The wine industry is suffering from a hangover this January. IWSR, a drinks industry analysis firm, released a report with a shocking headline: “Wine Consumption in U.S. Declines for First Time in 25 Years.” They found that wine sales by volume declined by 0.9 percent in 2019, the first dip in 25 years.
Not everyone agrees with these numbers. The firm BW166 quickly issued their own report that sales actually grew 1.1 percent. My colleagues at Impact Databank, who have their own reliable methodology, tell me sales did grow last year, but by less than 1 percent.
The overall message is the same—Americans' thirst for wine is being slaked. And because this news arrived during January, many are asking, Is this Dry January’s fault?
Dry January, aka Drynuary, aka Janopause (no, I’m not making those up), is the growing movement to give up alcohol for a month to start the new year. Proponents say it’s a chance for people to reassess their relationship with alcohol. They promise health benefits such as better sleep and healthier skin.
Now I want to make something very clear: Alcohol is a drug and alcoholism is a disease. Some people should not drink. And I think it’s important for all of us to stop sometimes and ask, Am I being mindful about what I drink and how much?
But Dry January is B.S.
We as Americans always like to do things big. We like big bold solutions. That especially goes for our health. For decades, the prevailing wisdom for living a healthy life has been to exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet. Moderation is the mantra.
A recent study from Harvard’s school of nutrition reinforces this. Analyzing health data from 112,000 American health workers collected over decades, the researchers found that women who ate a healthy diet, exercised 30 minutes a day, had a healthy body weight, and drank alcohol in moderation, enjoyed an average of 12.5 years' longer life expectancy free of diabetes, heart disease and cancer than those who followed none of those habits. Men had an average of 9.6 years' longer life expectancy free of those diseases.
But eating right and exercising is so boring, we say. So we declare fat the enemy and all start eating margarine or whatever Country Crock is. Next we decide eggs are the enemy. Wait, no they’re not. Salt is bad. No, sugar. No, carbs. All our food should be plant-based and GMO-free! The biggest diet trend of 2019 requires culling all carbs from your diet to trigger ketosis, which when not done correctly can damage the kidneys, liver and brain.
Dry January, however well-intentioned, is much the same as detoxes and cleanses. You are clearing out alcohol for a month and letting your body reset. But what happens on Feb. 1? Do you embark on a new life of moderate drinking? Or do you make up for lost time?
That same ISWR data suggests it's the latter. Wine sales aren’t slowing because people are drinking less alcohol. Federal statistics show that alcohol consumption has been steadily rising for two decades. Americans now drink as much alcohol as we did pre-Prohibition. Wine sales are slowing because spirits sales are rising. Hard seltzer sales are rising.
So rather than swearing off alcohol for January, here’s my suggestion: Try moderation. Assess your relationship with alcohol, but not by boldly declaring you’re giving it up completely for exactly 31 days. Do it by considering how you can create drinking habits that are sustainable every day of the year. If you need a catchy name, let’s start Moderation March. I am guessing that if you do it right, it will last far longer than just one month.