How we decided alcohol was a health boon in the ’90s—and how it all fell apart

Tim Requarth in Slate:

In 1991 an academic debate spilled out of ivory towers and into the popular imagination. That year, Serge Renaud, a celebrated and charismatic alcohol researcher at the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research—who also hailed from a winemaking family in Bordeaux—made a fateful appearance on 60 Minutes. Asked why the French had lower rates of cardiovascular disease than Americans did, even though people in both countries consumed high-fat diets, Renaud replied, without missing a beat, “The consumption of alcohol.” Renaud suspected that the so-called French paradox could be explained by the red wine at French dinner tables.

The French paradox quickly found a receptive audience. The day after the episode aired, according to an account in the food magazine the Valley Table, all U.S. airlines ran out of red wine. For the next month, red wine sales in the U.S. spiked by 44 percent. When the show was re-aired in 1992, sales spiked again, by 49 percent, and stayed elevated for years.

More here.