Health and the Aesthetic Approach to Wine

wine drinkerThe writing’s on the wall. Wine is in danger of succumbing to the new prohibitionists. The health industry has declared war on alcohol.

Silicon Valley Bank’s annual wine industry report has been warning for years about health considerations reducing interest in wine among young people.  The USA’s 2020 Dietary Guidelines Committee explicitly points to alcohol as a factor in obesity, cancer and a variety of other illnesses and advocates a concerted policy to reduce alcohol consumption. W. Blake Gray recently reported on European regulations that may begin to treat alcohol as a health hazard like tobacco.

At issue is a report adopted in December from the Parliament’s Special Committee on Beating Cancer (BECA) that recommends treating alcohol like tobacco. Most dangerous, long-term, is that the report says there is no safe level of alcohol consumption. If lawmakers accept that as a fact, then they are duty-bound to reduce or eliminate alcohol as much as possible.

As Gray points out, “I’m not sure how many wine lovers realize how many wine events are at least partially subsidized by EU money.” Wine press junkets, consumer tastings, wine dinners, etc. throughout the world are often subsidized by EU money. If the EU pulls their support for wine marketing sales could suffer.

So we have a problem. How is the wine industry to respond? This piece from ARENI Global has some good ideas about associating wine with nature, respect for the environment, and authenticity.

We also must aggressively push back against the idea that any level of alcohol consumption is dangerous. I’m no medical researcher but as far as I can tell, the evidence that moderate wine consumption is unhealthy is exceedingly thin. But prohibitionists don’t do nuance.

But I think we can go further to dissociate wine from the culture of excessive drinking. Wine is the kind of beverage that you can thoroughly enjoy while nursing a 5 ounce pour over the course of an hour or more. Much of the enjoyment comes from sniffing and taking small sips that we savor for several minutes. If you drink wine too quickly you miss the nuances and if you drink too much you lose the mental edge that allows you to fully appreciate what you’re drinking.

Aesthetic appreciation of wine requires that we drink it in moderation. This is the comparative advantage wine has over any other alcoholic beverage. We need to push that advantage.


  1. I have followed this new trend to banish the consumption of alcohol by the media with some interest. Many studies that point to correlations between moderate alcohol consumption and poor health outcomes suffer from sample biases, small samples, poor control of other variables that might skew the outcome of statistical analyses, poor statistical analyses and biased interpretation of the correlations observed. Wine makers and grape growers need to unite and have a skilled statistician look at those publications, and have a good science communicator fire back with more positive headlines. What happened to “wine is good for you” headlines of some five years ago? Have the health outcomes of moderate drinking changed? I don’t think so. I agree with you that the prohibitionists are out there to get the industry. They want us to have more years to live, but nothing worthwhile to live for.

  2. Hi Alessandra,
    Thanks for your comment. I entirely agree. I don’t see any empirical basis for these attacks on moderate drinking. And your suggestion for the wine industry to analyze and publish rebuttals is crucially important.

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