Kristof Says He Doesn't Know Anyone Who Died of 'Pinot Noir Alcoholism'

Kristof Says He Doesn’t Know Anyone Who Died of ‘Pinot Noir Alcoholism’

  • Kristof told NY Mag that he hasn’t lost any friends to “Pinot Noir alcoholism.”
  • He also the “mortality” of alcoholism is “mostly driven by working-class Americans.”
  • The one-time New York Times columnist tried to run for Oregon governor but was disqualified.

Former New York Times columnist and disqualified Oregon Gov. candidate Nicholas Kristof suggested that alcoholism is less of a mortality risk for upper-class Americans than for working-class Americans.

In an interview with New York Magazine published on Tuesday, Kristof discussed his failed attempt to run for Governor of Oregon as a Democrat. After resigning his long-time columnist position at the Times, the state’s Supreme Court ruled in February that he was not eligible to run. 

In fact, he’d voted in New York as recently as 2020.

“I didn’t feel any burning ambition to be a politician whatsoever,” he told the magazine after waging a gubernatorial campaign for 114 days and raising at least $2.5 million.

Kristof now maintains a farm in his hometown of Yamhill, Oregon, where he maintains a vineyard of Pinot Noir grapes. Speaking with the interviewer, the Pulitzer Prize winner spoke of his friends and neighbors in Oregon who had struggled with addiction and either overdosed or committed suicide, with one addict that he knew posting a suicide note on Facebook just that morning.

“I don’t think that most people appreciate that most years, alcohol kills more people than drugs,” he said. Kristof’s platform includes several mentions of addiction as an issue he sought to combat as governor.

But he also quickly defended owning and operating a vineyard even while stating that he wants to lower rates of alcoholism. “You know, I’ve lost friends to alcoholism, but I haven’t lost any to Pinot Noir alcoholism,” he said.

Kristof at his farm near Yamhill, Oregon, on January 21, 2022.

Kristof at his farm near Yamhill, Oregon, on January 21, 2022.

AP Photo/Andrew Selsky


“I think that is much less common, and those who die, the mortality from alcoholism, it’s driven really by working-class Americans, and it’s in kind of bulk hard liquor particularly. I don’t think that good wine and cider add significantly to the problem,” he also said.

Kristof added that he “wouldn’t be in favor of barring alcohol in general” because “wine can be, or cider can be, a social good and can create social capital.”

“Things that bring people together, I think, are good for society. I think alcohol can do that, and I think that’s true of wine and cider,” he said, adding that he took the interviewer’s point that “some people start with nice Pinot Noirs” before descending into alcoholism.

A 2015 Gallup poll found that 78% of upper-income Americans report consuming alcohol at least occasionally, while just 45% of those making less than $30,000 said the same. That same poll found that college graduates were far more likely to consume alcohol than those with a high school education or less.

One study reported by NPR in 2015 found that lower-income people have much higher variance in alcohol consumption than other income brackets, with some drinking heavily and others notes at all. By contrast, higher-income people were more likely to drink, but more likely to moderate their consumption.

And at least one recent meta-analysis found that deaths attributable to alcohol consumption occurred at a much higher rate among those on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum.

Kristof also told the interviewer that he once ran into a village in Darfur asking if anyone had been shot, only to quickly rebuff an elderly man who’d been shot in the leg.

“I knew immediately that I could do better, that I could find a case more compelling,” he told the magazine. “I said, ‘Are there any kids who’ve been shot?’ I felt terrible.”