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Must Wine be Opposed to Wellness?

On a few too many occasions to readily admit to, I have strolled into the gym after work only to be side eyed by my fellow gym goers. Not for my impressive power clean technique - because, really, who could blame them - but for the pronounced purple glint of my wine-bathed teeth. A day of tasting is an obvious perk of working in the wine industry, although I must remember to pack a toothbrush as well as my trusted mouthwash for any post-tasting workouts. Despite being sure that the majority of the gym floor is generally mostly concerned about health and safety risks (do not fret, spittoons are always used), it does conjure the question of why fitness, or, more broadly speaking the wellness industry as a whole is often depicted as being so rigidly opposed to the world of wine.

As both a wine lover and fitness fanatic, the messaging within both spaces puzzles me. At the gym, the spin instructor shouts at me to "burn off" the glass of wine from the night before under the masquerade of motivation (I never return to these types of instructor - encouragements like this are some of the laziest and most damaging that a fitness professional can make); whilst at a tasting, there will always be someone encouraging me to have that "one more glass". Both arenas give this façade that you must have an all or nothing approach which, in turn, excludes you from the other. But, is this opposition necessary? Can a person exist within both spheres?

The wellness movement has seen rapid uptake in the last decade, being valued as a $1.5 trillion market in 2021, with annual growth of 5-10%. In the past, the term was mostly used in relation to fitness and nutrition, whereas it is now used to encompass many facets of physical, mental and even spiritual well-being. As a consequence, wellness and the practices associated with it are inherently personal; whilst one person might find a morning jog the best way to relax, another may opt for a glass of wine and a bubble bath.

Within the realm of wellness, alcohol is not quite shunned, but it is certainly frowned-upon. And, in many ways this is understandable. After all, alcohol is a depressant and thus excess drinking can be equally as detrimental to one's mental health as it is to their physical body. I am not going to try to convince you that wine is actually good for us, because we all know that this, ultimately, is just not true. However, in the past the wellness space lauded moderation as an integral element of a well-balanced lifestyle. These days there is increasingly less emphasis on moderate alcohol consumption (and moderate levels of other fun, yet not health or productivity inducing activities). Instead, the aesthetic nature of social media places healthy green juices and 5AM yoga sessions followed by journaling on a pedestal. As the list of must-do wellness practices appears longer and longer, "unhealthy" pleasures are progressively deemed unacceptable. The personal nature of wellness is somewhat lost through this approach. Does an activity somehow become less valid if combined with an unapproved drink? A meditative bubble bath is welcome, but not when a glass of wine is introduced. The idea that I might find joy and encourage wellness from both of these situations is no longer sufficient. I must choose my ultimate ritual.

Having come into the wine industry whilst continuing to position myself as an active participant in fitness culture, I have experienced how the two cultures might clash. For instance, my love for wine has naturally evolved to encompass indulgent food pairings, which do not particularly lend themselves to helping me achieve consistent personal bests in the gym. After being a competitive athlete at school, I had to accept that I would no longer reach the same fitness heights that I was used to, especially considering my new vocation! Through the embrace of both cultures, I have found a contentment that I did not even know was feasible when I was a fitness-obsessed athlete, nor a heavy drinking student. There is such pleasure in allowing yourself luxurious glasses of wines, paired with exuberant masses of cheese and then getting a good sweat on at the gym the next day. Not because you feel you have to, or because you're trying to make up for anything, but because balance is the most essential facet of all-round wellness. My thought is food and wine feed the soul; meditation and exercise care for the mind and body.

Wine and wellness can absolutely exist side-by-side. In order for them to do so, we must reinstate balance and personal preference as focal points in both arenas.

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