The intoxicated elephant in the room

For most of us, drinking wine is not just about intoxication. (Photo: Terje Sollie from Pexels)

Wine books, and wine columns for that matter, seldom deal with the sensitive subject of intoxication. Intoxication is the elephant in the room.

The growing popularity of low alcohol wines is further evidence that given the option many people will choose lighter wines.

Google “alcohol effect” and it’s not wine websites that lead the charge. It’s a bunch of rather more sobering sites with addresses such as alcohol.org.nz, alcoholrehabguide.org and drugfreeworld.org. I suspect they want us to quit rather than help us find a better wine than the one we had last night.

The Oxford Companion to Wine (fourth edition) does have a section on drunkenness, but it deals with the history of drunkenness rather than the physiological aspects of it. I learned that Plato advised not to drink wine until you were 18 and to drink it moderately until you were 30. The chief reason that wine has been so loved is its power to intoxicate, according to the Oxford Companion.

Is the power to intoxicate the chief reason we look forward to a glass of wine at the end of a long hard day? Or is it the familiar flavour and texture of an old favourite, the stimulation of something new or perhaps the pleasure of sipping a chilled white with a salty blue cheese?

For most of us, drinking wine is not just about intoxication. When distillation first arrived in Europe in the 12th century, I’m sure many people might have wondered whether this “fast track to intoxication” might have a big impact on wine. It didn’t.

If recreational marijuana is legalised in New Zealand it is unlikely to undermine wine consumption to any great degree. Marijuana is just about the intoxication effect while wine has many other attractions.

The growing popularity of low alcohol wines is further evidence that given the option many people will choose lighter wines. I’ll drink to that.

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