“My grandparents drink wine every day. I remember, when I was about 6 years old [15 years ago], my parents used to do that too. Now it’s when they see friends or for more special meals. Once or twice a week. Maybe three times...”
Single conversations should not be accorded undue significance, but when they seem to illustrate statistical trends it’s worth paying them a little attention. The words in the first paragraph were spoken by a bright, wine-enthusiastic 21 year old French girl studying for her wine business Masters at the Dijon Business School. Her parents live in Rasteau where they have a vineyard and are members of the cooperative. Yes, that’s right, 50-something year-olds who grow grapes for a living now drink wine less frequently than many lawyers and doctors in London or New York.
It would be easy to dismiss these people as oddities, but as I say, they seem to illustrate official French statistics that show over a third of the population as officially non-wine-drinkers. (The figure for women is close to 50%). The 21 year old’s comment also reflects research findings that link regular consumption to advanced age. Every time an old Frenchman dies, the average per-capita consumption fractionally drops...
Later in the same conversation, there was another little insight. “When I worked at the cellar door [in Rasteau] pouring wine for visitors, the men liked the [Cotes du Rhone] red and white but the women often said they found it too dry. And when that happened, the men didn’t buy...”
As I say, it’s just an anecdote and easy to dismiss. Especially if you’re an ostrich-minded member of the wine industry (a large proportion of the breed, I fear), or someone who simply enjoys a daily glass or two and wants to see others gain the pleasure you do. Not forgetting the health benefits.
But there’s the rub. Or couple of rubs. Most of the articles I’ve read suggest that those health benefits are actually associated with daily doses of a very small glass – and certainly not the half bottle favoured by many who believe themselves to be moderate wine drinkers. In fact significant risk of serious liver damage apparently begins at four bottles per week. In other words, half a bottle a night and an extra half with your Sunday lunch is not exactly what the doctor ordered.
Then there’s the officially-sanctioned suggestion that we should all take a couple of alcohol-free days per week to avoid becoming dependent. I can think of plenty of my wine industry friends who find the idea almost unimaginable (“I can’t remember the last day I didn’t have at least a glass”). But how many other mind- and body-altering substances would we all feel happy about ingesting every 24 hours? Caffeine is the obvious riposte, and maybe a similar weekly break from that drug would be no bad thing either for those of us who can easily down two or three cups each tea and coffee between dawn and dusk...
So, over to you, dear reader. What’s your frequency? Daily? Once, twice or thrice weekly?