Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Wine and guilt

"When, after long years of discipline and fantasising about the transgressive pleasures of the outside world, the adolescent Amish are, unprepared, thrown into this world, they, of course, cannot but indulge in extreme transgressive behaviour and throw themselves into a life of sex, drugs and drinking. And since, for such a life, they lack any inherent limitation or regulation, this situation inexorably backlashes and generates unbearable anxiety."

Slavoj Zizek's examination of 'enjoyment as a political factor' has similar repercussions in wine. Why, for instance, are we becoming increasingly obsessed with low-alcohol wine and reducing our alcohol consumption? I believe it is because we have reached our very own situation of 'unbearable anxiety'.

Does this anxiety strike us when we have that 'one glass too many'? Does it stalk a well-lubricated dinner party like a Shakespearean ghost? Perhaps. I believe that, in an effort to at least appear progressive and understanding of today's issues, many of us are forcing ourselves to take seriously the 'problems' associated with our own enjoyment.

We are already concerned with de-caffeinated coffee, non-alcoholic beer, virtual sex, and so on. I have already addressed some of this in my wine and health blog.

Thus we get 'de-alcoholised wine', made in Spain and aimed at an Italian market.

This article touches on several major issues within this debate. The first is in the headline: 'Dealcoholised wine launched to combat alcohol abuse'. Again and again in the health lobbies, wine is equated with alcohol. This lumping together of the two is partly academic in the sense that wine is an alcohol, alcohol is dangerous, therefore wine is dangerous.

Even arguments that wine is a cultural beverage and therefore exempt from being lumped with all alcohols does not stand scrutiny, I'm afraid, for the simple fact that all alcoholic beverages are, or were, cultural. The major issue here - one that very few people want to address - is that commercialisation is the problem.

There is also the problem that while every article that bemoans the dangers of alcohol calls for tighter control of alcohol consumption, the articles that proclaim the benefits of alcohol do not push increased consumption. That, of course, would be irresponsible.

Another point is that, at a time when we are more and more concerned with the 'natural' aspect of wine, of trying to keep intervention to a minimum, this low-alcohol wine is 'vacuum distilled'. Even Torres' low-alcohol wine takes absurdity to a new level in this domain by calling itself 'Natureo'.

There is further absurdity here:
'We're not in competition with traditional wine. It's a new drink, equal to decaffeinated coffee or non-alcoholic beer,' Bertolini said.
To which the retort: why call it wine?

And part of the answer to that comes in looking at who this 'non-alcoholic wine' is marketed at: the under-aged - 'young people' as they are called in the article.

This is the most terrifying aspect of all. While the 'wine' ticks all the 'modern' boxes of making a trendy, healthy alternative to wine, it is essentially marketed at your children.

And once again, we face the issue of rampant commercialisation (this time taunting our children with 'wine') while we are unable to find a logical, coherent argument as to why this is bad.

We now live in a world where, as long as we can consume something called wine (although not necessarily real wine), drink it without anxiety and keep wine companies in business, everyone will be happy.

Or will they? As Zizek states, although 90% of Amish offspring come back to the fold, have they really been given a proper choice of freedoms? Thus are we giving ourselves the right parameters to judge what is healthy about our wine consumption?

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At 10 March 2010 09:51 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since it appears you were away skiing, you may have noticed that we are now supposed to have 'unbearable anxiety' if we choose not to wear a 'bone-dome' - or if we have a glass of that 2007 Valaisan vintage at lunchtime. Very soon the only thing that Zermatt will have left will be the Matterhorn!


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