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A Blow for Freedom

The Society's blog: societygrapevine.com

Anyone who knows me well will confirm that I love wine and cars in equal measure though I do recognise that they don't mix. Even so, being of generous build, and benefiting from a certain degree of job-related match fitness, I have always considered myself the equal of the average male in managing wine input, though when it comes to beer, or a mixture of both, you are on your own, chaps.

How wrong I was.

Recently, my husband, doubtless weary of being matched, glass for glass by his very own ladette, bought a Breathalyser, and challenged me to a reality check. This took place over the course of a grand day out, during which we consumed exactly the same amount of food and drink. We shared a bottle of Chablis over lunch and then did a bit of shopping. In lieu of afternoon tea, we had a glass each of fizz before sitting down to a performance of The Barber of Seville. All that intrigue made us pretty peckish, so we rounded off the day with a bowl of pasta, and a large glass each of Italian red, packing 13% alcohol by volume. (Please don't write to admonish me that this number of units is somewhat at odds with the recommended daily allowance for 'laydees'. This was an experiment, and my behaviour in these matters is normally exemplary, honest!)

A brisk walk to the car park was followed, as planned, by the muchanticipated Breath Test. My husband elected to go first and was passed fit to drive. I took – and expelled – a deep breath to be greeted with a flashing red light and stern textline, banning me from taking the wheel. While Mr Smug was driving, I made several further attempts to obtain the blessing of this contraption. I received it some thirty minutes later, by which time we were safely home.

My first reaction was to rail against the unfairness of it all. I wouldn't call myself a full-on feminist, as I recognise that the male and female of the species have contrasting and complementary strengths. Clearly, the ability to metabolise alcohol efficiently is right up there with basic DIY skills, brute force, omniscience, especially after the event, and other benefits of testosterone. There are a number of learned explanations for this, ranging from differences in body water content (lower in women, apparently) to those pesky female hormones, to the more efficient production by men of alcoholmetabolising enzymes. It still seemed like blatant sexism to me, but I took heed.

With creeping alcohol levels and glasses resembling vases – what on earth happened to the 90ml and 120ml portions of yore? – it's clear that a 'just a couple of glasses of wine' these days could lead to trouble. As a matter of course, our Lists now include a guide to calculating the number of units provided by a bottle, based on the strength of the wine, along with a reminder of the government's recommended consumption levels. One can't help but notice how well traditional German riesling, with a mere 6.8 units per bottle, emerges from these comparisons, but whatever your tipple, forewarned is forearmed.

But it's not all bad news, even if it took me a while to realise it. I used the word complementary earlier, and this machine has, in fact, done me a favour. With my inferior metabolism, how can I ever again be expected to drive home after the party?

*The subject of drinking and driving is one that The Society takes seriously and is not, indeed, something to be treated casually or lightly. For example, all of our buyers and other staff who may be tasting wines are issued with high-quality breathalysers. The point that Janet sought to make in her article was that in general men metabolise alcohol more efficiently than women, and that (apart from gender) other factors also affect tolerance to the effects of alcohol. Members who wish to avail themselves of the facts about the impacts of drink driving are advised to look at the following website http://think.direct.gov.uk/drink-driving.html Richard Shorrocks, Acting Chief Executive

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