Monday, December 11, 2006

Screw Caps Rotting Our Brains?

Frank’s Rant:

A few days ago I received a news alert from Decanter Magazine indicating Jacob’s Creek is now going fully screw cap through their entire range. No big surprise there. What was more interesting, though, was a reader comment directly below the article.

Apparently, unknown to me, there is an International Aluminum Conspiracy. That’s right, it appears screw caps will contaminate our brains. And James Halliday, wine writer as well as one of Australia’s most senior wine judges, is supposedly a heartless member of this conspiracy to rot our intellect.

According to the reader, Australia is “one of the last great strongholds of the International Aluminum Industry, an industry with immense lobbying power both within the Australian government and within the Australian wine writers fraternity.” He proposes this is not only a “conflict of interest” for Mr Halliday, but alludes to the general population suffering dire consequences from aluminum poisoning in the brain as a result of screw caps.

Give me a break. The last great aluminum stronghold? Brain poisoning from a tiny bit of aluminum that’s protected by an internal plastic seal?

Having read a few of Mr Halliday’s books and articles – including the Wine Atlas of Australia and the Australian Wine Companion – he doesn’t seem the type to be involved an international conspiracy. In fact, he barely mentions screw caps in the Wine Atlas of Australia – a tome that’s required reading for WSET certification.

Maybe the reader should just pull the cork out of a bottle of wine, chill out, and relax. Or maybe he’s already had a few glasses too many. And if my bottle of Cloudy Bay or Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc contaminates my brain – oh well. Twist off another cap.

Check out the original article for yourself at:

Susan’s Note:

This rant got me more interesting by the minute. Curiosity aroused, I did a bit of Internet digging. No question the reader, apparently a British scientist of some renown by the name of Chris Exley, has an axe to grind with anything aluminum. But why he’s singled out the wine industry escapes me. Has he conveniently overlooked the soft drink industry that surrounds an entire single serving with an aluminum can? What about the tin foil most households consider a standard for cooking and storing food?

Just for fun I googled a bit further. A quick scan of half a dozen other sites revealed some fascinating info.

Six aluminum salts, approved as food additives in the United States, make an appearance in cake mixes, frozen dough, pancake mixes, self-rising flours, processed cheese and cheese foods, and beer (in aluminum cans). Uh oh! The Pillsbury Dough Boy is an Aluminum Terrorist? Sarah Lee and Aunt Jemima are actually perps of the Great Aluminum Conspiracy?

And here’s a couple of stats Ronald MacDonald is sure to love. Some estimates say an average sized pickle treated in an alum solution – a form of aluminum sulfate used in the pickling solution to firm up the cucumbers – contains 5 to 10 milligrams. Just one slice of individually wrapped processed cheese can contain up to 50 milligrams of aluminum creating bad news for cheeseburger fans – in fact, these traditional fast meals are believed to contain one of the highest aluminum contents of any food.

Over the counter medications such as buffered aspirin can be, so says the experts, one of the largest sources of aluminum, as are digestive aides such as diarrhea and hemorrhoid medicines. A typical dose of aluminum-containing antacids can contain as much as 200 milligrams. Aluminum is also often added to hygiene aids such as antiperspirants and douches. Guess the pharmaceutical companies also have a few conspiratorial leanings and subversive ties to the aluminum industry – news, I suspect, to the likes of Bayer, Johnson & Johnson, or Pepto-Bismol.

As Frank says, oh well. If I’m suddenly plagued by senility as I’m sipping a glass of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, I suspect I’ll be a lot happier as an idiot with some really good wines in the cellar than poor Chris as a PhD griping about screw caps.

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