Health minister calls for wine to be made weaker to protect middle-class

Wine should be watered down to preserve the health of middle-class drinkers, ministers have suggested.

They argue that the minimum strength of ‘still wine’ should be reduced by law from 8.5 per cent alcohol-by-volume to 4.5 per cent – about a third as strong as today’s typical table wines.

Earl Howe, the health minister, said the market for low- or reduced- alcohol wines has been ‘increasing rapidly’ in recent years.

He claimed that allowing producers to make weaker wine would be in the ‘long-term interest’ of the public, amid concern over rises in liver disease and cancers linked to alcohol consumption.

NHS figures show that professionals are almost twice as likely to drink heavily than those on lower incomes.