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Do You Drink too much Wine

Posted: Friday, 11 August 2017 12:30


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Blog : Do You Drink too much Wine

August 11: Health benefits of drinking wine in moderation with few harmful effects are well documented but it is moot how many can drink within the safe limits and it’s possible that, you could get addicted to wine as any other drugs or alcohol and turn alcoholic as reaffirmed recently by a Master of Wine admitting being a recovering alcoholic and having no qualms talking about it as he has been sober for the last 25 years and only sipping and spitting wines at tastings, writes Subhash Arora

Click For Large ViewI am frequently asked by several novices who look at my pictures in Facebook with beautiful ladies by my side and a glass of wine in hand. They speculate I drink too much and at times even warn me subtly against it. Many ignoramuses even believe wine is liquor and think I must drink whiskey, vodka and every alcohol on earth which they feel is bad and as well-wishers want me to refrain in my interest.

I explain to them patiently that the glass in hand is not what I am generally drinking. I pick up any glass-preferably a red because it encourages the use of the healthier option. But that is for the shoot only-I keep it back on the table and move on. Ditto for the pretty girls! And they are shell-shocked when I tell them that wine tasting is merely sipping and spitting and theoretically it is possible to taste wine without drinking at all; a few drops going down the gullet notwithstanding. Many experts have even mastered the technique of practically no drops going down at all.

A very good friend of mine who is a Master of Wine has developed the technique just for that reason. Known to have been an alcoholic in his hay day, he was strongly advised by his doctor to quit drinking completely as it was poison for his body. Being in the wine trade, that would be a disaster and tragedy as he is a wonderful taster and is revered by those who appreciate tasting skills. Ain another case, I met a robust looking wine journalist who was judging with me in Chile a few years ago. He did not believe in spitting and would drink up all the wine poured in his glass, and was proud of this feat. I hope he is doing well and has not become alcoholic by now.

There is a fellow journalist from Belgium, who I meet several times in Europe. I am impressed by his penchant and capacity for drinking wine and his tasting prowess. After tasting the whole day, having wines with lunch and at dinner, he is always game to taste more wines. (At dinner during the judging events), its not a good etiquette to spit after sipping but after taking a few sips may empty the glass). I was shocked when he told me he drank two  bottles of wine everyday! Knowing his age, i told him light-heartedly that according to my calculations, he should have been dead 5 years ago because of too much damage by alcohol. I thought he would snub me but he was sporting enough and surprised me as I smiled when he told me the following year that had had cut down to one bottle a day!

I am perpetually shocked when I see journalists coming back to the hotel after a hearty meal with several wines and heading straight to the bar. Only occasionally I express my surprise and angst at how much they can drink- even if it is wine. Even some producers tell me there was no problem in drinking any amount of wine since it had natural alcohol not through distillation. Since there is no such thing as second-hand drinking, I refrain from passing any comments, aware that many of them already have an excessive drinking problem or  are heading towards being alcoholic.

Relevant Case of a Master of Wine

I was inspired to write this Blog thanks to an article in Forbes on August 8 by a Master of Wine, Tim Hanni, a wine industry faculty member at Sonoma State University, and a recovering alcoholic in sobriety for 25 years. He recognised the problem and decided the only way he could lick it was by quitting cold turkey.

Tim Hanni is exceptionally vocal and frank about his experience and insists he is not alone in the struggle against over-consumption and lack of balance. There's ignorance about alcoholism and the dynamics of addiction, he says. Rather than having a balance of people in your life, you tend to gravitate to the people who have this problem- because no one wants to admit. ‘My alcoholism is something that I knew for a long, long time,’ he admits.

‘I do taste wine and spit and I've been sober for 25 years.  I believe I can be an expert about wine business and teach, with no need to drink. If I were still drinking, it would have never occurred to me to investigate this problem (many don’t even feel they have a problem). I found that a lot of my work has improved tremendously as a result of not drinking or having to defend my position of "I deem these wines to be the best," he says.

Click For Large ViewIt might be relevant for young chefs to know that Tim was also a chef and was working professionally in the industry. ‘You get off at mid-night, you're wired and go out with a bunch of people who are in the business because of the flexibility and the transient nature of restaurant work. It was a great place to become an alcoholic.’

He stresses that the problem is not only in the wine industry but can be in any environment which makes a difference only in how it manifests and who you're hanging with and how you're justifying what you're doing. Being in the trade gives you an excuse to be around people who often share your predispositions.’

Piece of Advice from the Master

‘One needs to understand the disease aspect of alcoholism. If you have the genetic markers and the family history, you must take a good look at your motives and ask yourself if you'll be able to maintain a safe degree of sobriety. The big challenge is that we don't usually think that far ahead,’ concluding that there are several ways by which you can seek help now and total abstinence in not a must as it was in his case.

I would not venture to preach on the subject but my take is the same as Tim-wine is good for you but you must know where and how to stop drinking. There may not be a turning back if you get so hooked to it that you need to have a bottle of champagne to share with friends after a hearty meal with 5-6 or even at times 20 wines or more at a wine dinner, you need to seek help.

Subhash Arora

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