Archive - June, 2008

Scotland and Binge Drinking

Although I consider myself to be “Scottish”, I am really part of a substantial diaspora of Scots who feel quite passionately linked to the country whilst not having lived there much during our lives.

In my case, it was a visit to my family at least once a year for about 12 years, plus 4 years at University. I cannot therefore really comment on the day to day issues of alcohol abuse in the country, but I am quite aware that Scotland has major health issues associated with alcohol and drugs. Despite this, I think it is still important to speak up against decisions being taken that simply will not have any effect except to frustrate and inconvenience the vast law-abiding majority of drinkers.

You may already have heard that today the Scottish Parliament will be discussing the possibility of raising the age at which you can buy alcohol in the shops to 21 from the current age of 18. This will not apply in pubs and restaurants, only off licences.

To read more, click here for the Radio 4 Coverage (probably only available for 7 days from 16/06/2008) or here for the article.

I have already read a reasoned response from The Tasting Note which I encourage you to read as it prompted the following thoughts.

I agree with almost everything Peter says*. Why is it that politicians cannot think straight about alcohol? I posted something along these lines some time ago and it obviously needs updated. I have also mentioned my thoughts on binge drinking and taxation.

Education is key to this, such as the potentially useful developments at the Responsible Drinkers Alliance, but so is something else.

I find myself, maybe as I grow older (!), wishing that our country (Scotland or UK, whatever you identify with) had a shared purpose.

It occurred to me recently, listening to Bill Bailey on Desert Island Disks (see, told you I was getting old & fuddy-duddy) that in his past, as with many of the more creative personalities I happen to like that have appeared on this show, he was very much into punk music – it was liberating. It was an ACTIVE rebellion.

Now, the watchword is … Whatever!

We have never been so ****** PASSIVE. And instead what do we do? We go out and get blind drunk, then vent frustrations, anger, anxiety and energy on each other.

Our politicians, of any political persuasion, need to find ways to engage all of us in something positive, not to fiddle around the edges with confusing ‘initiatives’ attacking the symptoms rather than the causes of this behaviour.

Education can start the discussion and even foster the conversation, but what alternatives are we offering people, whether they are children, young adults, or even disillusioned adults?

I realise this may not be the forum for this sort of topic as we are straying deep into the territory of political blogs, but I think it is part of the discussion.

If I was to suggest a possible path to follow, it would be to take the green agenda and REALLY go for it. We could make Scotland, or the UK, a real leader in this area and get everyone involved in recycling, living in a sustainable way and thinking of the implications of our actions.

There is no direct link with reducing binge drinking, but if we were engaging people, especially young people, and giving them opportunities to get involved in something they believed was meaningful, then I am certain it would be addressed.

The combined benefits to the planet and our society would be great, and we would have a tough, but useful, goal to share – and this could translate to all walks of life, including wine.

I sincerely hope that the Scottish Parliament will see that raising the legal age for buying alcohol is not the answer any more than simply increasing the price of alcohol through taxation or demonising the product itself.

For goodness sake, can we not have an adult conversation about this?

See also: CARDAS – Campaign Against Raising the Drinking Age in Scotland

* It is just a side issue, but one thing I am not sure about is the idea of limiting what individuals can buy. You’d easily get around it by buying from two shops and all it does (again) is annoy respectable drinkers wanting to buy alcohol. I do, however, think it would be a good idea to encourage ALL of those who buy alcohol to prove their age. Think 21, or 25 or whatever is fine, but it just makes everyone less uncomfortable and does make it easier to go after irresponsible retailers if necessary.

The thoughts of a Winefarmer

I’ve been meaning to say something about a blog I found some time ago (can it really be over a year?) but somehow I never knew how to put it correctly so I didn’t, and now I feel guilty.

I feel guilty because Rob (that’s him, not me) has a unique voice in wine blogging and I think we could all do with a dose of this reality.

So many blogs, including this one, dwell only on the consumption of wine. We agonise over how to rate a wine, how to share the drinking experience, where to spend our money, and maybe a little about those trips out to vineyards and to meet winemakers.

For most of us, that is our relationship with wine – as consumers.

There is a separate breed. Blogging winemakers. They know a lot more about the process of making wine and the real effort that goes into making those bottles we gratefully, or otherwise, consume and critique. But even these blogs are often removed from the toil of the everyday effort involved in running a vineyard.

How might we ensure we do not forget that wine truly is an agricultural product, a product of nature, sweat and toil? Read this blog!

http://winefarmer.wordpress.com – Winefarmer’s Weblog

Rob manages to convey some of the reality of working in the vineyard. It isn’t a straight diary and it isn’t philosophical musings. What it is, is the honest, uninhibited thoughts of an obviously very intelligent and creative human being who likes working with nature.

I admit to not being a particularly well read individual, so I probably shouldn’t compare his style to other authors, but to me at least, there are echoes of John Steinbeck in his writing.

He covers organic farming, vineyard working practices, cultural issues he faces working alongside largely Mexican labourers, the tragedies of manual labour (some are very sad – read to the last section), and even astrology, astronomy and nature.

I urge you to take a look and subscribe. He doesn’t update it very regularly (who am I to fault that?) so it won’t overload your daily reading, but maybe help to give all the rest some context.

Thanks Rob!

My, what fantastic tapas you have!

Excuse the cross-promotion, but as time is short and I suspect there are lots of people out there who have not yet heard of this, I thought I would point you to a post I wrote on my Rioja blog here:

Fantastic Tapas

The festival is an interesting event targeting consumers with food, wine and music in one event, and sponsored by a single wine region: Rioja.

I think that this sort of event will become a more popular way of reaching consumers, particularly younger wine drinkers, than spending vast amounts on advertising as it gets wine samples directly into the consumers’ hands, and gives it a new context (in this case a range of authentic tapas).

If you do have time on the weekend of 28/29th June, why not come along?

Tapas Fantasticas
Ely’s Yard, Brick Lane
London
29-29 June, 2008
12:00 – 18:00

Time for flying wine daters?

More perspective on two topics of interest to this blog: Wine Competitions and Wine Dating

… but this time in a new mashup from Bibendum worth reading:

Speed Dating in the Wine Industry

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