Is wine an aphrodisiac?

It might sound like a silly bugger question, but I assure you much has been written on this subject, so much in fact that one hardly knows where to start reading. So let's begin with The Holy Bible. The book of Genesis recounts how Lot's daughters used wine to get their father drunk, so they could, uh, have sex with him (Gen 19: 30-36).

This is more bawdy and sordid than Chaucer, but that's old world times for you and it was necessary to propagate the species. As we are told that Lot "was unaware" of what happened, we must conclude that he was completely bombed, yet seemingly not so bombed that he couldn't finish the business at hand, as "both the daughters of Lot were with child by their father."

The ancient Babylonians forbade the use of alcohol at nuptials. This may be due to ancient hands-on experience with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Things get even more confusing if you go to China, as almost everything from ground-up caribou antlers to bear gall bladders is considered an aphrodisiac there. The pre-Viagra age led to some interesting and exhausting pursuits to discover that mysterious elixir.

So why wine? In this modern age there are so many medicinal claims made about wine on a regular basis that I'm not sure which I should accept as reasonable and which are ridiculous. Apparently red wine can prevent everything from cancer to gum disease, so I was not completely surprised when I discovered (15 years late) that the British scientific journal Nature claimed "that the intake of alcohol can increase the levels of libido in women. According to this research, alcohol raises the testosterone level of women, which coincidentally entices those who lack sexual interest and desire." I just wonder if any of this is true. I can't speak for women, but I drink wine for pleasure, but not that kind of pleasure.

Biochemical reactions relating to the libido in the female anatomy aside, there is no doubt that wine has its romantic side and that might be referred to as sexy by some, especially by those who market wine, but also those who enjoy it. But what is well known since antiquity is that alcohol impairs judgment and releases inhibitions. For this reason when I was a teenager we affectionately called Lemon Gin "panty remover" and it is interesting to note that 30 years later, it still retains that definition in the urban dictionary.

Thank goodness we don't use terms like that in the wine world, although the words we use to describe wines sometimes do have sexual connotations: a wine might be sensual or seductive or have good legs, but please don't tell me a wine is sexy, because I'm not sure what that means and I don't want to ponder it much either.

There you have it: wine is sexy but a bottle of wine is not sexy, but apparently it is an aphrodisiac, but for women only. Or at least that's what they claimed to discover way back in 1994.


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