Gill Stannard

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I'll drink to that!

Recently on air I mentioned the surprise I got when I actually measured how many mls of wine I poured to get the fabled “standard drink”. The issue being that our wine is getting stronger and that means that percentage of alcohol-wise there are more drinks per bottle despite the size of the bottle remaining the same.

In today’s Epicure, in The Age, Ben Canaider eloquently covers the same ground in his piece, ”Measuring up to Standards”.

Like me, he recently did the maths – took a bottle of wine off the shelf, grabbed the calculator and did the maths. For a 14% alcohol bottle of pinot grigio there are 8.24 standard. By law all alcoholic beverages display the amount of standard drinks on the label. Very simply take your 750ml bottle of plonk – divide the 750 by the number of drinks and in this case it gives you 91, the number of mls per glass you need to comply with “standards”.

I actually did this a month ago. The innocuous little rosé that previously I’d considered a light summer drop was nothing of the sort. At 86 mls a glass, using a kitchen measurer to quantify the liquid, there was a rather paltry splash of wine in the bottom of the glass.

As Candaider points out, what you get in your local pub or bar is very likely to be uncalibrated for the percentage of alcohol, for wine that is up to 150ml in your wine glass.

So, other than an exercise of rudimentary mathematics, why does this matter?

At this time of year, more than any other, there are some outdated games some drivers play in their heads along the lines of “I can have two drinks every hour and one per hour there after and still be under the limit to drive”. Wrong! Even if you are using properly measured standard drinks for this game, considering gender, size, metabolism and state of your liver you are still very likely to be way over Australia’s .05 blood alcohol limit.

Regardless if it’s a quick drink or a long night, the woman who has just two pub sized glasses of champagne after work in an hour before rushing to pick the kids up is likely to be over the limit to drive safely and legally. The regular bar glass of champagne usually works out to 1.5 in standard drinks, even more if using larger vessels at home. But if this woman is premenstrual, when under the influence of a certain cocktail of hormones she might process alcohol less efficiently, giving an even higher blood alcohol reading.

Then there is a guy having a few stubbies, not a big night as he’s going to work the next day. Two in the first hour, then one per hour from 5-10 pm. At 1.7 standard drinks for a bottle of Coopers, the 6 drinks actually morphs into over 10.

The Victorian standard drink guide will give you an idea of how much your favourite drink equates to. The current official guidelines regarding your health and drinking are:

Men should drink no more than 4 standard drinks a day, on average
And never more than 6 standard drinks in one day.

Women should drink no more than 2 standard drinks a day, on average
And never more than 4 standard drinks in one day.

Everyone should have 1 or 2 alcohol-free days every week.
Department of Health and Aging

Back to the wine guide that is – women drinking about 1.3 glasses of wine a day but no more than about 2.5, while men can have about 2.5 glasses of wine but no more 4.

But if you are driving, it’s safer to stick to none at all.

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