I know it might sound like heresy, but I don't really care too much about Dry January. I know that as a member of the drinks trade I should be railing against it, reminding people that detox is nonsense, telling folks that they need to support their local independent merchant/pub/restaurant during their worst month of the year, or preaching some made up rubbish like "tryuary" or "canuary" or whatever other Movember wannabe movement has risen to fight off the month of abstinence, but I can't be bothered. January is shite enough as it is. For Christ's sake, Donald Fucking Trump becomes president this month and I'm going to give the most boring of my friends shit for being boring? Or lecture them on how to most help their community? No.
For me, the trade response to Dry January is very similar to the trade's response to the inevitable yearly rise in duty rates. It's a stark reminder of our unimportance in the big grand scheme of things. No matter which way you cut it, we're, the wine/beer/booze pedlars of Britain, providing luxury. And luxury is, in the eyes of the public and government, pretty inessential. Nobody died because their wine wasn't delivered. A lot of people were shouted at, loudly, but nobody died. Wine's an easy target. Far easier than beer. And brewers have been successfully lobbying the government a lot longer than the wine trade. So our duty is going to go up. And people will give up drinking in January. And regardless of the logic used in the arguments to halt those duty rises and teetotallers, it's still going up, and they're still going to quit drinking.
I suppose that as wine folks (or beer folks, or whisky folks) there aren't a lot of battles to be had that really test us, professionally speaking. I mean, there are fights about natural wine or cask vs keg or shitty non-age statement overpriced whisky, but those all come down to taste and aesthetics. With the world going through one of its more drastic periods of constant flux, it seems as though everybody's fighting about something they feel is terribly important. I just can't bring myself to see our corner as all that important in comparison to the other stuff (Brexit, Trump, Syria, Black Lives Matter, women's health, the resurgence of Nazism, the resurgence of Russia, climate collapse, etc. etc.).
This isn't meant to be a slight on wine (or beer, or whisky). It's the opposite, in fact, and something I retreated to often over the last few months of global turmoil. I've drunk well recently. With family, with friends, sharing wines and beers and drams with people I love. Sometimes it's been sad, raising glasses in commiseration at another fallen hero (though I didn't raise a glass to Carrie Fisher - I felt that would be inappropriate - instead I just tear up every time I remember her and force myself to try to write better), others it's been joyful, even celebratory. Even if it's just been celebrating each other's company. Often it's been wine I've had a hand in making or selling, or just a bottle of something I love.
I love wine. And beer. And whisky. They provide both joy and solace when good. As bad news continues to appear throughout various timelines, as nobody can be fighting all the time, as those moments with friends new and old become more scarce, the highs brought by a good bottle shared, a few pints by the fire, or just one last dram before bed are more important than ever before. They may be luxuries, as close to essential as luxuries get. And while I won't be waving any flags or boring anyone with detox facts or duty statistics, I'll be embracing the benefits of this bizarre bit of the world I've found myself in. In moderation, obviously.
Kick the new year off by supporting my new book. Or buying my last one.