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I love a glass of red. It’s one of my very few indulgences. I love the taste. I love the aroma. I love the clever names on the bottles (Chain of Fire, Mad Dog, Old Bastard) I love its anti-inflammatory properties…
Oh, and I love that wine relaxes me, just a little. I’m a very stressy person. There is a lot going on in my life, and a lot going on in the world. Unwinding with a glass of wine helps me decompress, and enhances my emotional wellbeing.
It’s the wine that’s relaxing her. Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
A few years back, I watched the documentary Somm, about four wine experts sitting for the famously difficult master sommelier examination. It taught me that wine isn’t just a drink; it is artistry and craft and beauty. And though I still can’t always tell a cab sav from a merlot, I can definitely appreciate a decent drop.
Unfortunately, for many in Australian culture, drinking alcohol looks less like wine appreciation and more like binge-drinking until someone gets punched. It looks like not being able to socialise without a drink in your hand, going to the pub after work instead of heading home to your wife and kids, and vomiting in the gutter after a big night out or drinking every night to self-medicate. It is ugly, and it has wrecked things for those who enjoy a quiet drink in moderation.
A VERY merry Christmas at Bondi Beach, Sydney. Credit: Fairfax
To combat our toxic drinking culture, the federal government has flagged a plan to introduce health labels on alcohol, similar to the graphic warnings found on cigarette packets. My bottles of cab sav may soon come with confronting images, perhaps of diseased hearts, or people with hepatitis, or sweaty drunken teenagers puking all over themselves.
And this is going to seriously undermine the enjoyment of my biweekly tipple. I have an extremely low threshold for revulsion. Show me a diseased trachea or a gangrenous wound and I will gag uncontrollably. I don’t smoke, but even glimpsing those photos of cancerous lesions and diseased trachea on cigarette packets makes me clutch my throat and make choking sounds. If similar images end up on bottles of wine I’m going to be gagging in bottle shops, gagging in restaurants, and gagging at friend’s houses when they offer me a glass.
I recognise that we need to do something about our country’s drinking culture. Alcohol is linked to more than 6500 deaths per year in Australia, as well as tens of thousands of assaults. And while I would like to believe that my couple of glasses of wine per week are helping to ward off heart and cardiovascular disease, recent research has indicated that this is unlikely to be true. Wine may be good for my soul, but its alcohol content is probably not great for my body.
That said, I am not entirely convinced that we can shift our nation’s entrenched attitudes to drinking simply with warning labels, however confronting they may be. We need an entire cultural shift, not just photos of fatty livers on our bottles. I wonder, too, if the whole endeavour is just a little hypocritical. After all, obesity poses as much of a health risk as alcohol in our country, and many of our fatty, sugar-laden, highly processed foods are doing us active harm. If we are truly concerned about extending the lives of Australians, we should put photos of cancers and festering colons on buckets of KFC, bottles of Coke, and meat lovers pizza boxes, as well as on my bottles of cab sav.
Still, if graphic warning labels do prove to reduce alcohol related deaths, then I will bravely endure them. Yes, they will make me gag, but I will gag for the greater good. I will gag for our country. I will gag for our children’s health! And I will buy a decanter so I can avoid seeing the images for a second longer than necessary.
Kerri Sackville is an author, columnist and mother of three. Her new book is The Secret Life of You: How a bit of alone time can change your life, relationships and maybe the world.
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