Tag Archives: neo-Prohibitionists

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Winebits 441: Neo-Prohibitionists, Prosecco, wine openers

Neo-ProhibitionistsFox in the hen house? Controversial British liquor guidelines, which say no amount of drinking is safe and any booze increases your chance of dying, may have been unduly influenced by Neo-Prohibitionists and anti-drinking lobbyists. A British trade magazine for liquor stores reports that the “panel that devised the guidelines included four members of the Institute of Alcohol Studies, a lobby group bankrolled by the temperance movement.” In addition, the Royal Statistical Society has questioned the math used to come up with the guidelines, but the British health department has refused to change them.

Enough already? How about Prosecco-flavored soft drinks? That’s grinding Houston wine writer Jeremy Parzen, who says “this colonization rape of Italian viticulture egregiously harms our community by propagating mis- and disinformation.” Which is even more curmudgeonly than the WC, though his point is well taken. The Texas retailer that sells this stuff has also been known to sell quality Italian pinot grigio with signs saying to use it as a mixer for sangria or other wine-based cocktails.

Shoot that cork: The Wine Curmudgeon’s antipathy towards corks is well known, so I’m not sure why I’m running this item (I’d rather have a sonic screwdriver). But the 12-year-old in me can’t help it; as the headline on this post says, “There is absolutely no reason for a wine gun to exist, but you’ll want one anyway.” It’s a rechargeable gizmo – put the barrel on the cork, pull the trigger, and the cork comes out. The post says it works well, though I can’t imagine it works better than a screwcap.

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Winebits 420: Drinking is evil edition

drinking is evilThe neo-Prohibitionists were in the news again last week, reminding us that drinking is evil and we’d better quit — or else.

? Stop drinking and do it now: The British government has decided that “there is no ‘safe’ level of alcohol consumption and drinking just a small amount may in fact increase the risk of some cancers.” As part of this, the government is lowering the amount of alcohol that one should drink to about six glasses of wine a week, and telling drinkers to abstain two days a week to allow their livers to recover. And all those studies that point to a red wine health benefit? Nope — there is “no safe level of alcohol consumption” for the middle aged.

? Wine producers are liars: I wasn’t going to write about this, since the study has several problems — as one of its authors admits — but a reader’s email changed my mind. The study intimates that U.S. wineries lie about the amount of alcohol in their products to get us drunk. And when that happens, who knows what evil lurks just around the corner courtesy of Demon Rum? This story is also another reason not to pay too much attention to wine coverage in the Washington Post that isn’t written by my pal Dave McIntyre.

? Bring on the labels: One reaction to the neo-Prohibitionists has been Big Wine’s enthusiasm for nutrition labels, which is about the only good thing associated with the neos. The latest convert is the world’s biggest beer company, which pledged to include full nutritional and calorie information on 80 percent of its United Kingdom beer packaging by the end of 2017. “Consumers are getting savvier about their daily calorie consumption and are actively looking at nutritional information,” said a spokeswoman. “While the EU continues to discuss the best way forward for nutritional labeling in our industry, we want to give consumers the information they need at their fingertips to make well informed choices and enjoy our products responsibly.” We’ll ignore that most of the companies who do this are doing so to get ahead of the liquor cops.

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Winebits 363: CDC, lawsuits, Big Wine

CDC excessive drinking ? Saving us from ourselves: The Centers of Disease Control is at it again, reassuring those of us who drink too much that there is hope. Says the head of the health agency’s alcohol program: ?Many people tend to equate excessive drinking with alcohol dependence. We need to think about other strategies to address these people who are drinking too much but who are not addicted to alcohol. ? This strikes me like being sort of pregnant, but what really matters is that the CDC’s definition of excessive drinking is wine with dinner, and this fact doesn’t appear in the story. For which the Wine Curmudgeon must call out Tara Parker-Pope at the New York Times for repeating that assertion. Which, as near as I can tell after doing the reporting, is scientifically unfounded.

? When is Champagne not Champagne? When it’s the name of a wine writer, reports Decanter, the British wine magazine. Hence the lawsuit filed by France ?s Champagne trade association against Australian Rachel Jayne Powell, who goes by Champagne Jayne. Since Powell also writes about other sparkling wine, the Champagne group says her name violates European Union rules. Their logic? That Champagne can only come from the Champagne region of France, so a writer who uses Champagne as a name can only write about Champagne. The case is scheduled to go to trial next week in Melbourne, believe it or not, and Decanter reports that it could set precedents. The Wine Curmudgeon, whose aversion to silly lawsuits like this is well known, has a suggestion: Settle by letting Powell call herself champagne Jayne with a small C, since every wine geek knows Champagne only comes from Champagne with a capital C.

? Yet another million case producer: One of my goals with the blog is to help consumers understand that most of the wine we drink doesn’t come from artisanal producers, but from Big Wine — the multi-million case producers who dominate the business. That’s why this two-part interview with someone I’ve barely heard of is worthwhile. In it, Vintage Point’s David Biggar talks about his company’s 17 brands, the best known of which is Layer Cake. In this, what the wines taste like barely comes up, though there is plenty of discussion about pricing, distribution and the three-tier system, and margins. Which is what the wine business really is, and not all that foolishness that the Winestream Media would have you believe.

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Winebits 355: Underage drinking, lawsuits, drunks

wine news underage drinking ? You can’t learn from me: A study reported at the Partnership for Drug Free Kids found parents can’t teach their children responsible drinking. The catch? One definition of teaching responsible drinking is parents buying the booze for a beer bash. Sigh. How about parents letting their children have wine with dinner, to show them it’s not something unusual or forbidden? The study’s approach, to demonize booze, reminds me of the way we tried to demonize sex for teenagers, substituting abstinence for education. Which didn’t work very well. As I wrote when I was writing that sort of thing: “Teach kids to make intelligent decisions, and they ?ll make intelligent decisions. Tell kids what not to do, and they ?ll do what they ?re not supposed to do every time. Isn ?t that one of the first rules of being a good parent?”

? Even more lawyers: One of the first things I wrote here discussed fake wine terms; that is, those that appear on the bottle to describe wine but have no legal meaning and are used to confuse consumers. Now, it looks like we’re going to see some definition, with lawsuits filed against spirits producers who used the terms handmade and local, both of which have no legal standing but are used all the time. Even though the Wine Curmudgeon is not a lawyer, he has some advice for the producers they should listen to: Settle. You know, as well as I do, what’s going on here. And you don’t want to put that in front of a jury,

? No more, please, I’m a drunk: This item probably deserved its own post, complete with interview, picture, and my incredibly erudite comments in praise of the writer. But given that I’ve already written something like this and I don’t want to bore you, this will have to suffice: Janet Street-Porter, writing in London’s Daily Mail, has had her fill of government agencies telling her she is an alcoholic. “Two glasses of wine a night doesn’t mean I’m a drunk.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

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What the media didn’t tell you about the CDC alcohol death study

CDC binge drinkingThis is not a critique of the science in the Centers for Disease Control study that equated drinking wine with dinner as binge drinking. I’m not a doctor or researcher. I’m also not questioning the health, emotional, and social costs of alcoholism; I’ve attended too many funerals.

Rather, this is a critique (based on a story I wrote for the Wine Business International trade magazine) of the shoddy and slipshod reporting done by most of the media, wine and otherwise, when the study was released. That is something I am qualified to do after 35 years as a journalist.

Journalism, something that I love and have spent my professional life trying to do well, is in a sorry state. How the study was covered demonstrates this all too well. Too many news organizations, regardless of size or reputation, are lazy, sloppy, and willing to accept what someone says — be it the CDC, the government, or big business — without asking questions. And journalism is about asking questions. These days, though, it’s cheaper and easier and less offensive to advertisers if you re-write a news release, throw some hyperlinks in it, and call it reporting. Or rewrite what another news organization has already rewritten.

My reason for being, even in wine, is to try not to do that. Here are the questions the media didn’t ask when the CDC study was released:

? Where did the excessive drinking standard come from? Why is the standard eight drinks a week for women and 15 for men? In fact, these come from a 2006 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, and are based on the U.S. government’s dietary guidelines: ?drink alcoholic beverages… in moderation, which is defined as no more than 1 drink per day for women and no more than 2 drinks per day for men. ? Which is not exactly the same thing as excessive drinking.

? Why does this study contradict what one eminent cardiologist told me “is a reasonable certainty, based on hundreds of studies over the past decade, that moderate drinking as part of the Mediterranean diet that includes fruits and vegetables, olive oil, and wine, will benefit cardiac health. It’s the difference between partying and wine with a meal. ?

? Why now? Why is alcohol suddenly in the spotlight? Note that the CDC study came in the wake of the proposal by the National Transportation Safety Board to lower the blood alcohol limit for drunken driving by one-third.

? Why these solutions — higher taxes, fewer liquor licenses for stores and restaurants, and an end to wet-dry elections and state deregulation? Will these prevent alcoholism, or will they penalize responsible drinkers?

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Winebits 341: The Neo-Prohibitionists’ new study

Neo-Prohibitionist studyA roundup of the recent news from the Centers for Disease Control that excessive drinking is killing 1 in 10 working-age Americans, another scientific study in the Neo-Prohibitionist effort to stop us from drinking by scaring us to death. And where no one bothered to check this out:

? NPR’s sobering picture: The bad pun is there because, believe it or not, someone working for a major U.S. news outlet used the pun in the story. The report, written by Nancy Shute, says 1 in 6 of us binge drink, but doesn’t question one of the study’s definitions of excessive drinking: eight drinks a week for women and 15 for men. Which implies that most core wine drinkers in the U.S. are binging, including the Wine Curmudgeon. So why is two glasses of wine with dinner excessive? I expect more from NPR, which usually does better reporting than its competitors and doesn’t accept on faith whatever the government says.

? Got to have charts:The Washington Post’s Lenny Bernstein seemed quite surprised at the statistics in the study, including what he called “the eye-opening charts included in the report.” Maybe. But there were almost 15,000 homicides in the U.S. in 2012, according to the FBI, while the CDC attributed about half of those to excessive drinking. That difference is what’s eye-opening to me: That about the same number of us killed someone and weren’t drunk when we did it. Does this mean we need to regulate sobriety?

? Get rid of booze, get rid of the problem: The solution to all of this? “.. [I]ncreasing alcohol taxes, regulating alcohol outlet density, and avoiding further privatization of alcohol retail sales.” Which, of course, is exactly the aim of the NeoDrys — regulate drinking by making it more expensive, reducing the number of places where we can buy it, and keeping government involved in selling it, as in Pennsylvania. This is instead of outlawing drinking, which didn’t work the last time. That education, and not regulation is the answer seems to be beyond their understanding. Perhaps someone can explain why Pennsylvania, with some of the most restrictive liquor laws in the country, had the same death rate as Illinois, where you can buy scotch at the drug store, or Louisiana, where drinking is a tourist industry?

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Wine will kill you — or not

Wine will kill you -- or notThe Wine Curmudgeon will periodically relax his long-time ban on wine-related health news on the blog to remind everyone why there is a ban on health news on the blog. Like when we’re told wine will kill you — or not:

? A former World Health Organization official says “moderate drinking is better than abstaining and heavy drinking is worse than abstaining – ? however the moderate amounts can be higher than the guidelines say, ? as much as a bottle of wine a day.

? A current World Health Organization officlal says half of new cancers over the next 20 years are preventable if people change their lifestyles, and that includes giving up drinking.

How are we supposed to make a decision given such contradictory opinions from two people who seem to have the same qualifications? It’s enough, if you don’t mind the bad joke, to drive one to drink.

Some of this, as noted before, is sloppy reporting. But some of it is the medical community, which often lumps drinking with tobacco as inherently evil — except when it doesn’t. Too many studies are either limited in scope or seem to pick and choose to fit the researcher’s agenda. Cases in point: The alcoholism rate in the U.S. is about 8 percent for adults, while it may be as high as 14 percent in Russia. And that a majority of alcohol-related deaths in the U.S. involve non-Latino whites, but that the highest death rates were among Native Americans and Alaska Natives. None of the numbers offers the demographic pattern for a one size fits all solution.

One day, perhaps, the medical community will figure this out. Until then, the ban remains.