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Tuesday Tributes
The New Prohibitionists

By Charles Olken

I drink to their health. They are saving the world from the 100-point system, from binge drinking, from wines without terroir, from screw caps or corks—depending on who has the floor at any given time.

Yes, there are lots of prohibitions in our business, and they do not all involve overconsumption. But one does, and that is the attempt by the anti-alcohol forces to redefine binge drinking. So, let’s start with Webster. “Binge”, according to Webster and his buddy Merriam is drunken revelry. Now, I don’t know about you, but I have no problem with revelry. Revelry is just fine with me. When it comes to revelry, I am an addict. I have been known to laugh right out loud. “Drunken”, of course is a “horse of a different feather”—as we used to say back in the old neighborhood. Loss of control is not so nice, and certainly “a drunken binge” or a “bender”, as it used to be called, is not anything to be celebrated.

So, when the anti-alcohol folks redefine “binge drinking” as exceeding a blood alcohol of 0.08%, they are trying to rewrite Webster and Merriam. No longer is a binge equated with drunkenness and benders. Now, these folks are trying to tell us that anyone who has a blood alcohol of 0.08% not only should not drive a car but is also guilty of the shameful act of “binge drinking”. We are not talking about wobbly walking or slurred words or even talking too loud. We are talking about two glasses or three glasses of wine. In other words, folks, virtually everyone who is reading this column is a binge drinker according to these Prohibitionists.

It is easy enough to ignore them. They have a problem with moderation. To them, there is no level of alcohol consumption that is acceptable. Sort of reminds me of the folks who would ban the 100-point system.

Now, I don’t blame you if you are now scratching your head and wondering how I could possibly get from A to B with this line of reasoning. Thanks for asking. I am going to tell you.

The folks who would ban alcohol object to what it does to some people—mainly those who overindulge and wind up doing things they ought not do—like pickling their insides and destroying their lives. In the name of stopping that human carnage, for that is what it is, the Prohibitionists would ban all alcohol. They do not understand that it is the drunks, not the alcohol, that is the problem. That equation was so obvious during the real Prohibition that, for the first and only time in our country’s history, we actually reversed a Constitutional amendment. No need to relive that story except to note that it was fear of the abusers that brought us to that unholy place and it was those who realized that use does not equate to abuse who finally brought us back.

Those who would ban the 100-point system make a similar argument. It is all about abuse. We must ban the 100-point system because some folks misuse it. Never mind that the movement is being fronted by a winery that used to proudly proclaim its high ratings until it stopped getting them. If people have accidents in cars, we need to ban cars. If planes fall from the sky, we need to ban planes. If wineries get ratings they don’t like, we need to ban the rating system. It is never about the truth with these folks. It is always about their own narrow agendas. Ban alcohol because some people abuse it. Ban the 100-point system because we don’t like the way it gets used.

The point-banners call themselves the Score Revolutionists, and they will undoubtedly be delighted that someone is talking about them. I am okay with that. I want to make sure that we all know what is at stake here. It is not the end of abuse. It is the end of wine ratings. The millions of people who read wine publications or who post on or read the score agglomeration sites like Cellar Tracker and Snooth are guilty of binge drinking by another name if you ask the 100-point haters. They are as surely prohibitionists as those who would ban alcohol. They know better than you. And they see trouble just as surely as those folks back in River City did.

The next time they raise the cry or proclaim that they are inventing an “app” or some other nonsense like that, we need to treat them like the Prohibitionists they are. We need to laugh out loud. Some would call that revelry. Not to worry. It’s okay with me.


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by David Vergari
Posted on:9/21/2011 11:32:09 AM

Either way, we're talking about extremism here.  You made your point as far as this reader is concerned.  Perhaps we'll hear more conversations like the following: Drinker A, "It's a great wine...[renowned wine expert] gave it 95 points!".  Drinker B, "...I could care less."

Wine Talk
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:9/21/2011 11:58:10 AM


I second the notion that wine talk is best when focused on wine. Would that it were always thus, but there are people out there whose narrow agendas would limit our ability to enjoy wine responsibly. If they had their ways, there would be no wine talk because their would be no wine.

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