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Wine: it gets you drunk 

Thereís a bit of a silent conspiracy in wine writing. We talk about the varieties of flavour that wine can possess. We talk of grape varieties, yields and oak usage. We talk about terroir, how wine can convey a sense of place. We talk about concentration, sweetness and tannic structure. But we fail, by and large, to discuss why most people drink wine in the first place. Itís alcoholic and it gets you drunk.

I remember when I was a student. I used to browse the bewildering array of wines on sale at my local supermarket (it was a Gateway, in Egham, and by todayís standards Ė this was the late 1980s Ė it really wasnít that bewildering an array). How did I make my purchasing choice? It was by means of degrees of alcohol, coupled with price. I wanted a cheap wine, but the more alcohol the better. Remember, 15 years ago most wines were 11Ė12% alcohol. Now the norm seems to be 13.5%, but this was rare then. I guess at one level degrees of alcohol may have acted then as a proxy measure of ripeness, so it might not have been as absurd a criterion as it sounds.

Donít get the idea that Iím condoning drunkenness. Drunkenness, in its extreme pavement-splattering and fight-starting manifestations, is an ugly thing. Rather, Iím arguing that the pharmacological, mind-altering effects of our favourite tipple are something that we should at least acknowledge as an important part of our wine hobby. We drink the stuff because it makes us feel good and it enhances and facilitates social interaction, just as much as we drink it for an intellectual appreciation of the merits of this most complex of beverages.

Iíve attended some serious wine dinners in the past where Iíve left in a state of extreme inebriation. It would have been rude not to with the array of wines on offer. You donít get much pleasure from spitting out rare fine wines in a social setting. In fact, I prefer not to reach this state, but Iíd be lying if I pretended that I didnít like the buzz you get from drinking five or six glasses of decent wine. In the right context, the effect of the alcohol complements the social interaction and the intellectual pleasure of assessing the quality of a number of fine wines with like-minded enthusiasts.

I donít drink wine to get drunk. Anymore. Conversely, I donít drink wine if I donít want at least some of the pharmacological effects of alcohol, a drug that wine delivers in such a pleasing way. Itís a tragedy that some end up abusing this drug in destructive and life-threatening ways, but the answer to this abuse is not dis-use, but correct use. As a wine writer I donít feel I can go along with this unofficial code of denial about wineís pharmacological properties. Instead, I must inform my readers. Wine. It gets you drunk. There, Iíve said itÖ

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