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How the Wine Institute fumbled the moderate consumption fight & aided NeoProhibition

I do agree with Wine Business Monthly Editor Cyril Penn that the Wine Institute (WI) under John DeLuca’s guidance, made substantial contributions to the debate over moderate alcohol consumption and health.

DeLuca and I clashed on any number of things back when I was Wine Business Monthly‘s editor and publisher. But I certainly agreed with DeLuca and supported his efforts to disseminate solid information and scientific studies in a responsible manner that told all sides of the health issue.

He seized the public notion that wine held a certain high ground among alcoholic beverages, and made substantial public and regulatory progress toward separating moderate consumption from abuse.

But in the decade+ since DeLuca’s retirement, the WI’s abandonment of the issue  has squandered that progress and his legacy and created a vacuum that offered a clear road to NeoProhibition.

Research & education versus advocacy

Not all scientific studies agree on the health effects of moderate alcohol consumption and not all of them are well done. All are epidemiological studies subject to confounding factors because correlation is not causation.

Anyone who asserts that any such study — pro or con — is “proof” of their position stands on scientific quicksand.

DeLuca knew that and pressed for a middle ground of providing credible, third-party information without trying to obscure access to those with an anti-alcohol viewpoint.

Under DeLuca’s guidance, the WI started a research information and scientific study service.

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That research and education service thrived under Elisabeth Holmgren who had an actual staff to help track articles, studies and to furnish them to journalists and policymakers upon request. That proactive effort did not take a “rah-rah, drink, drink” attitude, but worked to make sure the public discussion had all of the facts available.

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NOTE: Many historical links here are courtesy of (aka “the Wayback Machine). I have captured various pages as graphics and will upload those in the event that Wine Institute sends a “take down” request to remove the links and archived sites.


Industry thinks health issue battle is won. Under Koch leadership, Wine Institute bails out

However, nothing done is ever done for good in the health and alcohol debate. And since then, the Wine Institute and wine industry have totally fumbled the issue. After the industry declared total victory, the Wine Institute allowed the research and education service to twist slowly in the wind. Holmgren left, and the link was erased from the WI website

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The site was never renovated

Research & Education effort killed right after Koch appointed WI Head

Koch was elected June 20, 2003 …

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…Research and Education had gone “404 Not found” by August 11.

Note that the URL in the address bar, below, is the same as the Research and Education screen capture, above.

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Why does it matter? “60 Minutes” and The French Paradox rock the wine world in 1991

For younger members of the wine trade (and older ones whose memories made have faded),

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Click graphic to view video

Wine sales soar

Wine Spectator: Wine Steals America’s Heart

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By 1999, The US Government Approved Wine Institute’s Dietary Guidelines Label Statements

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Living with the aftermath: DeLuca’s work on moderate consumpti0n has been buried under an increasing crescendo of NeoDry shouts.

It’s important to remember that the wine industry is not the only player. Beer and spirits also face the same declining consumption issues.

However, DeLuca’s hard work — relying on the concept of moderate wine consumption with meals — went a long way toward health and scientific rationality.

But in this area, nothing done is done forever. And when you give up the fight. You lose as this article from Silicon Valley Bank indicates: Wine Consumption Probably Won’t Return to “Normal”

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Source: Silicon Valley Bank

Links and trends speak for themselves

These are but a small handful of the current attitudes that that dominate today’s headlines:


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