Tag Archives: alcohol consumption

Are the neo-Prohibitionists winning the debate about drinking?

neo-ProhibitionistsNew data shows neo-Prohibitionists campaign against drinking may be making headway

Are the neo-Prohibitionists winning the debate about drinking? New data, including a study about world alcohol consumption, shows fewer of us are drinking. Does this mean more people believe their argument that all booze is evil?

Worldwide alcohol consumption declined 1.6 percent in 2018, according to a report from IWSR, a London consultancy. And wine, which had increased in consumption globally the past several years, also declined 1.6 percent in 2018. That included leading markets like China, Italy, France, Germany and Spain; the U.S. market was flat.

In addition, reported IWSR, “Low- and no-alcohol brands are showing significant growth in key markets as consumers increasingly seek better-for-you products, and explore ways to reduce their alcohol intake.” Growth of no-alcohol wine is forecast at 13.5 percent, with low-alcohol wine at 5.6 percent. Those are impressive numbers to begin with, even acknowledging the small base, and it’s even more impressive given how few no- and low-alcohol wine products exist today.

Meanwhile, Australians – usually regarded as some of the world’s great drinkers – have cut their alcohol consumption significantly since 2014. No one was more surprised than the CEO of the research institute that did the study, who noted that booze is seen as having “a central role” in Australian life. But no more?

What’s going on here? Know that the IWSR study includes a variety of caveats about why consumption declined, and that it expects drinking to return to growth over the next several years. But when the study identifies Ethiopia as one of the top 10 growth markets in the world, something is much different than we’re used to.

In this, it’s almost certainly the idea that any kind of drinking is bad for us. The IWSR study hints at this, with the growth in no- and low-alcohol products, but so does something else. In the U.S. we’ve always faced a religious backlash against drinking, and it’s the main reason why so much of the country was dry until the 1990s.

But that backlash seems to have ended. A May 2019 Gallup poll found that 79 percent of Americans found drinking morally acceptable; only 19 percent said it was a sin. That makes booze as acceptable as divorce and more acceptable than non-marital sex, says Gallup.

So if more of us are drinking less, and that seems to be the case, then the neo-Prohibitionists’ scare tactics seem to be working. Hopefully, the wine business will eventually take notice and offer a compelling argument in favor of moderation. Its current hear no evil, see no evil, premiumization is the answer to everything policy might work in the short run, but doesn’t offer much for the future of wine drinking in the U.S.

More about the neo-Prohibitionists and drinking:
Health alert: Does the CDC know how dangerous Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte is?
Cigarettes, wine, and cancer
The federal government’s three drink limit

Are Americans turning away from wine?

wine preferenceThe number of of us who prefer wine over beer and spirits is at a 14-year low

Unwelcome news for those of us who care about wine: The number of Americans who say they prefer wine over beer and spirits is at a 14-year low.

A July Gallup poll found that 40 percent of us who drink alcohol prefer beer, while 30 percent prefer wine and 26 percent like spirits best. The 30 percent figure is the lowest since 2003, and approaches the historical lows of the 1990s. The trend has continued downward since its peak of 39 percent in 2005, when wine passed beer as the most popular alcoholic beverage in the U.S.

So what’s causing this?

Premiumization, in which we’re paying more for wine that isn’t especially better. Higher prices almost always have something to do with how we decide what we buy. The downward trend, which started in 2009, almost exactly coincides with premiumization.

The decline in restaurant wine sales, again thanks to higher prices. Those of us who might have a glass or two when we eat out may have given that up to save money.

• The craft beer movement, as well Big Beer’s panic-fueled marketing to regain the favor of U.S. drinkers.

• An uptick in the number of Americans who say they don’t drink, at around 38 percent from 35 percent in 2005. My guess is that many of these people are wine drinkers who drink only on birthdays, anniversaries and holidays, but have given up alcohol for health or pricing reasons.

Winebits 463: Foolish wine drinks, Texas wine, alcohol consumption

foolish wine drinksThis week’s wine news: How is this for a foolish wine drink? Hot chocolate made with cabernet sauvignon, plus Texas wine and booze consumption

Not in my mouth: The Wine Curmudgeon is ever vigilant to keep the hipsters and various dudes from doing to wine what they have done to other parts of American life, like the fedora. So know that one of their newest is something called red wine hot chocolate, which made me shudder when I read about it. Talk about a foolish wine drink. Mixing red wine and chocolate is bad enough, but red wine and milk? Note to hipsters: There is already something like this, and it’s called Irish coffee, and it will get any winter drinking job done that needs getting done without ruining a decent glass of red wine.

Not in my state: How do we know Texas wine is worth drinking? Because a glossy travel magazine quotea a San Francisco food and wine writer saying so. There is a Curmudgie in this for someone, I think. “As a wine writer in California, I certainly don’t feel any need to pay attention to Texas,” says Jordan Mackay. “But as someone who grew up in Texas, I’m fascinated by it. The fact that a wine culture can switch from inappropriate grapes to esoterica like Trebbiano and Montepulciano is really cool.” How did I ever go all these years without once using the word ‘esoterica’ in any of my writing?

Not in my country: Alcohol consumption in the United Kingdon has fallen by nearly 20 percent over the past 10 years, and alcohol per capita is about the same as it was in 1979, reports thedrinksbusiness.com. Apparently, the country’s campaign against booze, which has included education, minimum pricing, and new laws is working. In this, says the article, the British drinks business must focus not on getting people to drink just to drink, but to get them to drink whatever will become popular as these drinking patterns continue to change. It’s an interesting article and speaks to the challenges facing the alcohol business as younger people drink less than their parents and grandparents.

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?

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?

It’s true — Americans don’t drink much wine

The World Health Organization, which tracks alcohol-related deaths, does an annual report detailing alcohol consumption. The results are always intriguing; the 2011 report noted that "one-in-five men in the Russian Federation and neighbouring countries die due to alcohol-related causes."

The Wine Curmudgeon mentions it here because it sheds a very bright light on something that has come up quite a bit on the blog over the past couple of years. To all of the hullabaloo about the U.S. and its status as an important wine drinking country, the WHO report says, "not really." Alcohol consumption rates in the U.S. lag most of the world, and wine consumption in the U.S. lags beer and spirits consumption. In addition, says the WHO report, countries in the Americas (which would be us), had relatively stable consumption levels.

This is not marketing-driven puff designed to make everyone in the wine business feel better about themselves. These are facts from WHO, an organization that could care less about scores and toasty and oaky. So the wine business can pat itself on the back as much as it wants (which it does), but the facts show the U.S. is not a wine drinking country and doesn't appear to be heading that way. And very few people, other than me, seem bothered by this.

Best yet, there's a map of world booze consumption, courtesy of The Economist magazine (and a tip o' the Curmudgeon's fedora to Lew Perdue at Wine Industry Insight, who ran the map last week).

image from media.economist.com