Dry January in France: how our readers are changing drinking habits

Readers have been sharing observations about how their alcohol consumption has evolved since they moved to France and whether they are trying out Dry January this year

You have been sharing your observations about how your drinking habits have changed since you moved to France
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Thank you to all of the Connexion readers who wrote in to tell us about how you may or may not have changed your drinking habits since moving to France, and whether you are trying out Dry January this year.

Many of you talked about developing a greater appreciation for French wine and drinking less beer and spirits since settling in the country.

Here is a selection of the comments we received:

Evolving alcohol consumption habits

Below you will find some of the comments sent to us by readers:

"Like a lot of people, when I first arrived in France from the UK nearly 12 years ago I was fond of a glass or two of red wine. The cost of it here made it more accessible and it became a nightly habit to open a bottle with dinner… and sometimes even a second one," one reader said.

"But having used the non-socialising time of lockdown to do a short detox (it was originally intended to be one month but I extended it as we weren't going out or having people to dinner), I now seem to have developed an intolerance.

"It has been 17 months now but try as I might I just can no longer tolerate most alcohol and wine especially. One glass of any colour including bio and sans sulphite gives me a headache within an hour and the kind of hangover I would have expected after a proper Saturday night of partying!

"I can manage the odd beer without too much of a bad head but mostly now I just stick to some passable non-alcoholic beers. The choice is not as great as in the UK (zero Guinness is excellent but unobtainable where I live in Tarn-et-Garonne).

"I can't say I feel much better for it...just a bit more smug than usual! But I guess it's better for my health and general wellbeing."

'I find I am drinking less'

"I find I am drinking much less beer than I did in the UK, as French beer is either tasteless fizz or ridiculously strong and expensive," another reader said.

"I'm not that keen on wine so I have been drinking much more whisky than I used to."

'Wine replaced beer'

"I moved to France in 1992 and there have been several changes in my drinking habits, both in the quantity, the quality and the type of drink.

"Before moving to France drink was a more or less equal mix of beer, wine and spirits (mainly gin and tonic).

"Once here the consumption of beer declined and from about 2000 stopped altogether. Wine replaced beer. Gin and tonic dropped out and was replaced by Ricard, Kir, and various mixtures of wines and spirits.

"When I first arrived in France the quantity of alcoholic drink was much the same as in the UK. Nothing at midday, an apéro before supper and sometimes two, two or three glasses of wine with the evening meal and a digestif through the evening.

"With age the quantity gradually reduced and the spirits were eliminated: I now have no more than two glasses of wine per day, sometimes less and occasionally nothing at all.

"When I first arrived in France I drank wine from the lower end of the price spectrum, although never the really cheap stuff. I now drink less but it is a better quality wine. I am 88 years old and feel that I deserve good wine!"

Focusing on good quality wine

"People often comment on how much cheaper wine is in France than in the UK, and I suspect that may lead some to drink more.

"We instead resolved to buy better wine for the same money, and did so for quite a while. We now have a maison secondaire in south Burgundy which we bought specifically with local wines in mind, and within an hour or so’s drive have the choice of vineyards from the Côte d’Or down through Beaujolais to the Rhône, or east to the Jura.

"We’d far rather buy direct from the vignerons where we can chat with the man who grew and bottled the wine, and it’s a long time since we bought any in a shop - we get opportunity to buy wines from more distant regions at the various foires and salons des vins they attend too.

"There are plenty of social events and people eating at each other’s houses in the village, so we do sometimes drink rather more than we would in the UK, but we mostly restrict it to Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

"We are too close to the Saône river for the house to have a cave, but wines that need a few years to develop keep reasonably cool in the back of our grange."

'We rarely drink anything other than wine'

"In the UK, I used to drink gin and tonic and my husband a shandy or beer, unless we were eating out. With food, we normally had a glass of wine.

"Since coming to France, we rarely drink anything other than wine, always French - white, rose, red and our local Blanquette (white sparkling). We did drink a lot of wine when we were first here, probably because it was so cheap, but after putting on a lot of weight, we cut down.

"Nowadays if we are on our own at home (most of the time nowadays!) we only usually have a glass of wine before our evening meal. If we are out with local friends where we can walk to or from home, then we drink more wine but we don't tend to spend all day with them, and then don't drink anything further when we return home."

Dry January

"We decided on a ‘moist’ January - we only drink on Saturday and Sunday!" one reader said.

"Dry January is not for me but I usually have a dry Wednesday and Thursday so my system gets a clean out," another commented.

"I have made two changes to my drinking habits. The first is that I now appreciate and understand French wines in greater depth including the different styles and taste from the many regions, and rarely drink wines from other countries now.

"Secondly I have acquired a taste for Ricard, especially during the long hot summers in the south west. I make my own lemonade and in a long tall glass filled with ice I add a good shot of the flavoursome Ricard topped up with lemonade and Perrier. Magic. My copine knows when I have had a second glass!"

"I'm doing a hybrid dry January, no alcohol during the week. Even that is modified!" another reader said.

"I'm not having alcohol on days other than Friday and Saturday. Until now I've always had a glass of red, or two, with my evening meal.

"I'm not doing it for any other reason that I just think it's a good idea to cut back a bit.

"Having said that, I have found that as I've gotten older (I'm 71) my evening glasses of wine haven't really had much effect, so there seems no point in wasting the money.

"Only into my ‘dry’ January by a week, obviously, but no problems so far. I drink Nestea instead."

Finally, another reader said: "I am currently following a ‘dry’ January for the first time, however, the tannin in red wine is being reported as a good defence against Covid so I will revert in February."

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