METERFixed news last week for wine drinkers. Research by scientists at Rush Medical Center in Chicago claims that a glass of red with dinner could drastically reduce the risk of developing dementia. Just don’t start too young, say rival researchers at the Uniformed Services University in Maryland, who say children given even a sip of Red water – water reddened by wine – are more likely to end up with addiction problems.
Perhaps the answer, then, is for kids to drink plain wine, which could at least be good for their digestive systems, according to another study. Or barolo, the grape of choice for “emotionally stable” drinkers, according to research on the links between wine preference and personality by researchers at Italian universities. Either way, if you’re among the 60% who are now “seriously curious” (intention, rather than action, is at work here), chances are you’re pouring your wineries into your moisturizer, as Brad Pitt does with his new wine-inspired skincare line, Le Domaine. As long as everyone avoids Buckfast wine. Sales have increased in Scotland, leading some to fear (incorrectly) an increase in crime. Happy season of generous wines, to all.
These are all the news reports from the past week. Reports that may lead you to need a glass of chablis if only to make up for the last item. Because there are few things that capture the British imagination quite like the dos and don’ts of drinking wine. There may well be something to the often contradictory science, but the fact that it is investigated in the first place suggests that there is a market for the results. Gin may be Mum’s downfall, but it’s wine that’s going to kill the rest of us.
“Wine pushes people’s buttons,” he agrees Aaron Aiscough, a respected American wine writer living in Paris. “Readers tend to have an emotional response. probably because [it is] charged with two associations, often contradictory: that of luxury and that of a pastoral rural environment. When we examine wine as a dietary component, we are implicitly appealing to the wisdom of a [lost] rural past.”
“Everyone is chasing a notion of pastoral lifestyle purity that has become so highly valued today precisely because it has all but vanished in contemporary society,” says Ayscough. The centrality of wine in this vision of a lost idyll is part of its symbolic power. And if you like to drink wine and consider drinking wine to be part of your character, you won’t like being told you shouldn’t.
Last year, the UK produced 67,097 hectoliters (one hectoliter is equivalent to about 133 bottles). Italy, however, produced more than 50 million. Climate change could alter this. But wine, in these northern islands, continues to be a symbol of the other, of the exotic.
It’s the stuff of country holidays and European dinner, but there’s also the idea that it’ll get you drunk in an acceptable but cleansing way. For some middle- and upper-middle-class baby boomers, this is more or less a philosophy to live by. “Wine, and particularly natural wine, has become a powerful symbol within this cultural phenomenon,” says Ayscough.
It’s also increasingly pan-generational, recently acquiring something of a millennial/hipster following. Annabel’s, which calls itself “one of the most elegant clubs in the world,” has just launched wine nights for younger patrons. A fun women-led initiative, @dalstonwineclub hosts Beaujolais nights and features photos of wine bottles on their Instagram, executed through a soft filter. There is a wine shop on the same street whose name is written in bubbles, but which I am too intimidated to enter, despite being their target audience.
Class association is something nobody wants to talk about. My generation grew up on Lambrini girls, while Gen Z apparently prefers Whispering Angel, a sparkling pink that Adele raves about. My friends and I dabbled in both. But Whispering Angel isn’t cheap. It’s just positioned as fun rather than serious.
Wine may be drunk a lot, but there is still the idea, old-fashioned as it is, that it is bourgeois to drink it. The idea of the wine connoisseur who smells the aroma and knows the pH has been a staple comic figure for decades. “Americans, in my experience, have much less class anxiety when it comes to wine. We are indoctrinated with a broad sense of consumer law. If it’s for sale, it’s not above our station in life,” says Ayscough.
The fact that it has become the acceptable face of the drink is sure to invite the tabloids to wring their hands. Despite the closure of bars and pubs, bought as much alcohol during the pandemic as before. It’s a logic that seeped through our collective desire to keep cool and keep drinking, as long as it’s a full-bodied red from the Napa viticulture boom of the mid-’90s. Yet the cultural veneration of wine tends to recede. to mean that beating wine bottles is considered more acceptable than beating cans.
Ayscough says it’s best to ignore the press: “I find most of it riddled with derisive class distinctions,” he says. “It feels like watching a sad dinner made up of people who don’t like each other.”