Wine notes

Tuesday 15 September 2009


Luca Zaia, Italy's charismatic and controversial agricultural minister, has recently attracted a storm of protest after having expressed his dismay that a total ban on drinking and driving would criminalise the Italian wine industry. Critics accused the minister of putting economic interests first, and suggested the minister's comments that a glass or two of wine would not impair driving capabilities were 'unscientific' to say the least.

The minister, a keen media player, started his counter-offensive on Wednesday on his own website, (with its portrait of Zaia shown here allowing no doubt as to his allegiance to the wine industry). In the website's news section, called Zaia News, the minister published his 'Ten Questions no one is asking', aimed at steering the anti-alcohol debate away from the almost exclusive concentration on alcohol-related lethal traffic accidents.

Some of the questions Zaia would like to have answered are:

How come that until now no other statistics are published on other possible causes of accidents, such as the abuse of pharmaceuticals and medications, especially since consumption of antidepressants rose 7.9% and tranquilizers 7.8% in 2007?

How come no one considers the effect of prolonged hours of driving which surely cause psychological stress and hence many accidents?

Why is using a mobile phone while driving a car not considered serious?

Why is no one saying that the main cause for accidents are lack of respect for the rules concerning overtaking, stopping at traffic lights, and stop signs (17.59%), ignoring speed limits (12.20%), or keeping too little distance (9.83%, all statistics from Aci-Istat, the official Italian Automobile Club).

Zaia also asks why until now in the debate some astonishing figures have been ignored, such as the consumption of cocaine from 1.3% in 1991 to 14.2% in 2007 (no source cited), or why smoking while driving a car is still not forbidden.

One of the last on Zaia's list is the rhetorical question, why, instead of demonising wine, has no one ever inquired into the general state of Italy's infrastructure and traffic signs? According to Zaia, the anti-alcohol lobby maintains that alcohol, including wine, is the main cause of road accidents, ignoring that many other factors play their part such as the psychological and or physical state of the driver, the inappropriate consumption of spirits and pharmaceuticals, the general condition of the vehicle, drug consumption, use of mobile phones, and general lack of respect for traffic rules.