Wine Tasting versus Overindulgence

When is the line blurred between professionalism and overconsumption?

In 2015, the world grape surface area sat at roughly seven and a half million hectares with a wine production of around 236.5 MHL per year.

That’s a lot of wine.

The average wine consumption for a Canadian adult is about fifteen litres a year, while wine professionals probably triple or quadruple this number.

If you’re a wine geek like me, you look at time and realize there is not nearly enough of it to experience the wine you want and need to.  Wine lovers are consistently tasting to better their palate, gain knowledge and become more educated on the world’s wine producers.

However, where is the line drawn between tasting wine as a professional while demonstrating control versus borderline alcoholism that can negatively impact your health?

Man depressed with wine bottle sitting on bench outdoor

“The American Heart Association recommends alcohol in moderation — less than or equal to one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.”

Earlier this month I asked fellow wine lovers via Instagram their opinion on this subject.  Here are some of the opinions I received on tolerance and consumption:

“I find our generation of wine professionals face tremendous social pressure to be drinking.  To stay current, especially if you manage wine-based social media, you always need content.” @selenagaudet

“I don’t swallow everything I taste, it often depends on the circumstance or the occasion.  Ultimately, as a professional working in the wine industry, you have to respect the fact that wine is a drug which when consistently consumer in excess has health consequences.” @lenckdrank

“As a professional, I spit almost everything I taste.  I only swallow when drinking socially.” @sultrysomm

“Most weeks I reserve a few days without wine and on the days I have wine typically it is 2 glasses” @megandmerlot

At the end of the day wine (alcohol) is a drug, and individuals with a history of addiction or an affinity towards it may easily find themselves in the danger zone.  Individuals looking to establish or grow a career in the wine industry may also find themselves at high risk.  Networking by attending tastings and functions is a necessity.  There are constant conversations at these events surrounding world wine producers and regions.  How can one participate in this dialogue and voice an opinion if they haven’t tried the wines themselves?   How does one dive in without consistently consuming and putting their health at risk?

Budget is another issue.  The pressure to finish a bottle once it’s opened because of its price tag is always there. Luckily devices such as the Corovin have helped take away this pressure and make a bottle last.  Also, the creation of tasting groups have allowed wine lovers to get together and taste a wide portfolio without overindulging in intake or price.

Rebecca Hopkins wrote an article on the subject and made a very valid point:

“How do we teach up-and-coming professionals to know that […] you can have a successful career in wine and spirits without excess, when some of those in the industry who are considered “successful” also demonstrate existing or developing issues, or unhealthy habits that may cause problems in the future? This is a problem for everybody, not just women in the business.”

@Megandmerlot recommends giving your body a break at least 3 days a week.  “I try to stick to the recommendations but I definitely go over pretty often.  Most weeks I reserve a few days without wine and on the days I have wine typically it is 2 glasses.  (On tasting days I really don’t drink much/often spit).  I will admit that I have a few splurge days a month where I have a bit more – I love it though!”

“The line is very thin, I’ve seen people in the industry and regular people overdo alcohol, to a certain extent use the fact that they work with it everyday as an excuse to justify being over-consumers.” @throughmywineglass

“I find our generation of wine professionals face tremendous social pressure to be drinking.  To stay current, especially if you manage wine-based social media, you always need content.  We always want to be drinking the newest things, the most interesting varietals, unique styles and new vintages…it’s easy to get wine FOMO.  The guidelines are a helpful baseline, but it’s so important to consider what that means in the context of your life because it won’t look the same as anyone else’s idea of moderation.  I drink wine most days, but I rarely find myself drinking in excess. I make a point to take time to read about the varietal, vintage, winemaker, region or whatever it may be and truly taking the time to taste it, the way I used to when I was starting out in the business.  It really helps me to find my wine homeostasis again.”  @selenagaudet

“A good test for me is to walk away from it for awhile and see how much I think about wanting it.  If I ever find I want it to relax from stress, I will not pour a glass.”  @jodkrmdr

“I find for me when I stop noticing the joy in every sip it’s time to put the glass down.” @kims_onehopewine

“It’s the voice within.” @socialsips

The trend that came up in my Instagram comments weren’t specific amounts that take you to the other side.  The majority of the comments were based on knowing yourself, your level of control, your limit and the ability to ask yourself honest questions.

If you are feeling like you may be overconsuming it could be helpful to consider the “four C’s” below.

woman having depression bipolar disorder trouble

(https://www.treatmentalternatives.com/blog/signs-addiction-4-cs-addiction/)

1. Craving

A powerful desire to use or participate in your addiction. Craving can manifest itself physically through a feeling of restlessness, lack of sleep and lack of appetite. Physical signs of addiction manifest in cravings. Physical dependence may cause feelings of pain.

Craving make it difficult to think of anything other than the substance or activity.

2. Control (Loss of)

If you want to quit but can’t, you have lost control. You can no longer maintain your cravings and your use increases drastically. You can no longer control your action and you begin to use dishonesty to mask the truth of your actions.

Your day to day life has no more order or function.

3. Compulsion (To Use)

You need to have drugs or alcohol or engage in the activity constantly or else you cannot function. The urge is irresistible, and you do it despite not wanting to. There is less joy in the substance or activity. You now engage in this behavior simply because you must.

4. Consequences (Despite of)

Even though you know this substance or activity harmful, you continue to use or engage. Consequences range from mild to severe. Most mild consequences will build over time and become severe consequences. The emotional sings of addiction manifest here too. Even though you know how this substance or activity will make you feel, you continue to participate.

Example of the consequences od addiction are:

  • Injuries while using.
  • Relationship problems.
  • Spending money on substance or activity instead of spending money on food or rent.
  • Legal problems.
  • Problems at work place.
  • Loss of hope, feelings of emptiness.

“When the thing (in this case: wine) becomes detrimental to your quality of life and those around you, then it’s time to make an adjustment.” @bradinator_winemaker

“Life needs balance.” @bc_wine_review

The most important thing is that we carry on the conversation surrounding tough subjects such as this.  By coming forward to share our thoughts, stories and experiences, this industry can change and evolve in a healthy, positive way.  Working in the wine industry and spreading the good word of fine wine to the rest of the world is a big job.  We need to let the world of wine shine, and by doing so, we need to be healthy, positive and encouraging individuals…our best selves.  Painting the right picture, not just for others in the industry, but for the rest of the world interested in a subject like wine, is imperative.

Know your limits and never be afraid to ask for help.

Cheers for now,

Katie