Sunday, March 31, 2013

Why Does This Nonsense Persist?

Consider this:

"In the Middle Ages, wine was commonly drunk (at least in wine-growing areas), but it was a weak concoction and popular mainly because - unlike water - it was safe.

Did any of you ever forget a glass of wine on the counter for a couple of days? (Hey, if you haven't, then your benders just haven't gone on long enough, OK?) It gets pretty moldy, doesn't it? A weak dilution of wine in water is totally insufficient to make infected water safe for drinking. Yet people write such nonsense over and over again.


  1. I don't know enough about wine-making to say for sure, but I think you might not be blowing this guy up. I thought this typical claim meant something like, "Before modern plumbing and state-controlled sewage systems, the average man didn't have access to clean drinking water. It was easier for a place to make wine (with clean water at the major source) and then distribute the skins of wine to everybody, who would take it on trips etc."

  2. Beer exhibits the same qualities, probably even more so that wine. Only spirits avoid this particular quality prone to fermented products. However, fresh beer and wine are quite devoid of certain impurities due to the process of fermentation, but really, the only reason that people preferred such things was: they get you drunk, and they were often falsely perceived as being safer than water. Of course, they weren't any safer than water in most cases, and they certainly did not offer much in terms of hydration.

    Certain myths continue to perpetuate for reasons that I cannot explain. It's kind of like how some people still believe that Columbus set out to prove that the Earth wasn't flat, even though it is well established that he was well aware that the Earth wasn't flat, his mistake was in knowing the scale of the Earth's size.

    1. Beer involved boiling so was in general safer (before it started to spoil).

    2. Ken B,

      That's right. The boiling of the wort kills many germs.

      John Snow noted in the 1854 cholera epidemic that people who drank only beer (such as brewery workers) had a much lower rate of infection.

      Of course this doesn't help the case of wine, especially watered down wine.

    3. Yes, I agree, beer and wine might be safer than water. But this author seems to imply that watered-down wine will disinfect the water. Wine is not strong enough to do that.

  3. Alcohol does evaporate. This was probably just an observation on its preservation in storage though clean water stores well too (in the dark).


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