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More European Wine Bloggers

As Ryan, Gabriella (from Catavino) and I are working on the European Wine Bloggers Conference concept (get in touch if you want to know more, participate or sponsor it), I thought I’d go on a search of more UK & European bloggers.

I must say I did this exercise a few months ago and was very surprised how few UK wine bloggers there were, and I was not very successful finding bloggers from other European countries either (although that is harder if the text is not in English).

However, I have come across a few more, some of whom are now “friends” on facebook, and all of which now are listed in my RSS feed (I now have over 80 feeds – not all wine however – TOO MANY!).

Here is a list of a few, in no particular order, of the new ones you too might like to explore. I think I’ll need to reorganise the blogroll to separate out the European blogs for future reference so you will not find these on there yet.

Tales of a Sommelier (UK)
InterWined (UK)
La Gramiere (France, in English)
Bubble Brothers (Ireland)
Castro Martin (Spain, in English)
Vino al Vino (Italy)
Vino da Burde (Italy)
Gare aug Gouts (UK, in French)

[UPDATES: There are a few more that are linked from these which I will add here for the next few days before reorganising the links section. If I've missed something, drop me a line]

The Winepost (UK)
Wine for Spice (UK)
The Pinotage Club (UK) – actually I am not sure why this is not already on my blogroll, but I’ve linked to Peter before

[ANOTHER UPDATE: 29.1.08]

Free Running (Ireland) – thanks to Bubbles Brothers for pointing me there
Barrels & Bottles (UK)

Enjoy!

French Letters – ANPAA

However hard we try to talk up the future for French wines, and France’s chances of developing a reasonable attitude to wines in the modern world, some organisation manages to come along and shatter our illusions.

Hot on the heels of the ruling about health warnings on Champagne articles, here is the latest news, courtesy of Decanter (assuming you can get their site working as it keeps crashing on me):

Web cannot advertise alcohol

Of course this current ruling is aimed at Heineken, but I wouldn’t rate the chances of a Vin2.0 culture developing in the land of Liberty, Equality & Fraternity any time soon.

Magic numbers: 14, 21, 35, 50, 60? [updated]

No, these are not my lottery numbers, but the sorts of numbers that appear regularly in any column about wine consumption at the moment.

In summary:
14: the weekly maximum recommended alcohol intake for women
21: the weekly maximum recommended alcohol intake for men
35: 15-35 units a week being the “hazardous” level for women doing them “long-term harm”
50: 22-50 units a week being the “hazardous” level for men doing them “long-term harm”
60: “Trebles all round

I am not aware if other countries have similar measures, so let me deal with the UK situation for now and if it applies wherever you are, then maybe you can modify the numbers accordingly**

I have never understood where these numbers came from, and how exactly they link to scales of harm. For example, some questions that come to mind would be:

* How much worse are 22 units than 21?
* What about those who have 21 units in one go, versus those who have them evenly over the week?
* How long do you need to be staying above 21 to damage yourself?
* Can you average it out over a couple of years? How about over a lifetime (I could cash in on a relatively late start to my drinking career)?

Rather than focus on the amount of alcohol taken in “on average”, and thus picking a number relatively at random, wouldn’t it be better if we were encouraged to monitor our health better? A dodgy (but not yet irreversibly bad) liver test result would be a lot more motivating than simply sitting down and counting alcohol units to realise you were above the recommended level.

The recent announcement by the UK government that they would finally turn the NHS into an organisation that supported prevention of disease, rather than trying to cure those who are already sick, could be good news. Wouldn’t it be better to go to the doctor, feeling healthy and discover that you have been a little too liberal with your pouring and that cutting back for the next couple of months or years will get you back on track, than to know nothing until you liver packs in and you join the transplant queue?

My worry about this is that the UK government in particular is likely to use this as a stick to beat society, setting up league tables and legislating on ways to force people to comply rather than educating and supporting individuals’ choices. I can see how it would turn us all into guilty teenagers, worried about whether ‘they’ found out we’d been sampling from the spirits cabinet.

Whilst I totally agree that alcohol abuse is a major problem, I’m not sure that we have yet found a way of having a sensible discussion about it.

Is anyone aware of a country that has managed to have such a discussion? And anyone know where the numbers above come from?

[UPDATE]
Here are some additional links on the subject matter as suggested by Peter in the comments. I’ll add more as I come across them:

Drinks Limits ‘Useless’ – The Times 20 October 2007
Unit of Alcohol – Wikipedia
Estimating alcohol consumption from survey data (UK) – this is an official PDF from the UK National Statistics office

** It is ALWAYS worth reminding people how to calculate these units as any rule of thumb is likely to be misleading – and a serious underestimation.

Binge drinking and tax

I want to comment on the latest moves to increase the tax on alcohol in the UK ostensibly to address the issues of “problem” drinking.

Unfortunately I don’t even know where to start and I am rushed.

I’ve commented before that governments seem to be unable to think straight when it comes to alcohol. They need to be seen to do something because the media (in particular) loves to act all puritanical when it comes to bashing politicians (whilst simultaneously celebrating the outrageous lifestyles of certain ‘celebrities’).

This means that politicians can use very simplistic solutions that both please the media hacks and generate revenue for the Treasury whilst claiming to be acting in the public good. Unfortunately it is usually rubbish.

Raising duty on alcohol even further will not do anything to stop underage drinking, or weekend binge drinking, or even to reduce alcoholism. All it does is tax the vast majority who do drink sensibly. Not only that, but it perpetuates the drive towards low-cost, mass produced drinks brands that can afford to counter the price increases and build market share. These drinks do not have the kind of history or role in our society that encourages responsible enjoyment of the alcohol. Their goal is bigger volume so as to generate the necessary economies of scale to justify their investments.

The effect is to kill off any independent producers’ & retailers’ markets, and with them the chance of a mature drinking culture.

PLEASE lets have a sensible discussion about WHY we drink too excess in the UK, and other parts of the world (because we do) before we kill off the most sensible way out of this situation.

Vintage time


Vintage is a great time, … for spectators.

I am not exactly getting my hands dirty (although I can claim to have picked ‘some’ grapes this year at least), but my day job has certainly kept me busy recently.

The great news is that it has taken me to the vineyards regularly throughout the last few weeks as this is when the ‘real’ business happens – grapes are picked, wine is fermented, winemakers are sweating and shouting, and the vineyards themselves look fabulous.

It has made me realise quite how fraught a business it is, with the stress of the entire year’s work, and the next year’s revenue, resting on the result of these few weeks. However, I wouldn’t have missed it.

It has meant that more philosophical meditations on wine & the culture of wine, beyond “which of those bottles I drank last night was responsible for the way I feel this morning?” (probably the last one), have been beyond me. However, things will start to settle down in a week or two when I plan on re-attacking my preferred subjects with renewed gusto having made some interesting discoveries, and new friends, over these weeks.

A presto!

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