| The science of drinking wine


This is the maximum alcohol level you should be looking for in a summer wine. Generally speaking, the lower the alcohol, the lighter the taste.

Wine is made when natural yeasts convert the sugars in grape juice into carbon dioxide and alcohol. Grapes with high sugar levels lead to richer, bigger wines – best suited to nights in front of the fire.

A sultry evening is done no favours by a 15% Shiraz, but a light Pinot Noir is liquid air-conditioning.


The warmest your wine should get. It’s the ideal temperature for bigger, bolder red wines with a hefty chunk of tannin. Warmth brings out the alcohol and sweetness in a wine, while cooler temperatures accentuate the acidity and tannins.

Anything above 21ºC and the evaporation of a wine’s alcohol quickens, affecting its aroma. If you’ve bought a couple of bottles for a braai, keep them in the fridge. Yes, even the reds.


The shits you should give about anyone putting ice in their wine. It’s their wine, man. And nobody wants warm wine in summer.

1 million

The number of bubbles in a glass of Methode Cap Classique. Served ice cold, bubbly is wine’s answer to beer. It’s fizzy, refreshing and it pairs with just about any meal.

9 321

The number of hectares given to Sauvignon Blanc in South Africa. Chilled right down, the freshness of a Sauvignon Blanc is the perfect counter to humidity, sunburn, fresh oysters and braai smoke.

Cape Town-based wine writer Christian Eedes recommends the Shannon Sanctuary Peak Sauvignon Blanc 2014. “It’s not green and has a dash of oaked Semillon that adds some interest,” he says, adding that Sauvignon Blanc drinkers should mix things up in the ice bucket with a Chenin Blanc or two.


The decade in which the Caperitif vanished. A South African aperitif made from fortified wine and botanicals, according to Adi Badenhorst, a Swartland winemaker who is resurrecting the spirit, it was first used as a “medicinal libation” in the 1800s.

Kyle Dunn, a winemaker working with Badenhorst, says that it’s known in the elite cocktail scene as the “ghost ingredient”. The Savoy Cocktail Book still contains more than 40 recipes with Caperitif as an ingredient. Caperitif 2.0 is being launched this month and can be served over ice, with tonic or in a classic cocktail.

This article was originally published on

Image credit: iStock | Here’s how vaping can cause cancer

We know that vaping can cause artery damage that could lead to heart attacks, and may lead to cigarette smoking. But did you know it could cause cancer?

Vaping may raise the risk of cancer because it leads to DNA damage, even though it contains fewer carcinogens than tobacco smoke, a US study has found.

The report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences did not compare the cancer-causing potential of traditional cigarettes to e-cigarettes.

Exposed cells more likely to mutate

In studies on lab mice, those exposed to e-cigarette smoke “had higher levels of DNA damage in the heart, lungs, and bladder, compared with control mice exposed to filtered air,” it said.

Similar effects were seen when human lung and bladder cells were exposed to nicotine and nicotine-derived nitrosamine ketone (NNK), a carcinogenic nicotine derivative.

These exposed cells are more likely to mutate and become cancerous than control cells.

“Thus, although e-cigarette smoke has fewer carcinogens than tobacco smoke, e-cigarette smokers might have a higher risk than non-smokers of developing lung and bladder cancers and heart diseases,” said the study, led by Moon-shong Tang of the Institute of Environmental Medicine at New York University.

According to outside experts, much more work is needed to uncover the true risk of vaping, which is widely seen as a safer alternative than traditional cigarettes.

Vaping not without risk

Peter Hajek, director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Queen Mary University of London, said the study methods are of “unclear relevance for effects of vaping”.

“Human cells were submerged in nicotine and in off-the-shelf bought carcinogenic nitrosamines. It is not surprising of course that this damaged the cells, but this has no relationship to any effects of e-cigarettes on people who use them,” he said.

“No comparison with conventional cigarettes was made, but in the text of the article, the authors acknowledge the key bit of information that is of crucial relevance in this story: Vapers show a reduction in these chemicals of 97% compared to smokers. They should have added that his may well be the level that non-smokers obtain from their environment.”

A comprehensive review of the scientific literature, released earlier this month by the US National Academies of Science, found that vaping is likely less harmful than cigarettes, but may lead to addiction in young people.

However, it cautioned that the true health effects of the habit remain unclear, since the trend is relatively new.

In 2000, South Africa became one of the first countries in the world to ban smoking in public places. Vaping, with an estimated 200 000 people has been, so far, seen as an acceptable alternative in this country.

Image credit: iStock | ‘IV lounges’ are the latest health fad, but are they safe?

“Rent-a-drip” IV lounges are popping up in big cities across the world, promising speedy recovery for hangover sufferers, jet lag victims and others seeking an intravenous solution to modern dilemmas.

But experts say these lounges are at best a waste of money and at worst potentially dangerous.

Generally unregulated

“The whole thing is really nonsense,” said Dr Stanley Goldfarb, a professor of medicine with the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. “It’s just catering to people’s sense that they’re taking their health into their own hands.”

The IV lounge craze has been spurred on by reports of use by the likes of Rihanna, Cindy Crawford and Simon Cowell. B-list celebrity Lisa Rinna embraced IV treatment on her reality show, “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills”, with both her and her daughters receiving an intravenous drip in her own living room.

People who go to an IV lounge are offered a variety of different intravenous fluids containing a blend of saline, vitamins and medicines targeted to their needs. For example, a hangover IV bag also typically contains anti-nausea medications.

Treatment costs range from roughly $80 to $875 (±R970 to R10 551). The practice is generally unregulated, raising concern among the medical community that fast-buck operators could hurt people through unsafe practices, Dr Goldfarb said.

What is IV drip treatment?

An earlier article published on Health24 explained the theory behind IV drip treatments.

The IV lounges that are trending today are based on the idea that you need to adapt the formula inside the IV drip to suit the needs of the patient, but when IV drips were first administered for vitamin and nutrient therapy, it was a formula based on the findings of the late Dr John Myers, a physician from Maryland who injected nutrients into his patients to treat various conditions.

According to research published in the Alternative Medicine Review, the exact doses of nutrients in the Myers cocktail was not known, but it has been recorded that a combination of magnesium chloride, calcium, gluconate, thiamine, vitamins B6 and B12, calcium pantothenate, vitamin C and diluted hydrochloric acid was used.

Just a placebo effect? 

IV drips are being used as a cure for hangovers andpeople might feel better after receiving the treatment, but it’s probably due to the placebo effect, Dr Goldfarb said.

Timing also might play a part in convincing people the IV treatment has worked, Dr Goldfarb said.

“If you’ve had a hangover, you know after a couple of hours you start to feel better anyway,” Dr Goldfarb said. “By the time they get themselves down to the lounge, sign in, start the IV fluids and complete the process, you’re probably talking three or four hours after they got up.”

As a registered nurse, Wozniak takes a medical history and performs a brief physical on everybody she hooks up to an IV drip. She stays away from hydrating seniors and others who might face risks from receiving intravenous fluids.

But not all centres are run by operators this conscientious, Dr Goldfarb and Dr Glatter said. People going to fly-by-night centres could be exposing themselves to serious illness.

More regulation needed

Dr Glatter would like to see increased regulation of the lounges, to make sure they are properly administering safe blends of intravenous fluids. Possible dangers include:

  • The fact that IVs contain a lot of salt, which could have a negative effect on people with heart disease or high blood pressure.
  • Improperly inserted IVs can create a stroke-causing air embolism or cause the fluids to leak into nearby tissue. 
  • IVs may also expose a person to infection.
  • An incorrect infusion rate can knock a person’s electrolyte balance out of whack or overload their fluid levels, potentially causing swelling of the brain, heart failure or kidney damage. 

“The public needs to be aware of this,” Dr Glatter said. “The industry needs to be policed.”

Image credit: iStock