Will drinking make me a pool shark?

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It’s time once again to check my email bag for your wine and spirits questions. You can always reach me with your questions at [email protected].

I’m convinced that alcohol improves my pool playing, but my wife says I’m deluding myself. Is it possible that I’m right and drinking makes me play better?

Whether you play better while drinking should be objectively observable by a disinterested party. Alas, I can’t discern your comparative performance from this vantage point. The idea that one’s performance at such games as billiards or even darts may be enhanced by moderate consumption is, however, a legitimate notion.

In a 1985 study on the effects of alcohol on professional archers, for example, and in a later 1993 study of darts players, Dr. Thomas Reilly determined that blood alcohol levels (BAC) of 0.02 percent and 0.05 percent, when contrasted against sober and placebo conditions, actually reduced muscle tremors, thereby improving performance.


He determined, in fact, that archers and darts players seemed to perform best at 0.02 percent BAC. While mixing alcohol with archery, all things being equal, is probably not a brilliant idea, under any circumstances, it is worth noting that 0.02 percent BAC is well below the 0.08.

In that 1993 study, Reilly observed that while hand-eye coordination deteriorated immediately following a player’s imbibing a drink, the player’s balance and accuracy actually improved at 0.02 percent BAC. As BAC increased, however, performance dropped quickly.

While both studies found that reaction times deteriorated swiftly under the effects of even very light alcohol consumption, the observable deterioration in sports that were turn-based was deemed significantly less relevant to performance, because competitors could take their own sweet time for set-up and execution during their turn.

Beyond softening muscles, booze can also supply liquid courage and self-confidence, and may also result in mediating anxiety and possibly initially promote happiness as the alcohol decreases levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin.

So, up to a point, your game may very well improve with a little hooch — or not. That said, your wife should be presumed to be “always correct” if you know what’s good for you.

Is wine allergy a real thing?

Sadly, yes. Wine and grape allergies exist, though they are not common. Far more common is wine intolerance. The distinction may not matter much to those who suffer, but an allergic reaction has an immunological basis while an intolerance does not.

A food allergy causes an immune system reaction that can affect multiple organs in the body and trigger a range of symptoms. Food intolerances, by contrast, are generally far less severe, and symptoms typically present more as mild annoyances and irritations.

I recently met a winemaker who made an offhand reference to wine having protein. Does wine really have protein?

Yep, though the vast majority of commercial wines have no protein, or very low levels, by the time they are bottled. Most of the proteins in wines are from grapes, with very small amounts from yeast and bacteria used during the winemaking process.

Red wines have a high concentration of phenolics resulting in most of the protein becoming insoluble and get removed with the sediment. White wines have less phenolics, so the proteins tend to stay in solution. Typically, these are removed before bottling as part of the normal winemaking stabilization and clarification process.

What’s good this week?

I suggest Herzog, Late Harvest, Orange Muscat, 2018 ($23; mevushal): An enjoyable and pleasing semi-sweet wine with aromas and flavors of mandarin orange, marmalade, passion fruit, lychee sorbet, grapefruit, vanilla bean, honeysuckle, apricot and lemon, with bits of racy ginger, mild honeydew melon, and raisin dancing in and out of focus. L’chaim!

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