Making the most of the new drinking guidelines

Published by Roberson Wine on 08/01/2016

When I heard that the government were revising their recommended drinking limits, my first thought was, ‘At last! They’ve been far too low for far too long.’ But before I could crack open a celebtatory magnum of gin, it became clear that, on the contrary, they were proposing to lower them.

The last set of guidelines were published in 1995, when I was fourteen. Naturally, along with the rest of you, I immediately embarked upon a regime of consuming alcohol at a rate of four units per day, just to be on the safe side. Now, twenty years later, I discover that not only will I have to cut that back to two units, but all this time I have been unwittingly drinking double the maximum. On reading this news, I immediately began to feel unwell. Visions of some of my more debauched evenings rose in vivid, ghastly detail before me. Why? Why? Why had I drunk that third small glass of wine on my 21st birthday?

But that wasn’t the worst of it. Not only had the weekly limit been reduced, but a handy loophole - wherein you could store up your daily allowance for special occasions - had been closed. Apparently, the government had discovered that heavy drinking sessions increase the risk of accidents and injury, and, frankly, they didn’t much like it.

Although the advised limit is now seven small (175ml) glasses of weak (11.5%) wine every seven days, the guidelines are at pains to emphasise how generous that allowance is, because actually 'there is no safe limit'. In other words, if you absolutely insist on doing yourself in with a daily schooner of underripe Riesling, don’t say we didn’t warn you when you’re discovered drowned at the age of 35, face down in a bowl of punch in the corner of Trader Vic’s.

I must say, I found that thought quite alarming, until I read the details of how the limit was arrived at over on the BBC website. It seems that if you drink your 14 units of alcohol every seven days, there is approximately a 1% chance that you will die from an alcohol-related disease at some point in the future. It's apparently less risky than such daredevil weekly activities as eating more than two bacon sandwiches, or watching more than an hour of TV.

I’m neither a doctor nor financially geared for an expensive lawsuit, so I’m absolutely not going to advise you to ignore these guidelines, or say that reducing your alcohol intake isn’t a good idea. What I will say though, is that if you are cutting back on your consumption, let's say by half, then this represents a golden opportunity for you to drink better wine. Two bottles of £5 wine are not only worse for you than one bottle of £10 wine, they are also less than half as nice. And if you choose quality, you might well discover that great wine is one of the things that makes life worth living in the first place.

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