On 27th November 2013, the Wine Information Council organised the scientific conference “Wine in Moderation: from Science to Art de Vivre” in Brussels, Belgium.
The speakers explored the challenges around defining responsible drinking patterns and their consistent communication to consumers, so the adoption of low risk patterns in every day life can be promoted effectively, taking into account the social and cultural diversities of wine consumption in different societies.
In the area of wine and health, all scientists, highlighted the strong link of moderate wine drinking with health and its specific antioxidant components, explaining how and why it is advantageous to combine wine with meals as part of healthy diet such as the Mediterranean diet.
When approaching the cultural aspects of drinking, outlining the contrast between today’s approach of a ‘quick fix’ and the real “genuss” (deep enjoyment and delight) helped to understand drinking behaviours. The need to increase knowledge on both the risks of alcohol consumption and responsible drinking patterns while discouraging excessive drinking and drunkenness was highlighted among other topics.
In the first session, moderated by Professor Nicolai Worm, Professor Luc Djousse (Harvard Medical School) presented an overview of the current scientific evidence on moderate alcohol/wine consumption and common diseases. Most beneficial effects of moderate drinking have been observed with all types of alcoholic beverages, however, wine consumption might provide additional benefits beyond those from ethanol for certain health outcomes. Nonetheless, he also stressed how the net benefits of moderate drinking may be attenuated by an increased risk of certain types of cancers.
Professor Mladen Boban (University of Split Medical School) underlined the importance of drinking patterns, in particular the fact of drinking with meals which reduces the increase of blood alcohol level and may also act as a digestive aid while improving microbial food safety.
Finally, Professor Ramon Estruch (University of Barcelona, School of Medicine) explained the results of his PREDIMED study on the Mediterranean diet and provided evidence that the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases was reduced by 30%. He pointed out that among other dietary factors; moderate wine consumption with meals was part of the participants’ Mediterranean way of eating.
The second session aimed at exploring the current status quo of drinking guidelines and how to best communicate them to consumers. The Australian experience was outlined briefly by this session’s moderator, Creina Stockley (AWRI). In her presentation about the drinking guidelines puzzle, Dr Marjana Martinic (ICAP) discussed the existing diversity of national drinking guidelines and their lack of consistency. She concluded that guidelines should be based on scientific evidence, communicated to consumers in recognisable units and integrated into health education and professional training.
These are the exact objectives of the Joint Action on reducing alcohol-related harm presented by Patricia Pissarra (SICAD). This project with over 1 million of funding from the EU, brings together 32 associated and 28 collaborating partners aims at better explaining to public health professionals the importance of basing drinking guidelines on scientific evidence, the practical implications in the use of low risk drinking guidelines and aligning messages to the general public and health professionals.
The importance of wine culture and the social and cultural aspects of drinking were the focus of the third session moderated by Master of Wine Philip Goodband. Professor Michael Musalek (psychiatrist, Anton Proksch Institute, Vienna) explained the concept of “genuss” and stated that what we really need today is a change from a superficial fun society to a profound “genuss” society. As a first step, he suggested “to use all measures to increase knowledge about the risks of alcohol consumption, but also to increase knowledge on how to use alcoholic beverages in the frame of a joyful life”. During a quick retrospective look of his life, Mr Yiannis Boutaris, mayor of Thessaloniki, analysed the socioeconomic factors driving the evolution of alcohol and wine consumption and highlighted the importance of wine as a cultural product in supporting a moderate drinking behaviour in today’s Greek society and among thousands of university students of Thessaloniki, where public drunkenness is not acceptable.
The conference ended with a lively round table discussion opening the debate to the floor. The three speakers (Federico Castellucci from OIV, Andrew Jefford –wine journalist and Richard Halstead –wine market researcher) concluded that not only should the concept of moderation be better communicated to the general public and established as part of the culture but also underlined the fact that excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages and wine is not socially acceptable.