Wet February, the celebrated return to wine, came early this year. 2.1 million Americans gave up on Dry January in 2021, according to data in a report from The Drinks Business. Ironically, an article in Vine Pair claims that 13% of Americans participated in Dry January in 2021, up from 11% the previous year. Apparently, we’re a nation of try-ers and quitters. I love this.
What is Dry January?
In case none of your friends are functional alcoholics, Dry January (or “Dranuary,” because Americans hate syllables) is a public health campaign urging people to abstain from alcohol for the month of January. The campaign is relatively recent, as it made its first appearance by the Alcohol Concern, who trademarked the term in 2013. However, the Finnish government had launched a campaign called “Sober January” in 1942 as part of its war effort. Apparently, switching sides three times will make any nation drink).
I have several friends who participated in Dry January this year. Each one of them has had the exact same opinions about the endeavor:
- “I feel so much better!”
- “I can’t wait for this to be over!”
The timing of Dry January seems perfect, as most people have hangovers that last the first two weeks of the month anyway, having drank themselves into oblivion in an attempt to deal with family over the holidays. In addition, there’s the whole “New Year/New You” vibe that comes on January 1st, because there’s nothing like the arbitrary placement of the Earth in its elliptical orbit around the sun to make us think, God, I hate myself and I drink like a degenerate.
Celebrating Wet February
My concern is Wet February (or “Wefebrary,” which is ironically the name of a village in Wales that makes damn fine whiskey*). If you’re celebrating Wet February as the return to wine, you may have an issue.
If I’m coming across as snarky, I don’t mean to be. As I’ve talked about before in these pages, I think it’s time all of us in the wine community speak up on the topic of responsible drinking. Just because the juice in question costs $100 a bottle and has a cute frog on the label doesn’t mean it isn’t equally addictive or destructive as Manischewitz (though it doesn’t taste like cherry-flavored antifreeze). If you did Dry January, more power to you. I hope it was productive and effective, and you got everything out of it you hoped for.
But if you did Dry January while counting down the days until February 1st, and you’ve got a special bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape set aside to uncork at exactly 12:00:01AM, I don’t think you fully grasped the reasoning behind Dry January. In fact, does it really mean anything to give up drinking – or any addictive behavior for that matter – if you know in advance that at some future moment you’ll go straight back to that behavior? If you put down the bottle for 31 days knowing full well you’re going to run back to that thing on Day 32 like a grape & yeast crack pipe, what’s the point in stopping at all?
Dry January Statistics
According to an article in The Wall Street Journal (and who on Wall Street isn’t an expert on drinking?), two-thirds of the participants in an 857-person survey reported that they successfully completed Dry January. While a small group of participants experienced a rebound effect, drinking more than they drank before, both participants who finished Dry January and those who quit early reported drinking fewer days a week and fewer drinks per sitting on average. (Those who finished saw greater decreases than the ones who didn’t). Both groups also reported getting drunk less.
And there’s more. In the same article, a group of liver specialists found that abstaining from alcohol for a month improved liver function. It also improved blood pressure and markers associated with cancer. Participants also lost an average of 3.3 to 4.4 pounds. And, it was reported, they slept better (which shouldn’t be confused with “passed out better”).
So, is Wet February truly the return to wine? I think the moral of the story is that the best way to approach Dry January with intention. (I know: awesome advice to get in the middle of February). What do you hope to accomplish with this abstinence? Why are you not pouring that drink? What habits are you looking to change? A good rule of thumb is that if you take a self-inventory and decide that something about your drinking habits needs to change, well, don’t wait until January to change it.
Pairs With a Wet February
Running Back To That Bottle On February 1st Like Your Favorite Dysfunctional Relationship Pairs With: The 2016 Docil Loureiro Vinho Verde. There has been much written about the origins of Vinho Verde, so I’ll leave the technical stuff out. In short, the name doesn’t literally translate to “green wine.” Vinho Verde wine is produced in the lush, green, rolling hills of northern Portugal. Although there are several origin stories behind its name—including the idea that it is harvested early and should be drunk young—locals suggest that the name comes from the verdant natural setting.
The 2016 may seem like a counter-intuitive, expired-wine choice to pop your Dry January cherry. However, the 2016 has the lowest alcohol of the last three vintages at 11%, which will help keep your liver from going into toxic shock following that first glass. Let’s face it: with your tolerance reset to zero, you shouldn’t dive right back into the vodka. That said, you’re not going to want to reward yourself for your monk-like dedication with a Bud Light. I love the subtle, herbal characteristics of Vinho Verde. It’s a great food wine as well, so if you added a diet as well to your New Years resolutions, you can throw that one out the window at the same time.
*No, it’s not.