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Italians must break habit of a lifetime

Italian drivers are facing the prospect of replacing a full bottle of wine at lunchtime with two glassfuls. Legislation to bring Italy in line with most other EU countries has seen the drink-drive limit cut by almost 40%.

The ruling came into effect earlier this month. It reduces the existing limit of 0.8 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood to 0.5mg – or about two glasses.

The reduction has infuriated Italian food and wine lovers, who have been quick to put their protest in print. They argue that the Italian habit of drinking predominantly with meals makes the amendment unfair in Italy’s case.

The suggestion, though, that producers would be releasing more half bottles was refuted by Gaja. A spokesman there said they would not alter their bottling policy to suit the law. The number of half bottles we produce is governed by the harvest not outside influences, he said. ‘Besides, it is up to the individual how much he drinks.’

Soave producer Roberto Anselmi said, ‘I think the new limit is excessive for Italy. However, nothing much will change. People will still order a full bottle of wine with their meal at a restaurant.’

Italian’s have been slow to heed the new limit. Turin’s La Stampa newspaper reported that 433 drivers across the province were fined for driving over the limit during the law’s first weekend.

Giovanni Trovato, chef of Tuscany’s renowned Arnolfo restaurant in Colle Val d’Elsa, advises Italians to cut down on their aperitivi and digestivi before and after a meal. ‘What people don’t realise is that if three or four glasses of wine are enjoyed over a three-hour, three-course meal, the body will have had time to absorb the alcohol. Drink better but less is my motto,’ he said.

UK, Luxembourg and Ireland have so far resisted EU demands to cut their limit from 0.8mg to 0.5mg/100ml.

Written by Michèle Shah in Italy22 August 2002

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