The first time an attack of gout hit me like a Ukrainian missile, I kind of took it as badge of honour. Here I, too, had fallen prey to an uncomfortable affliction that seemed to be the mark of an experienced wine guy. Many of my more senior heroes in wine – writers, makers and marketers – had shared their tales of woe about the discomfort caused by gout. Despite the pain, usually occurring in the feet or ankles, announcing an attack was passed on with a wry, knowing lop-sided grin. Ja, well, I’m a real wine man, that’s why gout comes for me. At that time, I knew not what they spoke of.
Thus, when I first began feeling a vicious, sharp pain in one of my shoe-bearing body-parts, the thought struck me that, wow!, I had arrived as a real man of wine. And from now on, I could also share tales of having to bear this sign of a person who can provide physical proof that he is taking his work seriously.
However, the self-deprecating humour of now being a bearer of the gout scar began to wane after the third or fourth attack. For pain does this. And although the agony dissolves after a dose or two of Cataflam or Voltaren, gout comes unannounced, setting its piercing fangs into the heel, toe or foot-bridge with instantaneous viciousness. Like an 87pt score from Tim Atkin or a 3-star rating in the Platter’s Guide, you just don’t see it coming.
And, of course, this lack of preparation for the onslaught ensures the required medication is never at hand. Which means you curse and in a state of immense suffering one must drive to the nearest pharmacy, hobble in like a World War 2 veteran and procure the pills while a cold sweat of pain stains your brow.
Strangely enough, I have yet to encounter one of the wine world’s female stalwarts complaining about having to deal with gout. Perhaps they are immune, or just refrain from admitting to it. Although as they get older, some of them do start to walk funny.
Having a healthy interest in unhealthy topics, I eventually did some research into gout to see what it is all about and why it shows such a willingness to inflict wanton torture on lovers of wine. In the Afrikaans language it is referred to as “wyntoon” (wine-toe), so the relationship between wine and gout appears to run deep.
The research, however, proves otherwise. For the uric acid responsible for those crystals that cause the damage by lodging themselves into one’s joints is not the sole result of the fermented juice of the grape. In fact, wine is pretty low-down on the list of gout-causers.
Beer is far more likely to unleash a uric acid build-up than wine. But before one gets to the booze, a list of foodstuffs is listed as major culprits in the gout narrative.
Red meat is pretty dangerous here, especially the organs like kidneys and liver. Charcuterie, biltong….all the good stuff makes for an ideal body chemistry to get the uric acid pumping, just itching to prepare those sharp-rimmed crystals for inserting into the unsuspecting consumer’s sensitive body parts.
And should any non-meat eaters be laughing, remember that seafood is right-up there when it comes to gout. Especially sardines and anchovies, although shellfish appear to be the Darth Vader of the gout-world. And thinking back to my wild gastronomic ways, I can remember certain instances where I have had crippling gout attacks after consuming an innocent bowl of moules marinière. With only one modest glass of Chablis.
But still, I am one of the club. Although, as they say in the classics, sometimes you wish to refrain from joining any club that will accept you.
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