Tag Archives: neo-Prohibitionists

Winebits 614: Alcohol consumption, “bargain” Bordeaux, overpriced beer

alcohol consumptionThis week’s wine news: The Russians cut alcohol consumption by 40 percent, while we find that affordable red Bordeaux costs $20 and a stadium beer vendor got caught overcharging even more than restaurants do

Impressive decline: The neo-Prohibitionists must be rejoicing at the news: “Russian alcohol consumption decreased by 43 percent from 2003 to 2016, a World Health Organization report says.” The BBC report says the decline is credited to advertising restrictions, increased taxes on alcohol, and a ban on alcohol sales between certain hours – all of which have been proposed in one form or another by groups like the Centers for Disease Control to cut U.S. wine, beer, and spirits consumption. The catch? Russia has traditionally been one of the heaviest drinking countries in the world, and the drop in consumption more or less caught Russia up to the rest of the world. For example, the average life expectancy for Russian men rose to all-time high at 68. But it’s 70 for men in the U.S, despite a recent decline, and 79 for men in western Europe, where drinking is common.

Such a deal: Charles Passy, writing in Market Watch, says we can still find affordable red Bordeaux, and he defines affordable as almost $20 a bottle. This is where the Wine Curmudgeon reminds the Winestream Media that $20 a bottle is more than twice the average price of wine sold in the U.S. and that most of us will never spend $20 for a bottle of wine. Or that much French wine that isn’t rose has been overpriced for years. But, given the current climate, if I do that, I’ll probably be criticized as a so-called consumer wine champion full of faux outrage.

Expensive beer: Overpriced booze is nothing new on the blog, as the last item attests. But a Miami beer vendor did us one better. Says the New York Post: “A beer vendor … was arrested after charging a fan $724 for two beers on a personal credit card reader.” How did the vendor get caught? The fan’s credit card company alerted him to the attempted theft on his phone – saved by the same technology that made the overcharge possible. And no, the Wine Curmudgeon won’t make a joke about the winless Dolphins.

Has wine with dinner been turned into binge drinking?

binge drinking

Please, neo-Prohibitonists: Stop these people before they binge drink again.

Yet another booze study characterizes responsible behavior as binge drinking

Another studying demonizing drinking showed up last week, replete with the flaws that have come to characterize these studies. The authors cherry-picked their study group, ignored relevant statistical data, and glossed over any socio-economic and demographic explanations for their conclusion. The result? Old people! Binge drinking!! Death!!!

The other thing that struck me about the study was its definition of binge drinking: four to five drinks in one sitting. In other words, drinking wine with dinner has become just as evil as frat boys chugging Everclear and men of a certain age pounding a six-pack after work and then passing out on the sofa.

My name is the Wine Curmudgeon, and I am a binge drinker.

On Saturday night, I had five glasses of wine with dinner. We had hard-cooked eggs in mustard sauce for a first course, followed by a mock cassoulet (turkey, sausage, a duck leg/thigh, and white beans) served with rice and a cabbage salad. I opened the $10 Pigmentum Gascon white blend with the eggs, which was a terrific pairing (the wine’s citrus fruit complementing the richness of the egg). I drank the fabulous 2011 Bonny Doon Bien Nacido syrah with the cassoulet, and it was an even better pairing – dark, earthy food with a dark, earthy wine.

So how did a full dinner eaten over two or three hours with five glasses of wine turn into binge drinking?

Your guess is as good as mine. The five-drink definition (four for women) comes from the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: Binging is “a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dL This typically occurs after 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men – in about 2 hours.”

Not coincidentally, that 0.08 number is the legal definition of drunk driving in 49 states. If it’s illegal to drive after five drinks, then it’s easy to call something binging. Or, conversely, let’s lower the legal blood alcohol level to 0.08 since the experts call that binge drinking.

And do not think this is an apologia for alcoholism and drunk driving. I know first-hand the horror and pain of each. Rather, it’s a plea for a measured, reasonable, and rational approach to solving the problems they cause.

That’s because drinking is not the problem. Abusing alcohol is the problem. Trying to shame responsible adults into stopping behavior that isn’t shameful won’t do much to stop alcohol abuse. Didn’t the neo-Prohibitonists learn anything from Prohibition? Hopefully, they’ll eventually figure this out. Until then, I’m happy to do my part to explain it to them.

Photo: “company dinner” by Rivard is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0 

More about neo-Prohibitionists, booze studies, and wine drinking:
Cigarettes, wine, and cancer
Drinking, scientific doom and gloom, and perspective
The CDC alcohol death study

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

Winebits 590: Shipwreck wine, Gregg Popovich, liquor laws

shipwreck wineThis week’s wine news: Century-old shipwreck wine off the coast of Cornwall, plus NBA coach Gregg Popovich’s and wine and the National Review takes on the three-tier system

Under water for 100 years: The Wine Curmudgeon must confess to a weakness for stories about shipwreck wine. Why is there such enthusiasm to rescue it, given that it’s probably not going to be drinkable? The most recent story comes from Cornwall, where a ship sailing from Bordeaux was torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1918. Now, a group wants to salvage the cargo. There’s no word on what wine it might include, though a spokesman associated with the operation claims it’s a “one-of-a-kind opportunity to be a part of one of the most significant historical discoveries of the century. The rarity of such a cargo is unprecedented. …” On the other hand, it could be nothing more than pinard, the cheap red wine French soldiers were issued during the war.

NBA wine culture: I don’t often get to write about wine and sports, but this item, from Psychology Today, does just that: “In a neo-Temperance public health period, Gregg Popovich stands apart.” The piece cites Popovich’s embrace of wine culture as something good – not something that will kill all of us if we have one glass. Popovich “is the son of parents from Serbia and Croatia. … For him, wine is essential to group gatherings.” And who can argue with one of the greatest coaches in NBA history?

Too much government: Caleb Whitmer, writing in the National Review, asks: “Are crazy state liquor laws constitutional?” Regular visitors here know the answer to that question, but it is good to see one of the country’s leading political journals address the question. Whitmer misses the role the country’s alcohol distributors play in keeping the system buttoned down, blaming three-tier on local retailers and state legislatures. Still, it’s worthwhile reading, and especially his discussion of Mississippi’s quaint Prohibition-era liquor laws.

Illustration courtesy of Points: The blog of the Alcohol & Drugs History Society, using a Creative Commons license

Winebits 556: Wine is evil edition

wineThis week’s wine news: The neo-Prohibitionists want to stop us from drinking, and they’re going to scare the hell out of us in the process. Right, Starbucks?

You’re going to die: If you drink, no matter how little, bad things will happen. That’s the conclusion of a study published last week in the Lancet, one of the world’s leading medical journals. In this, it goes out of its way to contradict current medical wisdom about moderate drinking, including a quote from one of the Prohibitionists at the federal Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. One would assume that if it’s in the Lancet, the methodology is legitimate, but the story does note that this approach is different from other, less scary, booze studies. And let’s not forget why most of these efforts are seriously flawed. Finally, if you can make it to the end of the surprisingly poorly written story, you’ll see that this study contradicts an earlier Lancet study.

We mean it – you’re going to die: An alcohol research group in Britain says more than two-thirds of booze sales in England are to people who are drinking above safe limits. The rest of the story is the usual anti-drinking frightfest, so it overlooks a key point. The problem is not moderate drinking, but excessive drinking. Because, if one reads carefully, we learn that the four percent of the population who drinks too much in England accounts for 23 percent of the country’s liquor sales. So why punish those of us who aren’t the problem?

Because you’re all going to die: So many of us are so terrified about the health risks of drinking that the next big growth market will be non-alcoholic booze, reports BeverageDaily.com. It forecasts an almost 8 percent growth rate for non- and low-alcohol beer and wine, more than four times the growth rate for wine in the U.S. One of the giggles in the story? Millennials, who are supposed to save the wine business, have made an “incredible shift” to non- and low-alcohol products, says the report.

Prohibition didn’t work then, and it still doesn’t work today

ProhibitionBanning booze has failed in Iran, where you can be whipped for drinking. So why does anyone in the U.S. still think it’s a good idea?

The neo-Prohibitionists, arguing for stiffer laws and higher taxes to stop us from drinking, need to widen their world view. If Prohibition hasn’t worked in Iran, where drinking is punished with floggings and even death, why does anyone think it will work in countries with less repressive governments?

Because, as the New York Times reported (in one of those stories that reminds us how good the best reporting can be), the Iranians realize that almost 40 years of Prohibition has failed. By some estimates, “drinking [among the urban middle class] has become as normal as it is in the West. The Iranian news media have reported that those Iranians who do drink tend to do so more heavily than people even in heavy-drinking countries like Russia and Germany.” In addition, “alcohol is relatively easy to procure. There are alcohol suppliers anyone can call, and they will deliver whatever you want to your doorstep. Dealers receive their goods through a vast illegal distribution network that serves millions with alcohol brought in from neighboring Iraq.”

In other words, Prohibition in Iran ran into the same obstacles that it did in the U.S. – bootlegging and corruption on the supply side, and increased demand that led to excessive drinking and even abuse. Drunkenness has become so widespread, in fact, that the government now permits Alcoholics Anonymous chapters – a stunning reversal of policy in a country where officials always insisted no booze meant no alcoholism.

Said one AA group leader: “These days there is so much alcohol available, simply punishing everybody and using force is no longer working. Drinking and bootlegging used to be viewed as equal crimes, and people would be lashed for being abusers. Now, security officials, the municipality, they all view alcoholics not as criminals, but as patients who need treatment.”

In other words, the key to reducing alcohol abuse is education, not tougher laws like Utah’s two-drink limit. What puzzles me about the neo-Prohibitionist trend in the U.S. is that we’ve seen education work – fewer drunk driving deaths and less underage drinking, and especially over the past 20 years. Yet that hasn’t seemed to make an impression with the Neos.

Hopefully, it will. Otherwise, they’re going to waste time and money on something that they can’t fix. If the Iranians can figure this out, why can’t we?

Images courtesy of the BBC, using a Creative Commons license

Winebits 504: Neo-Prohibitionist edition

neo-PrhobitionistsThis week’s wine news: How the neo-Prohibitionists want to stop us from drinking by passing stricter laws and raising taxes

Higher taxes: Kunmi Sobowale, writing in Scientific American, argues that “alcohol taxation is an effective solution” to reducing drinking and drinking-related violence. “Higher availability of alcohol, particularly bars, increases risk of both intimate partner violence and child maltreatment. Taxing alcohol decreases economic availability.” This is not a new argument; it was part of the Centers for Disease Control alcohol epic in 2014. But what’s different this time is the focus on protecting women and children.

Because higher taxes work: Or least they do with cigarettes, according to a study published in August. It found that when cigarette prices increase by $1 a pack, there is a 20 percent increase in the rate of those who quit smoking. And taxes are among the easiest ways to increase cigarette prices. The difference, of course, is that smoking is not the same as drinking, and that most of us don’t become addicted to alcohol in the way that smokers become hooked on nicotine. I would also argue that there is a tremendous difference between drinking, which doesn’t necessarily kill you, and smoking, which does. Always.

Even the Aussies: Want to drink wine in some Australian pubs after midnight? Then bring ID, since late-night drinkers in the state of Queensland need a passport or drivers license to get in. This is not about age, but is an ID check – in place, say state officials, “to minimize the risk of alcohol-related harm.” So what happens when you don’t have an ID? You cause an international incident. Danish Crown Prince Frederik was turned away from a bar in Brisbane because he didn’t have any, just another in a series of embarrassing incidents. A group of French winemakers were turned away in July from The Gresham, one of Brisbane’s best-known bars because they didn’t have ID, either. One bar owner told the Brisbane Courier Mail that the new rules are “a nightmare – this is just the tip of the iceberg with the prince. It’s happening all the time with normal people.”