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Last Updated: Friday, 29 February 2008, 03:01 GMT
Call for more half wine bottles
The price of alcohol has remained steady for years
British wine lovers may binge drink because they have little option but to buy large bottles, says the deputy editor of the British Medical Journal.

Making half-bottles of wine cheaper and more available could quell the temptation to drink too much, Trish Groves said.

Recent studies have found "hazardous" drinking is rife in wealthier areas.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association said the industry was keen to provide more choice to consumers.

It's no wonder Britain's middle classes are getting wasted
Trish Groves, of the British Medical Journal

Ms Groves said that sticking to recommended daily alcohol limits - two small glasses of wine a day for men, and less than that for women - could be a challenge once the cork had been popped on a standard-sized bottle of wine.

"It's all too tempting to finish the bottle there and then to avoid waste," she said.

"Coupled with the news that wine is getting stronger, it's no wonder Britain's middle classes are getting wasted."

She said that while smaller quantities of wine could be bought easily in French supermarkets and cafes, in the UK the 75cl bottle reigned supreme.

"My local supermarket has row upon row of good looking wines in 75cl bottles - but it offers only three wines in half-bottles, hides them with the dessert wines that nobody drinks, and bumps up the prices prohibitively."

Affluent towns such as Guildford, Woking and Harrogate were close to the top of a league table of dangerous drinking drawn up by the North West Public Health Observatory at Liverpool John Moores University.

Bottle sizes

As wine accounts for 28.8% of all alcohol bought in the UK, Ms Groves reasons that bottle sizes, as well as the increase in the strength of wine, may play a role.

Her call comes after the British Medical Association last week asked the government to step in and restrict cheap alcohol offers in shops and bars.

A spokesman for Alcohol Concern said the charity was more concerned by the regular discounting of wine in supermarkets.

"There's nothing inherently right or wrong about drinking wine, but the public needs to be more aware of exactly how much alcohol they are drinking, and mandatory labelling would help."

A spokesman for the Wine and Spirit Trade Association said that the industry already provided many different sizes of bottles.

"A range of bottle sizes is not a new idea.

"Responding to consumer demand the wine sector is already providing an increasingly wide choice of wines in different bottle sizes and also in varied types of packaging - such as bag-in-box, pouches, cartons, screwcaps and cans.

"As an industry, we're always keen to provide our consumers with a range of options to choose from."


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