Decanter magazine (March 2008) certainly had much for me to ponder this month. My eye caught an editorial written by Denis Saverot, the editor in chief of La Revue du Vin de France, a major wine magazine in France. The editorial was in response to a bizarre court decision in France that stated newspaper articles on wine, such as wine reviews, had to display health warnings. Saverot did not speak too kindly of the French government.
Rather than address the obvious issue of the silliness of making a wine review add a health warning, I want to address a couple other points in the editorial which really struck me.
First, Saverot places some of the blame in this matter on the pharmaceutical lobby. He states that consumption of wine in France has decreased from 100 liters per person in 1960 to only 45 liters per person in 2008. In comparison, consumption of anti-depressants was minimal in 1960 yet almost 60 million boxes were sold in 2004. This makes France the highest consumers of anti-depressants in the world! That was certainly news to me.
Saverot goes on to say, "Yes, wine is Prozac's competitor." Are these figures accurate? And if so, why such a significant change? It does seem a tragedy if prescription pills have become a substitute for wine. Pills certainly would pose far more health risks than wine. And why is France so depressed? Are any other countries seeing such a spike? This raises so many questions.
Second, Saverot makes an even greater allegation, "Wine, far from endangering health, curbs alcoholism." Saverot offers little evidence to support this allegation. He does note that the two regions in France with the highest rates of alcoholism (Pas de Calais and Brittany) are the only two regions without vines. I don't think that is sufficient evidence to prove his point, though maybe he has additional evidence that he did not put into the short editorial. It certainly is a provocative point. And I am not sure I would really agree in total with his point.
Though, I might grant that a wine culture, where responsible wine drinking is instilled in people throughout their lives, from children to adults, could help decrease alcoholism. It would not be the wine per se that decreased the alcoholism. It would be the emphasis on responsible drinking. I am sure that if wine was a constant part of your life, yet no one instilled in you the value of responsible wine consumption, that alcoholism would be a distinct possibility, if not even a likelihood.