chapter  14
23 Pages

The politics of wine

The Anglo-Saxon world has always been cautious about wine, having something of a love/hate relationship with it. The ‘hate’ side of the relationship has allowed alcohol to be used as a political tool. This has been most obvious in campaigns for prohibition but even in countries where prohibition is no longer a serious possibility health concerns can have a major impact. Thus in Australia, which is a major wine-producing nation, domestic tax on wine currently stands at 41 per cent, compared with a normal Goods and Services Tax level of 10 per cent. A major reason given for this is that reducing the tax would send the wrong messages about abuse and the potentially deleterious health impact of wine, even though such a high level of taxation is probably hampering the growth of the domestic market, which in turn could hinder the development of exports. The ‘love’ side of the relationship has tended to focus on politicians’ private enjoyment of alcohol generally, and wine specifically. Winston Churchill was renowned for his fondness of wine, and his enjoyment of Champagne Pol Roger resulted in the house producing a prestige cuvée named in his honour. However, this ambiguity has sometimes turned into hypocrisy. Asquith and Lloyd-George both led governments in the UK in the early twentieth century which supported temperance and controls on consumption, but in private they were keen imbibers, resulting in a combination of public abstinence and private indulgence.