No one really wants to be called a killjoy, a Miesmacher, rabat-joie, guastafeste, aguafiestas or wowser, and that’s precisely the noose into which I am about to stick my neck by writing this column. But here goes.
A day without wine is not like a day without sunshine.
A meal without wine is not – necessarily – breakfast
And there is no such time as ‘wine o’clock’.
These are all widely circulated memes that have helped to sell millions of greeting cards, t-shirts and aprons, along with the currently hugely popular ‘A day without wine is… Just kidding, I have no idea’.
So, what’s wrong with them? What was wrong with the Bordeaux chateau-owner who, late on during a lengthy privately dinner I attended, accused a fellow guest of being a ‘petit joueur’ – lightweight – for declining the offer of yet another glass of wine after getting through the better part of two bottles? After all, he was merely being the same kind of generous host as the proverbial Italian or Jewish mother insistently heaping yet another helping of food onto everybody’s plates.
Except that, just as sentient people in developed countries have learned to temper their language in conversations that involve race or gender, most of us now preach the gospel of wine-in-moderation, or less-but-better. Does this really fit neatly with the jolly promotion of the notion that we should all be enjoying a glass or two of red, white, pink or orange fermented grape juice, twice a day, seven times per week?
How would wine enthusiasts feel about equivalent Russian memes that replaced ‘wine’ with vodka? Or a German or Belgian one that did the same for beer?
In these environmentally-conscious times, how acceptable would it be to promote the consumption of a good helping of beef every 24 hours?
But, in any case, the daily-drinking memes describe behaviour that is actually a small exception to the wine consuming rule – even in France, a nation where the image of a bottle on every table is a well-worn cliché.
When FranceAgriMer ran its five-yearly survey on French drinking habits in 2015, the percentage of the population that drank wine daily was just 14.3%. A further 19.9% said they do so once or twice a week. In other words, nearly two thirds of the French population do not even consume wine more often than once every seven days.
You’re too young…
Worse still, for those who really do equate not enjoying a glass of red, white or pink every day to a sunless existence, most of the more regular drinkers are… well… for want of a better expression, getting old.
Of the French citizens born since 1965, only around 14 in every hundred have more than a weekly encounter with wine. All those memes don’t seem to have persuaded the other 86.
Maybe it’s time to come up with some new ones? Or perhaps I’m just a killjoy…
The 2020 France Agrimer report into French consumption and attitudes is due to be published. I am looking forward to analyising its contents – and the long term trends they reveal – for Meininger's Wine Business International.