Regular readers will know that I rarely discuss my personal life. It is not the purpose of this blog, which is about ideas on health, wellbeing and getting more out of life. However this week, one issue has seen an intersection between a personal interest of mine and a broader public health matter.
I enjoy a glass of wine and have a modest cellar. There is something fascinating about wine making and the entire process which starts in the soil and then includes the angle the vines make to the sun, weather, when the grapes are picked and of course the selection and handling.
A bottle of wine can develop for decades in the bottle. Opening an aged bottle can make one reflect on what one was doing when the wine was made. I am fortunate to have a few bottles older than my house and two children.
Ten years ago it was tricky to get wines from outside Australia. Today it is easy to get wines from all around the world Beer drinkers too, are spoilt for choice. When I was at University you could tell which state you were in by the beer on offer. Today there is a plethora of craft beers from local and overseas makers.
Which brings me to Saturday afternoon spent at the Re Store (who have not paid me a cent) browsing through wines at their annual sale. I managed to bring home a mixed dozen with wines from Chile, Spain, Italy, and Australia as well as tasting others from France and New Zealand.
This store has been around for many years. It has no formal separation between the food and liquor sections – a requirement today. Somehow the world has kept spinning. When Aldi (also European) applied to do the same thing there are “concerns”.
Aldi’s application to sell wine in one of their stores was ultimately rejected because the prices were “too cheap”. The same shopping centre already has a liquor store run by Woolworths. It wasn’t the competitor that objected, it was the Police Commissioner and the usual coterie of nanny statists who object to every new liquor store or licensed venue.
The notion is that if prices are cheaper people will drink more. That argument may have some limited validity although nothing will stop people driving a few kilometers further to save money if that is what is required. But it falls down when the same people oppose the licensing of venues where alcohol is expensive!
Fact – some people drink too much. The vast majority of people who drink alcohol do so for enjoyment and without harming themselves or anyone else. The European approach to drinking is far more sensible. It is done as part of socialising and family time and not separated from that. In other words people do not “go out to drink” but may drink when they go out.
In Italy it has been proposed that children learn about wine culture in primary school. In France, appreciating wine starts in the home and long before the age of 18. In Australia and the USA there is a mentality that believes even one drop of wine before age 18 will do some major damage.
And at 18 (or 21), off they go with no supervision or guidance. I am not advocating getting children to drink, but the European approach makes far more sense if the aim is to reduce harmful drinking.
Learning to drive requires adult supervision before you get a license. It would make sense to have some adult oversight of teens drinking alcohol. What better place than at the family dinner table as is the case in Europe.
Wine, or indeed any alcoholic drink is not an essential part of life. It can be an enjoyable one and that is likely why it has persisted in human society since before Roman times.
The problem in the 21st century is that our approach is less driven by logic and more by Puritanism as H.L Mencken defined it “The haunting fear that someone, somewhere might be happy”.
Dr Joe Kosterich M.B.B.S is an author, speaker, media presenter and health industry consultant, who wants you to be healthy and get the most out of life. Dr Joe also gives practical, motivational health talks for the general public and organisations where he is known as “An independent doctor who talks about health”.
His latest book “60 minutes to Better Health” is available on Amazon.