Editor’s note: As many of you know, Catavino strives to be an educational wine website, by focusing on wine through the context of life. We enjoy wine among family, with food, in times of joy, in times of pain, during births and deaths, and everywhere in between. Wine can be in the forefront of a moment or in the backdrop of an experience. On Catavino, our goal has been to provide information about wine through our everyday interaction with it. However, as educators, it is also our responsibility to not only exemplify healthy drinking habits through our actions, but to make a formal stance as to our position on moderate drinking.
Wine in Moderation is a European based initiative to help promote healthy drinking habits, and was brought to our attention through their passionate spokesperson, George Sandeman. Having met him at the EWBC, we agreed to sign onto the campaign on the condition that he would answer some of our questions. What you read below is George’s explanation of the campaign, which we hope helps you to understand why Catavino is now a staunch supporter.
Thank you George for taking the time to answer our rather lengthy interview; and if anyone has any questions for George, please don’t hesitate to include them in the comments below!
George, can you tell us a little about who you are and about your involvement in the Wine in Moderation project?
I became involved in the Wine & Health dossier in 2001 as the representative of the Port Shippers Association in Comité Vin (the European Wine Federation in Brussels). I was the General Manager of Sandeman in Oporto and President of the Port Shippers Association.
During the process of discussions with the European Commission on how the wine sector could contribute to reducing alcohol related harm, we created the “Wine in Moderationâ€ campaign. I have been intimately involved in the phases of development and implementation as well as acting as spokesperson for the movement.
As far as my CV goes, click here to read it.
What makes the Wine in Moderation project different than the dozens of programs helping to teach, or limit, alcohol consumption?
The key difference is that the WIM program is a commitment to motivate the entire European wine trade to educate people about the benefits of moderate consumption of wine and alcohol, and about the risks involved in excess drinking. It is not a substitute to the programs that are already underway, but rather a form of sharing “good practiceâ€ and getting people started in this area. The independent programs are excellent, and WIM aims to supply a common program that can add to the ongoing work.
Is WIM not a contradiction in itself? Having wine producers support a project to reduce alcohol is a bit like McDonalds pushing a reduction in fast food consumption. Can producers really have credibility in that role?
The wine trade is part of history and educating people to drink and enjoy wine is what we do every day. We don’t sell wine with the objective of getting people drunk. It is part of the culture of wine to enjoy wine with food, as part of family and life.
However we are sensitive to the fact that throughout history there has been abuse and excess as well as moderation. As wine producers, and responsible citizens we want our consumers to enjoy long healthy lives, consuming wine in moderation. Our credibility comes through providing balanced information on the positive and negative effects
What do you see as the role of government institutions/agencies, producers, families and peers in promoting “sensible drinkingâ€?
The role’s are all linked.
- Government has a responsibility to use factual science based information to create an environment of responsibility (i.e. establishing legislation which governs areas such as drink/drive) and to implement and monitor the legislation which in place. It has the responsibility to disseminate appropriate information through the national health system (ie. Family doctors advising women who intend to become pregnant) and the school system (ie inclusion of alcohol in health education) which will help people make informed choices.
- Producers have a responsibility to self-regulate marketing and communication activities as well as promotional programs and to promote responsible consumption and moderation (i.e. use positive marketing about how to use the product), at the same time educating all levels of the filiére about moderation and responsibility. The extensive number of persons in the wine sector creates the possibility of doing very widespread and grassroots education over time to create a cultural change
- Parent and peers must familiarize themselves with guidelines of moderate consumption and set the example for their children.
As you noticed in our recent article on cultivating a child’s healthy attitude towards wine, there were many people who commented that we have a major issue in Iberia with children using wine for the effect rather than the flavor, as exemplified by rebujitos, sangria and kalimoxos. How do you think the Wine in Moderation project can help curb this trend?
Notwithstanding the fact that wine has an underlying culture of moderation and a link to food and diet, there is evidence of abuse at all ages throughout history. The use of wine as an alcohol source in Spain (not the case in Portugal where beer and shots are the preferred source) is linked to the trend of “binge drinkingâ€ which is growing in prevalence among young people.
This problem in the short term cannot be resolved by “Wine in Moderationâ€ alone, but in the longer term, with education and cultural change we believe we can influence positively a reduction of alcohol related harm – including youth binge drinking.
There are many government led “anti-drinkingâ€ initiatives across Europe. Some examples: ANPAA in France (that has even had newspaper condemned in court for having published an article on wine); various UK initiatives to counter “binge drinkingâ€ under-age purchasing, higher taxationâ€¦; Swedish authorities who are working hard on convincing other countries that a monopoly model/high taxes/strong restrictions are a good solutions etc. What is your reaction to such initiatives?
Various Governments have always had, or have recently strengthened, a fundamentalist approach to alcohol. The key example is the Nordic approach to alcohol which has always been prohibitionist in nature, using high taxation and restrictive access to limit alcohol related harm. However there is no clear research that shows the benefit for the 20% of problem drinkers outweighs the inconvenience for the 80% who consume wine or other alcoholic beverages in a moderate and responsible manner.
Additionally it is recognized by the WHO that where tax/access limit legal alcohol, problem consumers turn to alternative alcohol (illegally distilled, products containing alcohol)
The experience in the USA proved that prohibition caused greater abuse and problem. We firmly believe that education over legislation can create the cultural change that will reduce alcohol related harm.
WIM is based on the approach that solutions to harmful use of alcohol & health must be tailored to local needs and cultural specificities
From your mission statement, it appears that one of the program’s aims is to help fund research on wine consumption so that when information is disseminated through your international database, it is founded on sound scientific research. Where do you think that we as a global community, or at least in Europe, have gone awry in communicating a message of moderation?
A key pillar of the Wine in Moderation program is the Wine Information Council, which will the vast amount of existing information, fund new independent studies and share best practice across the Member States wine organizations.
The commitment of the Wine Sector is to communicate both the benefits and the risks of consuming wine and other alcoholic beverages.
The European wine community should have reacted sooner to the issues identified in alcohol related harm.
Here at Catavino, our goal is to educate the international community to seek out Spanish and Portuguese wine. And as wine is inherently paired with food on the peninsula, is the topic of pairing wine with food lacking in today’s wine communication? Taking it one step further, should we consider making the wine and food pairing message stronger or should be place our focus on moderation regardless of the situation?
The culture of wine is inextricably linked to food. In southern Europe it is rare for wine to be consumed without some food accompaniment, either formal like a meal or informal like tapas. This message is very positive and part of the education and culture change which Wine in Moderation seeks to spread to Northern Europe, where wine is consumed as an alternative to other alcohol. Moderation is desirable in whichever circumstance one is consuming wine.
In what ways have you seen the greatest impact by this project since its inception? And in what ways can we all contribute to the effort?
The start-up has been slow and hard, but today we see an increasing number of people, principally in the Wine filiére talking about and thinking about “wine in moderationâ€, as well as adhering to the program. This is the first crucial step in the process of WIM. It has been recognized by the EU Commission (in the context of the European Alcohol & Health Forum) as a valuable contribution to the “EU Strategy (2007-2012) to support Member States in reducing alcohol-related harmâ€ endorsed in the Conclusions adopted on the 1st December 2009 by the Council of Ministers of Health, which confirms the need to pursue the implementation of the current EU Strategy till 2012.
The best way to contribute is to join the program and spread the message – adhering to the codes of good practice and doing positive marketing of moderation (i.e. reinforcing the link between wine and food)