The Demon Drink by Jancis Robinson - review by Pamela Vandyke Price

Pamela Vandyke Price

Where Does One Stop?

The Demon Drink


Mitchell Beazley 208pp £9.95 order from our bookshop

Anything – yes anything – put into human orifices to excess is a potential danger. There are vogues in danger and currently it’s drink, in the alcoholic sense, that’s being castigated. Jancis Robinson is a Master of Wine, a competent journalist – and a ‘young mum’. Her text, which l think might have been more effective as either a monograph or a more substantial work of reference, is somewhat womb-orientated, breasts and foetuses frequently stressed as being at risk for drinking mothers.

Since female readers are addressed as ‘sisters’, I’ll venture a great-auntly comment that, in dealing with women and drink, she might have included both the pre-menstrual and menopausal problems. Why people drink is a complicated subject, but many women must, like me, have had their first nips of brandy or Scotch in hot water for ‘cramps’ and there are probably many older ladies sadly soaking up the sort of wine that can no longer be termed ‘tonic’ just because, whether married, mothers or neither, they are lonely. Alcohol is both a nutrient and nutriment: a pre-prandial sip can create an appetite in the convalescent disinclined for solid food, a nightcap may be far gentler as a sedative than a pill. Jancis writes wisely that alcohol is a ‘desirable mellower of the autumn of life’. Yes – but for the potential geriatric dipsomaniac, where does one stop? Cirrhosis is a remote peril, rheumatism and unpaid bills, plus various forms of heartache, are immediate.

There are lots of facts and figures, although the list of authorities cited is short and mostly of British origin; there are not enough from doctors in wine-producing countries. The author suggests that a day or two of abstention is healthy, if one regularly drinks heavily. Nobody obliged to sample

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