Stop Making Fun of Dry January

Let's Instead Foster a Healthy Relationship with Alcohol

Dry January brings a unique challenge to the wine industry. While some might view it as a threat, I view it as an opportunity for wineries to educate and engage their audience on the beauty, history, and importance of wine while also fostering a healthier relationship with alcohol consumption.

Recently, Karen MacNeil's comments on Dry January sparked a critical conversation about our industry's approach to the growing "Sober Curious" movement.

While Karen also pointed out the lack of discussion around the positive relationship people have with wine, her statement labeling the movement as "self-righteous" and "puritanical" seemed to criticize those participating in Dry January, which felt very pot and kettle to me.

She even went so far as to suggest that dry January "could very well be the first baby step towards another Prohibition," which is a bit of a stretch.

Dry January is more than just a trend;

It is an opportunity for many of us, myself included, to reset and reevaluate our relationship with alcohol.

The first time I participated in Dry January, I encountered moments that were extremely eye-opening.

Once, within the first week of what I was dubbing my 'sober experiment,' my husband opened a can of beer in another room, and the mere sound made my mouth water—an intense and unexpected reaction and a startling reminder of the subconscious associations we often have with alcohol.

A few days later, while preparing a lamb dinner, I caught myself daydreaming about which wine I would pair with it (Foxen Winery's Pinot Noir from Julia's Vineyard, for the record). The dish was enjoyable on its own, but I couldn't help but think about how a well-paired wine could have elevated the meal. This realization was pivotal, and it spurred me to adopt a more intentional approach to my alcohol consumption.

Now, while I don't strictly observe Dry January every year, I've found that periodic "dry" spells, even if just for a few days or weeks, are crucial for maintaining this intentionality. As someone whose career has included drinking as a part of the job, it's easy to take it for granted, and I know this sentiment is shared by many others in the wine, beer, and spirits industries. These periods of abstinence help me, and perhaps others, to not only appreciate wine more deeply when we do partake but also to remain mindful of our consumption habits.

So, How can wineries engage with the sober curious and observers of dry January?

Rather than viewing Dry January as a month of loss for the wine industry, we should see it as a chance to educate our audience about mindful moderation and appreciation of wine.

We can both respect and support those who choose to take a break from alcohol, whether for health, personal reflection, or other reasons, while also showing them how they can be more intentional about their consumption if and when they decide to come back to it.

Here are a few ways to engage your community during Dry January:

Share your Knowledge

Create content that delves into the complexities and history of wine. Understanding the wine-making process can enhance appreciation, even during a dry period.

As Anna Maria Ponzi mentions in her keynote: The Four Ounce Pour, "The process of making wine – from vineyard to glass - is extremely slow, thoughtful, and intentional." Communicate how people can take this same approach to their wine consumption.

Highlight Alternatives

Promote your low ABV or (if you have them) non-alcoholic offerings. You could also educate on why certain wines are lower in alcohol or even how you're able to make an alcohol-free beverage that maintains its complexities.

After all, what "sober curious" folks want at the end of the day are options and information. And you'll end up reaching a wider audience in te future.

this, too, shall pass

Remember that Dry January lasts only a month, and most, if not all, of the folks who participated in it will enjoy alcohol again.

Promote future experiences that will help your fans be more mindful of their consumption and continue that intentional lifestyle.

This will help your fans get excited about their next visit and feel supported in the decisions they make.

In Conclusion

As members of the wine community, we have an opportunity to lead with empathy and understanding. Let's use this Dry January not only to respect the choices of the sober curious but also to educate and engage in a way that highlights the beauty and complexity of wine. By doing so, we not only support those who choose to abstain temporarily but also reinforce the value and importance of wine to culture and history.