Wine to lose its bottle?

Is nothing sacred? The humble bottle of wine could be the next casualty of the war on booze...

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The latest wheeze in the battle against obesity and binge-drinking comes from the esteemed British Medical Journal, which is recommending that retailers should start selling wine in 50cl rather than 75cl bottles. The theory is that the smaller amount is perfect for two people to share over dinner – but the larger size encourages people to drink too much (as all those pubs that give you the rest of the bottle free when you buy two 25cl glasses will testify).

For those of you whose thoughts are already drifting to that nice bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape you’re planning to crack open after work tonight, this idea might fill you with dismay. But the problem is, this is the thin end of the wedge. Health experts are worried that we’re getting rather too fond of working our way through a bottle over dinner all through the week – and that isn’t good for our health.

As BMJ editor Trish Groves says: ‘I like a glass of good wine with my supper. But, once two of us have had a glass each, it's all too tempting to finish the bottle there and then. Coupled with the news that wine is getting stronger, it's no wonder Britain's middle-aged middle classes are getting wasted.’ We can’t help feeling that she’s got a point – and since wine consumption is on the rise, this issue isn’t likely to go away.

One retailer who appears to be ahead of the game is supermarket Waitrose, which is about to do exactly that. Next week it’s apparently launching Vin a Deux, a range of eight French wines designed – you guessed it – for two people to share. It’s also beefing up its range of 25cl wines, while phasing out the unpopular half-bottles (when was the last time you ever saw anyone buy one of those?)

With politicians falling over themselves to dream up new schemes to challenge binge-drinking (the Tories launched another set of plans yesterday), it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that this problem is confined to degenerate hoodies. But in practice, higher earners tend to drink more, more often – so the risk is just as great. 

Let’s just hope that a crackdown on wine-drinking doesn’t just transfer the problem. Or before we know it, we could have the Women’s Institute necking super-strength cider on park benches.

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