I'm not sure if the Independent's 'Peter Oborne' stuck to his New Year's resolution of a dry January, but if he or anyone else managed to overcome their "gloom and terror", then they deserve a pat on the back. Not that they'll get one from the I-could-if-I-wanted-to crowd. The dry-January deniers are legion, not just a self-interested wine industry and tax-hiking government, but those convincing themselves that daily alcohol consumption could only be someone else's problem.
Action, as they say, speaks louder than words, and the best way to prove to yourself that you're not dependent, whether on beer, wine or spirits, is to stop for a while. Increasing numbers, especially in the wine industry, are making a go of it. And it's not just to bring relief to the sodden liver, but as much a way of showing you can overcome that seven o'clock itch. Oborne is no Jeffrey Bernard, but he said "I have been looking forward to that first drink of the day a little too much. I admit that, while not an alcoholic, I am in danger of becoming alcohol-dependent".
Nothing is more calculated to drive you to drink than a po-faced holier-than-thou. Fortunately, I don't have to be sanctimonious because my dry January was punctuated by wet weekends and only no wine drinking during the week at home. Funny how many evenings out there seemed to be. My true saviour was a new Omega Fruit and Vegetable juicer. Someone pay me to be an ambassador for this life-saving pulper. Simply shove in a few fruits, roots and leaves and it'll give you the best and healthiest 'Happy Hours' of your life.
I applaud the charity drinkaware.co.uk for the advice and information on the consumption and health issues it gave to some four million unique users who visited its site last year. I feel less comfortable, though, with the negative assumptions behind the categories of 'Increasing risk drinker' and 'Higher risk drinker'. To suggest that from one to three glasses of wine a day is excessive can be an acceptable guideline for those who want to cut down. But the responsible drinking majority don't want or need it suggested that they're increasing-risk or higher-risk drinkers when they're not.
In neo-prohibitionist America, the late Californian winemaker Robert Mondavi became a tub-thumper for wine's civilising influence. "We would prescribe two glasses with each meal because it enhances food, it reduces stress, it encourages friendship and it kindles romance. In moderation, it helps digestion, it protects the heart, it promotes good health and it improves our disposition." Quite so. I suppose we could live without wine if necessary, but now it's February, let's raise a glass to the fact that we don't all have to.