Do you consciously seek out wines with lower alcohol because you
believe they will be less bad for you? Have you ever tried wines that
have had their alcohol lowered during production by one of the processes
permitted by the EU, such as reverse osmosis, or the curiously named
“spinning cone”? Believe me, few of them taste half-decent.
Not all wines are high in alcohol, though the trend has been upward in recent years. Some styles naturally have less, such as Portuguese Vinho Verde (typically 11 per cent), German Riesling Kabinett (7 to 8 per cent) and Italian Asti (7 to 9 per cent). Although 8.5 per cent is the minimum alcoholic strength allowed for wine in the EU, Mosel Riesling Kabinett and Asti are two permitted exceptions.
Earl Howe, parliamentary under-secretary of state for health, wants to lower the legal limit, so that a drink that has had its alcohol cut to 4.5 per cent may still be called “wine”. And he has the health lobby solidly behind him. Prof Roger Williams, director of the Institute of Hepatology in London and consultant to the London Clinic, is strongly supportive. “Anything that would reduce the danger of alcohol to the British public is good,” he says. “There are 1.3 million alcohol-related admissions to hospital each year, and that has roughly doubled over the past 10 years.” In France, Germany and Italy, on the other hand, alcohol-related admissions are down – below the UK figures, in fact.
Prof Williams firmly believes that two glasses of wine a day is the safe limit for women, and three for men. “The drinks industry encourages alcohol consumption,” he says. “Seventy-five per cent of the industry’s profits come from heavy drinkers.” And he is scornful of the Government’s retreat from minimum unit-pricing of alcohol, which he says is down to lobbying from the drinks industry.
Prof Williams sees nothing wrong with sticking to those limits of two and three glasses a day. But whether he would enjoy a glass of artificially alcohol-reduced wine is another matter.
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