There comes a time in the career of every back-page columnist when a grim duty must be done. A duty so unpleasant, so disturbing to decent everyday wine drinkers that even a fearless publication like this one prefers to hide it away up the back.

Well, if the ploy has been successful, nobody’s reading this and, phew, we can all carry on as if our placid and pleasant wine-drinking world hasn’t just been turned upside down with the screwcap off.

If, however, you are reading this, please, sit down, plant your feet firmly on the floor and take a big breath. A really big one, like the first time I heard the news that three standard drinks a day can kill us (two-and-a-half if you drink them with more than a kilo of chocolate).

The news just got worse. Fresh in from the medical lab are studies showing that any amount of wine per day, even a soupçon, which I think is way less than half a bottle, can wipe years off our lives and render completely futile any plans for the young Bordeaux under the bed.

I know, I know, just as we were about to join other sensible people on the barricades to defend science from the conspiracy theorists, suddenly we’re left wondering if this latest info is actually true, or just foul lies from an evil global elite who want all the discount Jacob’s Creek for themselves.

A personal decision each of us must make. But there is yet more bad news. Already, hundreds of thousands of Australians in their late teens and 20s have stopped consuming alcohol. Completely. Except for the odd fruit salad that’s been in the fridge longer than six weeks. And I’m sorry, but I think younger people are smarter than us older folk. Look at their voting patterns and how successfully they’ve avoided gout.

Okay, having done my grim duty, I want to end on a positive note. There is a middle ground. Rather than give up alcohol entirely, we can compromise. For example, we can drink less wine and give up fruit salad entirely.

The crucial thing for our precious but fragile wine industry is that no matter how much less wine we drink, we mustn’t spend any less money drinking it.

Here’s how this might work (general indication only). Let’s say you’re a typical reader of this magazine, living in a household of two, with a fair amount of sharp, pointy furniture at your place. So you’ve decided that half a bottle each a night is safest – given that to get safely to bed at your age, you just can’t fit into four pairs of jeans any more.

Seven bottles a week. You’re a bit of a wine buff, and you’re often without your glasses in the bottle-o, so you average $40 a bottle. Ready reckoner: if you cut back to one bottle a week, it’s a $280 bottle. One a month, well over a grand. One a year, I’m free most nights.

Ugh. Sharing bad news is so stressful. I need a large glass of red. Sorry, small glass. Actually, when I say glass, I mean eye-dropper. Only half full of course. When I finally get it into this bottle of Grange.