As alcohol becomes more accessible and enthusiasm toward wine grows, the burden to drink responsibly shifts to the individual.
By: Carolyn Evans Hammond Published on Sat Jan 27, 2017 in The Toronto Star and on Star Touch, Syndicated
It’s all very exciting, isn’t it? Wine in grocery stores. Online shopping at LCBO.com. The new “Products of the World Specialty Boutiques” tucked neatly into existing LCBO stores.
But as alcoholic beverages become more accessible, the burden to drink responsibility quietly shifts from the province to the individual.
This shift coincides with a rabid enthusiasm toward wine (not to mention craft beer, cider and cocktails), a fiercely competitive marketplace putting better bottles on shelves, and the LCBO focusing squarely on marketing. In short, we’ve never been more directly and indirectly tempted to drink more. And that’s exactly what we’re doing.
LCBO total volume sales in the 2015-16 fiscal year (in thousands of litres) was 502,137, an increase of 7.1 per cent from the previous year. In fact, the LCBO reported record sales of $5.57 billion in the 2015-16 fiscal year, 6.6 per cent more than the previous one. And sales will probably continue to rise. But this situation suggests risks associated with alcohol may also be escalating.
If you’re wondering why yours truly, a wine columnist, is penning this piece, it’s because of my social conscience. With every story I write and recommendation I put out there, I hope readers will enjoy responsibly. Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for enjoying a drink — especially a good glass of wine. But moderation is key for reasons that may surprise you.
Did you know alcohol is a straight-up, well-documented carcinogen? The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a part of the World Health Organization, names alcohol as a definitive cause of oral, larynx, esophagus, liver, colorectal and female breast cancers.
And although wine may help cardiovascular health and possibly reduce your risk of stroke and diabetes, all benefits tank when you consume more than one drink a day. In fact, drinking too much is a known cause of heart disease as well as stroke, cirrhosis of the liver and other painful conditions.
Peel Public Health actually tallied the figures for its area. In its relatively small population of 1.3 million, alcohol caused 3,476 emergency room visits, 1,155 hospitalizations, 28 new cases of cancer, 127 deaths and 1,493 ambulance calls in 2015 alone.
Of course the more you drink, the higher the risks. But the dim reality is nearly 10 per cent of Ontario adults drink alcohol every day, according to Statistics Canada. And close to 24 per cent of adults in Toronto drink excessively, according to official city stats. These statisticss don’t reflect the fact people both notoriously under-report and underestimate how much they drink.
Ontario studies show wealthy, white, Canadian-born men — especially those who are unmarried — are the heaviest drinkers. That’s not the only group that drinks too much, of course, but it’s a clear reminder alcohol affects more than the most vulnerable subsets of society.
Is a glass of wine with dinner each night going to kill you? Probably not. But if that glass is topped up regularly and leads to nearly a bottle per night, there are probably serious short-term and long-term consequences to consider. And remember, one drink means a five-ounce pour of wine at 12 per cent alcohol.
The question is, what is an acceptable amount of alcohol to consume? Generally, no more than two drinks per day for women and no more than three for men — with non-drinking days every week.
And with that information in mind here are five light whites that contain 12 per cent alcohol or less.
2014 Angels Gate Riesling, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, ON (LCBO 160523 $13.95 in store and online)
Shining star-bright, this shimmeringly pristine Riesling is both vibrant and evocative. Chiseled aromas of flint, honey-crisp apple, lime zest and kerosene (a scent often found in maturing Riesling) take hold. Then polished-steel-smooth flavours of electric lime, salt and wet stones unspool and linger. Pour this local gem with grilled salmon, a spicy Asian noodle dish, or cod cakes. Alcohol: 11.5 per cent.
2015 Clean Slate Riesling, Mosel, Germany (LCBO 286237 $12.95 in store and online)
I like this wine for a few reasons. Not only is it excellent wine for the money, but the clean, linear label depicting piles of slate cleverly alludes to both character of the wine and the soil composition from the Mosel region of Germany. Notes of wet stone, honeysuckle, white peach and grapefruit zest infuse the lime squirt core. Great purity and freshness here in a classically styled, dry-tasting German Riesling. Serve it with fried fish or pumpkin ravioli topped with a brown butter sauce and walnuts. Alcohol: 11 per cent.
2014 Fielding Estate Winery Fireside White, VQA Niagara Peninsula, ON (LCBO 303040 $13.95 in store and online)
Little wonder this tightly wound blend of Riesling, Viognier and Chardonnay won Double Gold at the 2016 All Canadian Wine Championships and gold at the 2016 Royal Wine Competition. It’s a sprightly yet suave little wonder that tastes something like the best mixed citrus sorbet you’ve ever tasted — all zip, slip and joy. The lacy acidity lifting the kiss of sweetness to ensure impeccable balance. Serve it with spiced nuts by the fire or with cherry pound cake or cheese in the afternoon. Alcohol: 11 per cent.
2015 Dunavar Pinot Grigio, Hungary (LCBO 335422 $9.55 in store and online)
With subtle flavours and aromas of fresh lemon and Granny Smith apple, this racy Pinot Grigio shows all the clean, lean character for which the variety is known. If you like Pinot Grigio, you’d be hard pressed to find a better value bottle for less than $10. Poised, harmonious and glossy, it’s an easy win. Goes very well with pork chops and mashed potatoes, chicken and French fries, or steamed mussels with garlic and parsley. Alcohol: 12 per cent.
2015 Fresh Beginnings Moscato, VQA Niagara Peninsula, ON (LCBO 341776 $12.95 in store and online)
If you’re growing tired of winter, this liquid beam of sunshine should brighten things up. Intense and succulent, this approachable white brims with aromas and flavours of sweet orange, juicy nectarine, ruby grapefruit and white flowers. It’s sweet, yes; but the bright charge of mouthwatering acidity ensures it finishes clean and dry. Easy cocktail alternative to serve well-chilled with all things spicy, salty, or crunchy. Alcohol: 12 per cent.
Alcohol reality check: a quick quiz
Discover your alcohol-related health risk by taking theAlcohol Reality Check. Developed by Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia and condoned by Toronto Public Health, this quick quiz offers personalized feedback about your alcohol use based on Canada’s official low risk alcohol drinking guidelines.
Carolyn Evans Hammond is a Toronto-based wine writer. She is also a London-trained sommelier and two-time bestselling wine book author. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org .