2017. 97 to 100 $27.00 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay. 2017. 97 to 100 $40.00 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay. 2018. 97 to 100 $40.00 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Storm Wines Ignis Pinot Noir. 2017. 94 to 97 $55.00 Good Value ♫
Tesselaardsdal Wines Pinot Noir. 2017. 94 to 97 $45.00 Good Value ♫
Tesselaardsdal Wines Pinot Noir. 2018. 94 to 97 $35.00 Excellent Value ♫♫
Ataraxia Pinot Noir. 2015. 94 to 97 $32.00 Excellent Value ♫♫
Ataraxia Pinot Noir. 2016. 94 to 97 $32.00 Excellent Value ♫♫
Hamilton Russell Vineyards Pinot Noir. 2017. 94 to 97 $52.00 Excellent Value ♫♫
Hamilton Russell Vineyards Pinot Noir. 2018. 97 to 100 $52.00 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Hamilton Russell Vineyards Ashbourne Pinotage. 2016. 94 to 97 $60.00 Good Value ♫
Meerlust Estate Meerlust Chardonnay. 2017. 97 to 100 $23.00 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Meerlust Estate Meerlust Pinot Noir. 2017. 90 to 91 $23.00 Good Value ♫
Meerlust Estate Meerlust Red. 2016. 94 to 97 $15.00 Excellent Value ♫♫
Meerlust Estate Meerlust Merlot. 2015. 90 to 91 $23.00 Good Value ♫
Meerlust Estate Meerlust Cabernet Sauvignon. 2015. (price half magnum price) 94 to 97 $27.00 Excellent Value ♫♫
Meerlust Estate Meerlust Estate Rubicon. 2015. 97 to 100 $32.00 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Ken Forrester Vineyards Petit Chenin Blanc. 2018. 91 to 94 $13.00 Excellent Value ♫♫
Ken Forrester Vineyards Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc. 2017. 94 to 97 $18.00 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Ken Forrester Vineyards Chenin Blanc. 2007. 94 to 97 $18.00 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Ken Forrester Vineyards The FMC. 2016. 97 to 100 $60.00 Good Value ♫
Aslina Wines by Ntsiki Biyela Aslina Sauvignon Blanc. 2018. 94 to 97 $20.00 Excellent Value ♫♫
Aslina Wines by Ntsiki Biyela Aslina Chardonnay. 2018. 94 to 97 $23.00 Excellent Value ♫♫
Aslina Wines by Ntsiki Biyela Aslina Cabernet Sauvignon. 2016. 97 to 100 $27.00 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Aslina Wines by Ntsiki Biyela Aslina Umsasane. 2016. 97 to 100 $30.00 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Kloof Street Old Vine Chenin Blanc (Swartland). 2018. 94 to 97 $14.00 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Mullineux Old Vines White. 2017. 94 to 97 $30.00 Excellent Value ♫♫
Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Mullineux Granite Chenin Blanc. 2017. 97 to 100 $80.00 Good Value ♫
Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Kloof Street Swartland Rouge. 2017. 91 to 94 $17.50 Excellent Value ♫♫
Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Mullineux Syrah. 2016. 97 to 100 $37.50 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Joostenberg Estate Joostenberg Chenin Blanc. 2018. 91  to 94 $13.50 Excellent Value ♫♫
Joostenberg Estate Die Agteros’ Chenin Blanc. 2017. 91 to 94 $20.00 Good Value ♫
Botanica Wines The Mary Delaney Collection Chenin Blanc. 2017. 94 to 97 $26.00 Excellent Value ♫♫
Mulderbosch Vineyards Chenin Blanc Steen Op Hout. 2017. 91 to 94 $12.99 Excellent Value ♫♫
Mulderbosch Vineyards Chenin Blanc Block W. 2015. 94 to 97 $32.50 Excellent Value ♫♫
Raats Family Wines Original Chenin Blanc. 2018. 91 to 94 $15.99 Excellent Value ♫♫
Raats Family Wines Old Vine Chenin Blanc. 2017. 91 to 94 $29.00 Good Value ♫
DeMorgenzon Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc Method Cap Classique NV 94 to 97 $37.50 Good Value ♫
DeMorgenzon Stellenbosch Maestro White 94 to 97 $25.00 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Bosman Family Vineyards Generation 8 Chenin Blanc. 2018. 94 to 97 $14.99 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Bosman Family Vineyards Upper Hemel en Aarde Valley Sauvignon Blanc. 2017. 91 to 94 $18.99 Excellent Value ♫♫
Bosman Family Vineyards Optenhorst Chenin Blanc. 2016. 94 to 97 $44.99 Good Value ♫
Bosman Family Vineyards Twyfelling Cinsault. 2017. 94 to 97 $25.99 Excellent Value ♫♫
Ovation Spumanté 91  to 94 $10.35 Excellent Value ♫♫
Ovation Sauvignon Blanc. 2017. 91  to 94 $10.35 Excellent Value ♫♫
Ovation Merlot. 2017. 91 to 94 $11.90 Excellent Value ♫♫
Thokozani Thokozani Shiraz, Mourvèdre,Viognier. 2017. 94 to 97 $15.70 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Diemersfontein Pinotage (‘Coffee Pinotage’). 2017. 97 to 100 $18.99 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Joostenberg Estate Joostenberg ‘Die Agteros’ Chenin Blanc. 2017. 91 to 94 $13.00 Excellent Value ♫♫
Bellingham Wines The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc. 2017. 91 to 94 $17.00 Excellent Value ♫♫
David & Nadia Hoë-Steen Chenin Blanc. 2017. 94 to 97 $50.00 Excellent Value ♫♫
Longridge Wine Estate Ou Steen Chenin Blanc. 2016. 94 to 97 $28.00 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Boekenhoutskloof Winery Semillon. 2016. 94 to 97 $23.50 Excellent Value ♫♫
Allée Bleue Black Series Old Vine Pinotage. 2017. (cellar door) 94 to 97 $24.00 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Boschendal 1685 Sauvignon Blanc. VINTAGE? 91 to 94 $17.00 Good Value ♫
Boschendal Elgin Chardonnay. 2016. 94 to 97 $35.00 Excellent Value ♫♫
Boschendal Pinotage Rosé. 90 to 91 $13.99 Good Value ♫
Boschendal 1685 Cabernet Sauvignon. 2016. 91 to 94 $24.99 Good Value ♫
Boschendal Black Angus. 2015. 94 to 97 $40.00 Good Value ♫
Reyneke Wines Organic Syrah. 2017. 94 to 97 $25.00 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Reyneke Wines Reserve Biodynamic Red Wine. 2016. 94 to 97 $25.00 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Reyneke Wines Organic 17 Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot. 2017. 94 to 97 $15.00 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Reyneke Wines Cornerstone 2015 (red blend) 97 to 100 $25.00 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Reyneke Wines Cabernet Sauvignon. 2015. 97 to 100 $65.00 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Groot Constantia Sauvignon Blanc. 2018. 94 to 97 $20.00 Excellent Value ♫♫
Groot Constantia Constantia Merlot. YEAR? 91 to 94 $28.00 Good Value ♫
Groot Constantia Constantia Pinotage. 2017. 91 to 94 $28.00 Good Value ♫
Groot Constantia Constantia Shiraz. 2017. 94 to 97 $28.00 Excellent Value ♫♫
Groot Constantia Constantia Gouverneurs Reserve (red blend). 2018. 97 to 100 $50.00 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Klein Constantia Estate Sauvignon Blanc. 2018. 91 to 94 $17.99 Good Value ♫
Klein Constantia Estate Constantia Glen. 2017. ?? 91 to 94 $28.00 Good Value ♫
Klein Constantia Estate Constantia Glen 3 (Red blend). 2015. 91 to 94 $27.00 Good Value ♫
Klein Constantia Estate Constantia Glen 5 (Red blend). 2014. 94 to 97 $38.00 Good Value ♫
Klein Constantia Estate Metis Sauvignon Blanc. 2017. 94 to 97 $24.99 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Klein Constantia Estate 1685 Clara Sauvignon Blanc. 2017. 94 to 97 $29.99 Good Value ♫
Klein Constantia Estate 1685 Chardonnay. 2017. 94 to 97 $29.99 Excellent Value ♫♫
Klein Constantia Estate 1685 Estate Red. 2015. 94 to 97 $29.99 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Klein Constantia Estate Stellenbosch Anwilka (red blend). 2014. 94 to 97 $51.99 Good Value ♫
Klein Constantia Estate 1685 Vin de Constance (sweet wine). 2015. 97 to 100 $94.99 Excellent Value ♫♫
Spier 1692 Chenin Blanc. 2018. 94 to 97 $8.25 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Spier 1692 Vintage Selection Chenin Blanc. 2017. 94 to 97 $13.99 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Spier 21 Gables Sauvignon Blanc. 2018. 91 to 94 $22.00 Good Value ♫
Spier Creative Block 5 (red blend). 2015. 94 to 97 $23.00 Excellent Value ♫♫
Spier 21 Gables Pinotage. 2015. 94 to 97 $26.00 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Spier First Stone (red blend). 2015. 97 to 100 $35.00 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Spier Frans K. Smit (red blend). 2015. 97 to 100 $80.00 Good Value ♫

A sage and serious warning for the many rural walkers in South Africa

Posts during the coming months will include tastings of Bordeaux, Swiss and possibly Burgundian wines.

Enjoy the coming springtime….! And thanks for tuning in.

Wine Detox Part Three—The Algorithmic Regime

February 6, 2019

The bizarre allure of cold darkness

My latest Forbes pieces are here and include articles that discuss the marriage of Azorean tourism with forestation, Germanic influence on Italy’s Friuli wines and a Bordeaux restaurant that oozes with flavors.

I’m posting this from the sunny wine country of the Western Cape of South Africa, where temperatures are in the 90’s F (30’s C).

Hello, Sunny South Africa!

But the story of these wines, and this gorgeous region, will be covered in a forthcoming post after this trip is completed.

This post is the third and final wrap up regarding a wine detox. I’ll share how to lose weight and increase exercise capabilities.

Hands off until February

What’s with the current infatuation with ‘detox’ anyway?

A year or two ago I heard talk about people taking a ‘dry January’ in the U.K.. Now, between four and five million Brits now give up alcohol for the first month of the year. That’s more than the population of Ireland (but don’t expect that entire isle to go on the wagon for even a few hours, much less weeks…I lived there, schooled there, have Irish ancestry, and so have ample license to speak from experience, thank you).

A whole month without booze? I thought it ridiculous. Yet, I did something similar. This was not, however, an emulation of any dry January. This personal decision was based on timing.


On Christmas day, after bolting down early afternoon flutes of bubbly and then tucking into helpings of Turkey while swilling more wine, I found myself—too soon—knackered. As in, worn out. Tired. Didn’t want to move.

Blaye’s bicycle path begins here

What gave?

I weighed myself. I was six pounds heavier than ever before in life.

That was a wake up call.

A trigger.

So I decided to dedicate January toward changing that situation. It worked out better than expected.

Last Friday marked four weeks without drinking a drop of alcohol. During that time I also modified my eating habits by omitting bread, pasta, cheese and raw refined sugar. I also focused on exercise. The result: in the space of 31 days I increased my running distance from 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) to 10 miles (16 kilometers) and my weight dropped a total of 15 pounds (6.5 kilograms).

That weight is the equivalent of five bottles of wine. The picture below shows the equivalent weight lost in 31 days (glass and liquid combined). Now you understand the smile.

These bottles equal the weight lost in a month

Imagine putting those bottles into a backpack, strapping it on and lugging it around for a day. No wonder I was tired.

That weight is gone.

Tasty and not permissible for January

For those who are interested, I explain how below. I developed a method, a formula. However, I am not a trained specialist in exercise or nutrition. So, seek advice from a qualified trainer and a licensed physician regarding your own personal exercise program.

The secret of making this work is focused distraction.

Here is the explanation.

Citadelle of Blaye


When in my twenties, I walked into a store called Neptune Mountaineering on the corner of Table Mesa drive and Broadway streets in the city of Boulder, Colorado. There was a typed notice on a bulletin board. It told of how the ‘Boulder Mountain Marathon’ (unofficial, not sanctioned, and not legally permitted) would soon take place. The distance was somewhat greater than the standard marathon distance of 26 miles (it was about 28 miles) and the course wound through the hills of the ‘Front Range’—the hilly topography that forms the base of the mightier Rocky Mountains. The total vertical elevation gain for the course (the equivalent distance that participants climb uphill) was over one mile (1.6 kilometers). This meant that the course was not only 28 miles long, but we runners had to ascend the equivalent of climbing the stairs of the Empire State Building four times.

Without hesitation I decided to run this marathon. I checked a calendar. The event was exactly 26 days away. That meant I had 26 days to train to run 26 miles.

How ludicrous.

Ludicrous enough to be wildly attractive.

That summer I had worked as a mountaineering instructor in the Wind River mountains of Wyoming, hiking long distances for weeks at a time with a heavy backpack at high elevations. I was in generally excellent cardiovascular condition, although I had not run in months, or maybe years. My running muscles, in other words, were not disciplined.

The promise of spring

Still, the challenge was so wild that it gave me a sense of peace. In order to succeed, I had to block out all other thoughts and train with complete focus. Which I began to do. However, you cannot run all day, or every day. During times not running, friends and I also climbed the Grand Teton peak in Wyoming, and traveled back to Boulder to go rock climbing.

After almost three weeks I completed my last training run of 18 miles along mountain trails at a relatively high altitude in the Pecos wilderness of New Mexico. Then I rested for almost a week. During these times I lived out of my pickup truck. I camped out, washed in rivers and cooked potatoes and salsa over a stove under starlight or in the blazing sunshine.

Ten miles before winter sunrise

After this brief, intense training, I drove my pickup truck near Boulder and camped out at a patch of woodland on a steep road off Boulder Canyon. I showed up to the marathon venue in the morning, across the road from the hospital in North Boulder.

One of the race organizers was Neal Beidleman (who later became known in relation to the Mount Everest debacle described in the bestselling book Into Thin Air by John Krakauer). He opened a bag of flour and poured a thin line of this powder across the street. This, he told us, was the starting line. He then mentioned how they had no permit for the event, so if anyone asked us while running, we were supposed to say that we were all friends out for a ‘fun run’ together. Which we did! It was hilarious. The route ascended first by road, and then along trails along the side of Green Mountain. It descended to Eldorado Canyon, and then back along the Mesa Trail and through Chautauqua Park before descending back to north boulder.

It was grueling.

But I completed the Boulder Mountain Marathon. It took over four hours, but considering the elevation gain and total extended distance, I was content.

Running in the countryside is good for the mind

The success hinged on making a decision and then focusing on that decision and goal completely.

This January, with no race or running mates and being a few years older—I managed to focus enough to run 10 miles after 31 days of training (the method described below, however, is for a 28 day period, and is not so challenging).

The lessons of focus, learned from that Boulder marathon, applied again. This time I also wanted to lose weight. As mentioned in the previous blog post, committing thoroughly to a workout can completely eclipse the discomfort of changing drinking and diet habits. Once the mind is galvanized on a challenging physical goal, forgetting about booze and baguettes and brebis cheese becomes relatively simple.

Below is the formula.

Six mile run: perhaps the sports store sells night vision goggles?

At the end of a 10 – before dawn, and expectations of a vinous reward

The Algorithmic Regime.

The French word for diet is ‘regime,’ which implies—in English—disciplined focus. Sounds better than ‘diet,’ right? A diet is about cutting calories, whereas ‘regime’ implies control and a system for getting things accomplished.

The following is a definition for ‘algorithm,’ taken from Yuval Noah Harari in his bestselling book Homo Deus:

‘An algorithm is a methodical set of steps that can be used to make calculations, resolve problems and reach decisions.’

In this case, an algorithm is used to solve a problem: how to reduce weight and increase running distance by at least a factor of four.

I invented the following steps, as well as the term ‘algorithmic regime’ that describes them.

Applied over the space of four weeks—they can help increase your exercise capabilities and weight loss. This method is for 28 days. By going 32 days, you may also be able to achieve significantly more. Again, consult your physician; I am not a trained specialist.

Here is the method:

For four weeks, follow this guidance:


No alcohol.

No bread.

No pasta.

No cheese.

No raw, refined sugar or candy bars or sugary soda drinks.

If this is too general and you need structure, follow the General Motors Diet.


All well before sunrise


Exercise. I chose running, and formulated the schedule below for 28 days. This is my own invention, and is based on the premise that long runs require plenty of rest between them. Again, if you want to run longer, than add five additional rest days, followed by the longer run.

Rather than start off slow and gradually increase exercise, I started with a full-blown schedule of small amounts of daily exercise, then slowed it down. The distances increased, but so also did the amount of non-exercise days. This is because longer runs require more intermittent rest time.

The basic algebra involved in this ‘regime’ is simple. Basically, for the second set (‘Y’), you run the same distance that you ran for the first set (‘X’), plus an additional one third of that same distance. Algebraically, this means:

Y = 4.3X (or, Y=X+1/3X)

Now, look at the schedule below. Do you see a pattern?

You run five days in a row, then you take one day off. Then you run for four days in a row, and take two days off. Then you run for three days in a row, and take three days off. Then you run for two days (although now, you take a one day break between these days) and then take four days off. The formulas and example distances are in the table below.

The Algorithmic Regime

NOTE: Y = 4/3X (or Y=X+1/3X)

Day Formula Set Example Target Miles According to Formula Example Target Kilometers According to Formula Percent Increase of Distance Over Previous Set
1 X 1 1.5 2.4
2 X 1.5 2.4
3 X 1.5 2.4
4 X 1.5 2.4
5 X 1.5 2.4
6 Rest
7 Y 2 2.0 3.2 33.3
8 Y 2.0 3.2
9 Y 2.0 3.2
10 Y 2.0 3.2
11 Rest
12 Rest
13 X+Y 3 3.5 5.6 75.0
14 X+Y 3.5 5.6
15 X+Y 3.5 5.6
16 Rest
17 Rest
18 Rest
19 3X 4 4.5 7.2 28.6
20 Rest
21 3X 4.5 7.2
22 Rest
23 Rest
24 Rest
25 Rest
26 3Y or 4X 5 6.0 9.7 33.3


It helps to personalize this challenge by doing it in some offbeat way. For the Colorado marathon, I trained along the Rocky Mountains, from Jackson in Wyoming south to the Pecos Wilderness of New Mexico, while camping out and climbing peaks and rock walls with friends.

For this recent month, the attraction was waking before dawn and running in the dark (usually in the cold). Do NOT do this unless you wear a headlamp and reflective gear, and preferably stay off all roads. I began and ended most runs before sunrise. This was truly invigorating. The point is, this is not a spin class or a group sport, but a personal mission to lose weight and improve diet. Make it personal. Get creative.


There are 26 days listed above, and this program is for 28 days. This means you can add another two rest days at your discretion.

I increased my own running distance (over a longer time period) by a factor of more than six, running a total of ‘5Y,’ or 10 miles. I reduced the rest days by one before the six miler, then took five days of rest before the final run (mostly rest, although adding a few small runs is beneficial). However, this may be excessive and I do not encourage you to try it. But if you do, then make the final, longer run at a slow, steady pace.

This system is likely only appropriate if your first run (‘X’) is less than 2 miles (3.2 kilometers).

For rest days, you should still walk and get some basic exercise. During the final two sets, when you have three and four consecutive rest days, you may want to go for a short run on one of those days, or a long walk or bicycle ride.

Before any of the runs in session 3, 4 or 5, you may want to eat some fruit and even candy before you begin the exercise. This will provide energy to help propel you along the distance.

Invest in a book on stretching and stretch the night before you run, as well as on the day of the run.

For the final run, you may want to break with the food restrictions and eat a sizable pasta meal the night before to gain calories you can burn along the trail (although I did not and felt very energetic throughout most of the long run).

Check the weather forecast the night before your runs, and dress appropriately.

[Dawn Darkness]

Days 14 and 15 are critical, because you hit and pass the half way mark. The running distance becomes more challenging than earlier, but the free days between running sets has also increased. By this time you should have lost about half the quantity of pounds or kilograms that you intend to lose over the four weeks.

Begin each run slowly. Slow and steady wins here.

The first run of set four will be a challenge. Begin slowly and keep a low, steady pace.

Running in the dark with a headlamp is dangerous, so I do not recommend doing so!

This will be challenging, but hopefully enjoyable. If you feel any pain or discomfort or hesitation, then back off.

Thanks again for tuning in!






Wine Detox Part Two—Why Exercise And Weight May Not Relate

January 22, 2019

The chilly beauty of dawn

This is Day 20 of being alcohol-free this month, as well as abstaining from bread, pasta, cheese and raw, refined sugar (except for an occasional spoonful for coffee). I’ve also been running—mostly at 6.30 a.m. in freezing temperatures in the dark. I dropped over eleven pounds (close to five kilograms) and tripled the running mileage.

A ‘wine detox’ is just an excuse for getting exercise and losing weight. Avoiding a corkscrew and bottle is only partially related to any health effects of saying no to a glass of Chablis.

But exercise, apparently, is no key to losing weight. This news is bizarrely counterintuitive, although it may jibe with what many of you have experienced.

I recently picked up a copy of a July, 2108, Scientific American publication titled ‘Revolutions’ and read a surprising article titled ‘The Exercise Paradox.’

Take a walk and clear the mind, but don’t expect it to impact your weight

Recently, a scientist named Herman Pontzer and colleagues spent time in the African bush of Tanzania with members of the Hadza tribe, a group of traditional hunter-gatherers. These tribespeople hoof it through the bush to stalk prey or rummage across vegetated plains and hills to dig tubers and roots and pluck berries to munch.

Vines ahoy

These scientists worked with specific tribal members to have them drink a certain amount of water each day, into which they had placed harmless trace amounts of the rare isotopes of deuterium and oxygen 18. They then collected urine samples daily from these same individuals (I knew there was some reason for avoiding science as a career). These samples were then transported to the Baylor College of Medicine in the U.S. and analyzed. This procedure has been used for some years and is called the ‘doubly labelled water method.’ It measures carbon dioxide production in a human body, and from that determines the amount of energy individuals expend on a given day.

The results were not as expected.

Taking a break from this nectar

The Hadza tribespeople, who cover miles on foot and exercise regularly, burn about the same number of calories each day as regular 8 to 5 individuals in the U.S. or Europe. For men that’s roughly 2,600 calories a day, and for women it’s about 1,900 calories.

Other similar studies have shown a similar pattern. Traditional farmers in Guatemala, Gambia and Bolivia were shown to expend about the same amount of energy daily as city dwellers. A 2008 study by a Loyola University of Chicago researcher found that rural Nigerian women and African-American women in Chicago expended about the same amount of energy each day, despite the fact that they were involved in different activities, at different levels of intensity.

A subsequent review of 98 studies from throughout the world showed that those living with comfortable modern conveniences burn about the same quantity of calories every day compared to less affluent persons working more physically demanding jobs. Sedentary people, another studied showed, burned only 200 calories less per day than moderately active individuals.

Australian researchers found similar results between sheep and kangaroos kept in pens and those allowed to run freely. Chinese scientists found the same was true for pandas, whether they lived wild or in a zoo.

The reasons are still unknown. Perhaps, the author speculates, the mind and body make subtle changes to behaviors in other daily physical tasks to save energy. Perhaps, on physically demanding days, less energy is spent on maintaining organs and regulating internal cellular activities.

Uphill we go

I suspect a reason may be that human and mammalian bodies try to maintain constant levels of energy consumption. Imagine you have a factory, and on some days the production is low and on other days it’s high. The facility will, generally, still consume the same levels of background energy. Although the conveyor belt carries fewer boxes of television sets or breakfast cereals or whatever is produced, it still needs to run at the same speed. The same number of employees are also there, so the quantity of oil for heating and the amount of electricity stays the same for lighting. Also, staff levels are not reduced just because the factory is going slow for a few days—so cafeteria stoves burn the same amount of fuel to provide the same number of meals per day. It may be less costly, in terms of energy and stress, to maintain a constant burn on energy, even when that burn is more than is needed.

Just a guess.

[Video: Goodbye to this for several weeks]

Regardless the reason, whether or not you exercise apparently has limited impact on the total calories you burn.

Pontzer writes: ‘All of this evidence points toward obesity being a disease of gluttony rather than sloth. People gain weight when the calories they eat exceed the calories they expend.’

He does not discount the value and benefit of exercise for health, however, and writes, ‘You still have to exercise…Exercise has tons of well-documented benefits, from increased heart and immune system health to improved brain function and healthier aging…but evidence indicates that it is best to think of diet and exercise as different tools with different strengths. Exercise to stay healthy and vital; focus on diet to look after your weight.’

Yet from experience and a common-sense perspective, many of us will likely agree that keeping a specific, lean diet and exercising are mutually beneficial.

Goodbye to this for a month (except a few slivers of meat)

If you are changing diet, or going on a detox, exercise will help flush away waste cells. If you are exercising, changing the protein/fat/carbohydrate profile of your diet will help build muscle tissue and provide appropriate energy levels for your workout.

Together, the two may also have synergistic effects—where the result exceeds the sum of individual inputs. This seems to be the case with regard to the mindset needed to execute both at the same time.

Here’s what I mean.

Pre-dawn running in the frigid cold – refreshing for the brain, but wear a wool hat

Avoiding alcohol and types of food you are used to, as well as exercising, requires mental focus and discipline.

In fact, if you are truly challenging yourself, then the discipline required for exercising (for example, rising at 6.15 a.m. to run miles in freezing darkness along twisted, hilly country roads) can mentally eclipse any hunger (or wine) pangs you may have during that same day. This means that by undertaking exercise and diet at the same time, you may be less likely to notice the diet or detox. I’ve become focused enough on the challenge of forthcoming chilly hill jogs that that I’ve forgotten the lure of sugary hot spiced wine, or even gooey chocolate almond croissants.

[Video: more of what I said goodbye to for a month]

Here’s another, different, example of the same phenomenon.

In college I was once emotionally upset about a relationship with a woman. Then I checked my calendar and was shocked to find out that the next thermodynamics course exam, which I had thought was NEXT Wednesday, was taking place THIS Wednesday—two days away! Galvanized with a goal and intent on passing, I immediately cracked the books and…completely forgot about all of that emotional angst. There was no space in the brain, effectively, to contemplate both subjects (which, considering the pettiness of what I was upset about, turned out to be a good thing). It’s the same with combining exercise and diet.

In other words (and this has nothing to do with any research mentioned above) when we commit to one challenging goal that unambiguously absorbs and focuses our resolve and direction, we can sometimes simultaneously achieve lesser goals along the way, often with greater ease compared to how we would view these tasks if we lacked a larger, overriding, objective.

Plan your run, then run your plan, and switch on the headlamp

After a total of four weeks, I’ll certainly enjoy vino again (which is timely, considering an upcoming trip to a now sunny segment of wine country). But the goal this month—to feel a lighter—has reaffirmed the benefits of combining diet with motion…even if that means just taking a walk and skipping ice cream and apple pie after dinner.

See you in February

And running on country roads in the dark? The freezing cold and quiet countryside blackness can help wake the mind, while also keeping it calm and focused. But if you do this, be very, very careful. I wear a headlamp and flashing electric armband, and strongly advise that anyone else do at least the same. Daylight running is likely safer. Certainly it’s somewhat warmer.

My latest Forbes pieces are here, and include management advice from top hotel owners, the expanding Swedish wine scene, and how converting plastic to fuel can help to clean up our oceans.

Thanks again for tuning in …



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