Drink alone yes, but in moderation; and the impossible balance of conversations about alcohol consumption on TV

Drink alone yes, but in moderation; and the impossible balance of conversations about alcohol consumption on TV
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Sometimes I think I’m old now, but then I remember that I’m not as old as the people who go on TV. And so I find myself witnessing conversations that seem to come out of a costume drama. Context: a few days ago – during Vinitaly – TG2 Post talked about wine consumption and the conversation seemed to be produced by an artificial intelligence trained only by boomer affirmations. The controversy: the writer and television personality Antonella Boralevi, who was asked to comment on the increase in wine consumption by women, says: «A woman always has to fight with that part of herself that doesn’t feel up to par. Women drink like they used to smoke a cigarette, they drink to give themselves a tone. We don’t need a glass of wine to know we are valuable, a small dose is better and above all never drink alone at home.” Open heaven: online tEveryone considered this consideration “sexist” and “patriarchal”, and the comments were wasted (yes yes including mine, of course). Paradox: the truly disturbing thing about this segment was, instead, said shortly afterwards by Alessandro Scorsone, sommelier and master of ceremonies of the Presidency of the Council (sic), according to which: «Wine is poetry. An extraordinary way to get to know people and above all to win them over, which is why women always like it when a glass of wine is served.” Here: so focused on the speck in Boralevi’s eye, that the beam of this comment went unnoticed: yet this is the truly inferior mentality, the idea that it is permissible to serve a woman a drink with the intention of lowering her resistance to being “conquered”.

But let’s go back to Boralevi’s speech! At forty, I have the feeling of belonging to a generation of women who have a perhaps excessively carefree relationship with alcohol, and for whom – I try to present this evaluation in the most neutral way possible – this naturalness has represented an achievement. Boralevi is seventy years old, so – for example – she was twenty in the early 70s, when the “Bar Basso” invented the “Negroni Sbagliato”: legend has it it was a mistake, but in reality the historic Milanese venue invented a “for ladies” variation of the Negroni where the sparkling wine replaced the gthen, lowering the alcohol content and making the drink more “feminine” (sparkling wine was, then as unfortunately still today, considered such). Precisely in those years, in fact, in Italy it had become more common for women to go out in the evening and frequent bars, appropriating a dimension of social life that had been predominantly male until that moment. In saying that women drink to “give themselves a tone”, Boralevi still seems to believe that women should always frequent society a bit as guests, adapting to habits that are not their own in order to settle in. It is a very different experience from that of my generation: in the forced abstinence of my two pregnancies, I discovered that the demographic group of pregnant women who most tend to maintain a moderate consumption of alcohol (the classic glass of wine every now and then) also during pregnancy is that of adult women, of the middle-upper class, with a high level of education. And the reason for this conduct is that this demographic is the same as women who drink alcohol on a regular basis. Personally, I also find the recommendation about “not drinking alone” rather bizarre: if drinking secretly is certainly an alarm bell (it means that we are aware of having a consumption that the people around us consider to be unbalanced), Glasses of wine drunk in perfect solitude while reading a book or cooking are among the dearest I have. But this attitude – which is mine, and which I find widespread among women of my age – is already not very contemporary, outdated: a report published by BerenbergResearch in 2023 it found that Gen Z drinks 20% less than us Millennials. And in general it pays greater attention to health issues. We also see this phenomenon in the growth of non-alcoholic alternatives on the market; with the world’s largest brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev, believing that its low-alcohol and non-alcoholic beers will account for a fifth of its sales by 2025. Part of this social change certainly comes from greater insistence on public health, on the damage of alcohol: if until a few years moderate consumption (the classic “glass of wine with a meal”) was considered harmless if not beneficial, today we know that – – damn – there is no dose of alcohol that certainly doesn’t hurt us. And in fact, in the unfortunate round table, together with Boralevi and the sommelier Scorsone at TG2, it was also necessary to include Giorgio Calabrese, nutritional doctor and president of the National Commission for Food Safety, who responds to Boralevi: «Women, metabolically, have an enzyme in smaller quantities: if men can drink a glass, women are better off having half a glass». Caught between the two fires of public health, on the one hand, and the great (cultural and economic) strength of wine in Italy, mass media communication on wine generally ends up being a big mess: and not through Boralevi’s fault.

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