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Dec 7, 2010 09:11 AM

Is the "recommended" daily limit (of wine) the same in Europe as in N. America?

North American doctors seem to agree that 4 oz. of wine a day for women is healthy, more is harmful. (1 glass per day, or some say 4 glasses per week- I think its 2 glasses per day for men?) I'm wondering if countries like Spain, Italy, France, and Greece have the same limits recommended by the medical community, and what people in those countries think is a "healthy" daily amount to drink. ie: not excessive or abusive. I would also like to know what the general impression of wine drinkers is to these recommended limits. I have the impression that people in European countries drink more than a glass a day without feeling like they are overdoing it. I would love to know what people in Spain, France, Italy, Greece - etc. think about this.

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  1. Just referring to an amount of wine takes no account of the alcoholic content -- which is what its supposed to be about. A 4oz glass of a light German wine could contain half the alcohol of a big California zinfandel.

    I think in miles, yards, feet and inches, and pound and ounces for weight, but I learned about liquid volumes through wine and that comes in 750mL bottles and or divisions/multiples of that. And in UK wine by the glass is sold by law in 125mL or 175mL measures or multiples of.

    I can't get my head around ounces, here in UK a standard glass is 125mL which is exactly one-sixth of a bottle. I had to use Google to find what 4oz is and it equates to 118mL - a very small glass of wine!

    In UK they recommend allowances by 'units' which equate to alcohol content. All the details are at but the recommended allowance is 2-3 units a day for women or 3-4 units for men .

    A 125mL glass of 12% abv wine works out at 1.5 units, so 2-3 glasses for a woman. Two glasses works out at one third of a bottle and 3 glasses would be half a bottle (375mL


    BUT -- the chairman of the committee that advised the government on these safe drinking limits is on record as saying that the committee couldn't find firm evidence to make an informed decision and so when pressed by the government to come up with figures, they guessed.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Gussie Finknottle

      Thanks Gussie - That is a very informative link, and I appreciate your response.

      1. re: Gussie Finknottle

        The French health service recommends a maximum of 2 glasses of wine per day for women, 3 for men; but I think they're working with the same alcohol units. I have no idea if they did anything more sophisticated than guess, though.

        1. re: tmso

          Thanks tmso.
          I don't think I have ever heard anyone in Canada talk about taking into account the alchohol content of the wine being considered. All we get is a recommendation on the 'ounces per day' limit. Very interesting. I agree with sunshine842, the "culture" of drinking seems quite different in Europe, and it is relatively recent that the "French Paradox" has made the possibility that wine could actually have health benefits more widely accepted here.

          1. re: Lotti

            I'm not sure what the "French Paradox" is, but be aware that France is waging a big public health fight against "passive" or "day-to-day" alcoholism. Ie, the sort of dependance that comes about from having wine with your meal or meals every day. I know that I have one month per year where I don't drink wine, just to check that I don't feel any withdrawal symptoms. April, in case anyone is wondering; a good month for teas, syrups with water, etc.

                1. re: tmso

                  not really there's a big public health fight. They have the standard advisories about exercising caution, etc., etc. But haven't ever seen anything even resembling a public service announcement on or in broadcast or print media, bus or train stations, etc., etc., etc.

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    Uh, what country are you living in? There are ads on the metro, ads at bus stops, notices in the free newspapers, posters in bars, ads on TV ... against both binge drinking, and passive alcoholism. It doesn't seem to me that there are as many as there were a few years ago, but for example:




        2. I think that folks in France don't pay a lot of attention to's still pretty common to have a glass of wine or cidre with lunch, and a glass of wine with dinner.

          The drunk-driving laws here are very, very stringent - lower than most US states -- so it's self-moderating. Nobody wants to fall afoul of the DUI laws, so most folks are quite good at enjoying in moderation.

          I think the *culture* of drinking in France is different, too...for adults (I'm not talking about high-school or university-age kids partying here) -- wine is a beverage to be enjoyed as a part of a meal...even for aperos, you have nuts-olives-nibbles with your pre-dinner drink, and after-dinner liqueurs are served with eating and drinking go together, and it's pretty rare to see someone JUST drinking alcohol.

          2 Replies
          1. re: sunshine842

            When you say "a glass of wine with dinner" can you tell me how large that glass is, ( 4 oz.?) and is it usually just one glass per meal ?

            1. re: Lotti

              for lunch, yes, it's usually one glass per meal. The size of the glass depends entirely on who's pouring, even in restaurants. It's stated on the menu, but it can range from 10cl to 20cl -- and then there's house wine, which can be bought in carafes of 25, 50, or 75cl, and is shared amongst the table, so there is no standard.

              What homework are we doing for you?

          2. European countries have adopted a 35 hour work week, vs. 40-50 in the US, so they have extra drinking time.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Veggo

              that's for hourly workers, not salaried...who spend as much time at the office as their counterparts from M-F. They are still sane enough to keep their weekends for themselves.

              1. re: sunshine842

                Actually, salaried work weeks are down to 38.5 hours.

                But we get some drinking in during our lunch hours :-D

                1. re: linguafood

                  then you're working a far different salary than *anyone* I know, French or not, French or foreign company.

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    Well actually, these days I am self-employed. But when I worked in Germany, 38 - 38.5 hours were pretty average.

            2. I think that only Gussie replied to what the OP was asking, which was about medical opinion on drinking/alcohol limits for health reasons, not DUI, etc. Perhaps most European medical authorities have not come out with recommendations as we have here?