Fighting Alcoholism With… Alcohol?

In preparing this daily blog for Vinesse, I do a great deal of reading, check numerous sources and correspond with a lot of people.

But I have to admit that a story that first appeared just over a week ago completely escaped my vinous radar. This was especially strange because the source—the website of the magazine Decanter—is one I peruse regularly.

I’m sure if humorist Dave Barry, who I consider one of the funniest people on the planet, had seen the headline I’m about to share with you, he would have started salivating.

Here is the headline on a story written by Panos Kakaviatos that went live on on August 30:

“Wine will curb alcoholism, says Russian president”

I can just see Mr. Barry re-typing those words—perhaps never before seen in that exact order in the history of mankind—and then invoking his famous catchphrase, in all capital letters: I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP!

Before going any further, let’s get the disclaimer out of the way: There is absolutely nothing funny about alcoholism. Those who suffer from it should get help. Those who know people who suffer from it should help those people get help. It’s an affliction that impacts the lives of not only those who have it, but of countless innocent people.But this really isn’t a story about alcoholism; it’s a story about a clueless politician. (Okay, I guess this isn’t such an unsual story after all…)

According to Kakaviatos’ story, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said that Russians should “drink more wine to fight widespread alcohol abuse.”

It’s well known that Russia has an alcoholism problem. One news organization called it a “national disaster,” noting that the life expectancy for a Russian male has dropped to just 601.

The problem, of course, is not wine. It’s vodka. And Medvedev began tackling the problem more than a year ago when he enacted new—much higher—minimum prices on vodka.

But to fight alcoholism by encouraging people to drink more wine? It’s still alcohol, which means it’s still like chocolate cake to an alcoholic.

There’s always the possibility that this report is the result of Medvedev simply doing what all politicians do: playing to his audience. The Russian president made his comments during a meeting with the governor of the Krasnodar Territory—which, unlike Siberia, has a winegrape-friendly climate. The wine industry is growing there, and even has spawned its own trade show.

“Winemaking is one of the sectors that should be developed and contribute to the eradication of alcoholism,” Medvedev said during his meeting with Krasnodar officials. “Countries where this sector is strong have no problems with alcohol abuse; problems with alcohol abuse stem from other drinks.”

The more I think about it, and without minimizing the concern over alcoholism, Medvedev may actually be on to something.

If he’s talking about convincing long-time vodka drinkers to switch to red wine as a means of curing their affliction, well, there isn’t a doctor alive who would promote that approach.

But if he’s talking about educating Russia’s younger generations about the dangers of vodka and alcohol abuse in general, and the reported health benefits of wine consumed in moderation, then this might be a valid concept. If he could get the next generations of Russians to appreciate wine rather than abuse it, and to think of it as a complement to a meal rather than just another quick high, Russia’s centuries-old alcoholism problem finally could be wiped out.

It would take perhaps one full generation to begin changing the national psyche, but what a positive development it would be for that country.

Palmeni and Pinot Noir, anyone?

By the way, if you’d like to read the complete Decanter story, it’s here. And if you’d like to comment on that story or on this blog, please use the comments box below.


Posted in Wine and Health
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