‘British drinking habits come as a shock now we live in France’

They drink so much and so fast, says columnist Samantha David after a trip to London

‘In France, instead of knocking it back, we share a single bottle between four to five people at dinner’

I see that the French government is spending up to €200 million to destroy wine lakes in the Languedoc and Bordeaux regions due to overproduction.

Aside from the obvious jokes about being willing to dispose of the problem for a much lower price, I am kind of not surprised.

Per capita wine consumption in France in 1960 was a staggering 120 litres a year, descending steadily to 24.2 litres in 2023.

Read more: Four reasons why less wine is being drunk in France

French police are tough on drink-drivers

Of course, some of this is due to the popularity of other drinks. As well as cider and craft beers, the market is now crammed with cocktails, mocktails and everything in between.

There is also the driving factor: the French police are increasingly tough on anyone who tries drink-driving.

It is not news that the younger generation drinks more moderately than their parents (red eyes on social media are so uncool).

There might well be other reasons. Who knows?

Read more: Dry January grows in France but not funded like anti-smoking campaign

Now we appreciate the wine we drink

Speaking for myself, I just got bored with it. There are so many other fun things to do. I would sooner do exercise than drink when it comes down to it.

It is not like we have given up completely in our house. There is still wine in the rack and fridge. (This is France, after all, and it would be a sin not to sample the fruits of the vignerons’ labour.)

But instead of knocking it back, we share a single bottle around four to five people at dinner.

We are healthier and wealthier for it, not to mention finding that one glass each gives us all the giggles.

Because we are buying less, we are actually buying better wine, and drinking it has become more of an occasion.

We are even starting to notice what we drink, whether we like it or not.

Labels have been soaked off favoured bottles and stuck on to the fridge door.

We have been to tastings at wineries, distilleries and breweries. As a result, I like to think we are more discriminating drinkers.

British drinking habits come as a shock

The thing is, though, I have realised that we are actually a bit out of step with our British friends and relations.

If you only have a small demi-pêche (beer laced with fruit cordial) once or twice a week, British drinking habits come as a shock.

They drink so much and so fast, compared to the way people consume their alcohol in France.

Visiting London, I was amazed at the size of the drinks served. We went to the Christmas market on the South Bank, which was very festive and fun, and got some mulled wine, which came in an enormous plastic beaker, practically a third of a bottle. And that was the ‘medium’ size.

A friend mentioned exactly the same thing the other day. He has family coming from Britain for Christmas, and said gloomily that he knew they would all end up drinking too much.

I can see how it happens. No one wants to be considered a spoilsport or a wet blanket. On the other hand, feeling obliged to get plastered is not great either.

I am stocking up on 0% beers for Christmas, along with wines from the Loire Valley, which can have an alcohol content of just 8.5%. Cheers!

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