I drink wine every day, or nearly every day. Oh, I see you, Loki.
Saying that in many places (North America, much of northern Europe) seems like an admission of a serious problem. Yet, cultural attitudes and the science of drinking behavior and its ramifications tell a different story.
In places like France and Italy, cultural tendencies mostly go like this: you can drink wine every day, but consumption to the point of inebriation is considered a huge no-no. Don’t be the guy/gal who is drunk at a wedding. Keep it together, chief. Wine is usually an adjunct to food.
In places like the US, drinking wine with lunch or every night with dinner raises eyebrows, but getting hammered from time to time is socially acceptable. Haha! He’s that guy who got drunk at the wedding! Many Americans slink home from work and self-medicate in semi-secret. We even joke about it because hey, you’re either laughing or you’re crying, right? There is a certain degree of shame associated with drinking, and a pronounced backlash against it, with the normalization of heavy consumption a sort of cultural trope.
In countries where drinking wine regularly is frowned upon, the rate of alcoholism is significantly higher (as measured by all kinds of stuff*: drunk driving arrests, participation in AA style programs, hospitalizations, causes of mortality). In addition, there seems to be some fairly robust evidence that regular, moderate wine consumption insulates populations from coronary heart disease.
The famed “French Paradox” emerged after studies revealed the French were statistical outliers, falling far below other nations with similar diets (aka high in saturated fats and dairy, which are known CHD contributors), income, lifestyle, infrastructure, etc. in terms of occurrence of CHD. After further study, it became clear that the frequent and moderate presence of wine in the daily habits of French people was likely the differentiating factor. To your health, indeed!
When I took that life-changing (and perhaps life-saving) trip to Tuscany in 2009, I watched the habits of my Spanish and Italian colleagues with curiosity. Espresso before shower, then something savory and small with a stout juice-glass of red wine before heading out for morning classes. Lunch was a 90 minute affair, again, with water and wine for everyone at the table, and heaps of salad, beans, pasta, and fruit. Dinner was anticipated every night, and I remember thinking “This is the way life is meant to be” as our group of twenty conversed over many bottles of wine, fresh food and no cell phone signals.
It’s a style of living I would very much like to return to, and I can’t help but think that for all of the bluster about the American way of life being the reason for our success, there is much to be said about the old-world rituals surrounding food, drink, people, and quality of life. Our time should be savored, and perhaps the definition for a successful life would be better measured in belly laughs, sunsets, and the warmth created by the people we care about.
I know there is a heap of hard work in front of me, including hours upon hours of manual labor during the upcoming harvest, if I am accepted for a winery internship. It will all be worth it if it tips the scales from trying in vain to master the rat race in favor of becoming instead: a cellar rat. 🙂