Thursday, March 13, 2008

Wine is Prozac's Competitor?

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.


Gabriella Opaz said...

First off, I'm glad that someone gave some explanation behind France's decision to place new warning on their labels, albeit subjective. I had read about this decision about a month ago, feeling absolutely disillusioned that France would fall victim to such bureaucracy. I had always imagined France as the wine utopia, continually fighting to keep the romance of wine alive and vibrant throughout the world.

Secondarily, I'm equally shocked that France is the highest consuming nation of anti-depressants! I could imagine a dozens of other countries that would rank higher if only for their physical conditions alone, not to mention their emotional and mental states of constantly lacking basic resources.

Lastly, and you know I have to do this Richard ;-) but isn't your statement "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" supporting our prior thesis on Catavino about children being exposed to wine as a positive influence, while negating your previous thesis that exposing wine education to children may lead them towards alcoholism.

Richard Auffrey said...

Hi Gabriella!
Always good to get your input. :)

As to your last point, no it does not negate what I have previously said at all. My statement does not contradict anything I have said before.

I never stated that educating children about wine per se was wrong. What I was concerned with is that such education absolutely needed parental support. Without that parental support, without those parents reinforcing the message of responsible drinking, then you could have problems.

If Johnny goes to school, learns about wine but comes home to a drunken father every night, he probably is not going to fully grasp the concept of responsible drinking. A "wine culture" must include far more than just wine classes in school. It must touch on many other aspects of society. And must start with the parents.

And you previously granted that parental involvement was necessary. :)

Thanks as always.

Gabriella Opaz said...

Ahhh...okay! I actually took your comments a little differently, but now I see your point. I totally agree!

Taster A said...

France has been a hotbed of psychiatry for over 200 years. Make no mistake, psych drugs are big business and ethics are not high on their list. Witness the attacks on our children in schools. But don’t get me started.

The pharmaceutical have our health and happiness al the lowest priority. It is the proliferation of psych drugs that is important and the billions that it generates. Natural health care practices have been under attack for the last 20 years. It does not surprise me that they would see wine as the competition. Or even more insidious, trying to equate psych drugs with wine. Hey, if wine needs warning adds and it isn’t dangerous, then neither are psych drugs.

Sorry for being a downer, but that is the way it is.