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Good Idea or Bad Idea: Introducing Children to Wine at a Young Age?

I have always been fascinated by how differently European children develop attitudes toward alcohol. Growing up in America, I heard tales of young French girls sipping champagne at special functions, and Italian gals tasting vino at big family dinners.

The Food & Wine blog recently highlighted this topic with Gabriella Opaz's article about taking her kindergarten class to a winery in Northern Spain.

The article discusses the positive effect exposure to alcohol can have on kids. Here's a short excerpt:

Winemaking here is the equivalent to corn harvesting in the Midwest. It is so integrated into the culture that if you yourself do not have a direct connection to winemaking, I guarantee that someone in your family does.

Therefore, taking a group of children on an excursion to see how wine is made is not dangerous, frightening or a form of mind-corruption as it might be seen in the States. It is merely a part of the everyday life here in Catalonia.

Rather than teach children the evils of wine, they are taught to respect and understand all aspects of wine and the winemaking process. While I don't condone underaged drinking, I do think visiting a winery is a fascinating lesson for any age. What do you think?

Source

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Join The Conversation
Peyote Peyote 8 years
Why are the poll options so biased? Pathetic.
Random2 Random2 8 years
I went on a winery tour when I was 9. My family was in Florida for Christmas break, and my parents wanted to go. It didn't corrupt me. Educating kids will help them make informed choices, as we all know, saying 'no' makes 'em want it more. My parents also let me have a little bit of wine at family functions when I was underage. I think it helped me in the long run, actually.
apinkpony apinkpony 8 years
As a German (yes you forgot about that drinking country :)) I was introduce to beer and sparkling wine (German is largest sparkling wine drinking country in the world) at a young age. Nothing major, just a sip of dads beer or a taste of the sparkling wine at dinner. Not a big deal. I'm 18 now and unlike my friends who never had this experiences, I do not run around drinking like mad. Several summers ago I also spent in German with REAL germans (the ones who live there), and it was the same there. It is not a big huge deal. They have Vita Malz that kids can drink and they can taste the parents beers or wine, and nothing major. The beer drinking age in Germany is 16, hard alcohol is 18 and driving age is 18. But you do not hear about or ever see kids getting into cars drunk or being completely belligerent. What you do see is bars that don't care as long as you can see over the top of the table. Again, it's not a major deal. No one gets sheet-faced like they do here. We always talk about this particular subject in my psychology classes and we know that it would be a really horrible transition period. Lots of kids getting drunk and drinking and driving would increase at first. But what if we started small... like they do there. Instead of just jumping in to a drinkin age change, why don't we mandate (with parental exceptions or w/e) a kindergarten trip to the brewery. Kids love chemistry sort of things, and thats what it is. And then we work with this certain kindergarten class and all future classes... and when that class turns 18, we lower the drinking age because they've had the proper education. I know some older folks would freak out, and there are even some people my age who just don't "get it", but in the long run it would be highly beneficial for our country as a whole. (P.S. The Russians have similar tradition to the Germans, my boyfriends father gave him his first vodka-drink (much watered down) at age of 8.)
Mar-Calpena Mar-Calpena 8 years
I want to qualify my former opinion a little, and offer a few more discussion points. Not to rain on everyone's parade, but I think some of you glorify European attitudes towards drinking and think all Europe behaves as one. There's the wine producing South, and then the beer/spirit producing middle and North (you could divide it in Catholic and Protestant countries as well, but I'm not sure whether this is relevant). The attitude towards drinking that an English (or a Finnish)person may have is vastly different to that of a Spaniard or an Italian, and would probably be a lot similar to the one in the USA. Besides, teenage drinking is in fact increasing in Europe. I think it's mainly because today's children are more urbane, and they don't seem to have a connection to a granfather or older relative who maybe had seen wine done first hand and demistified it to them. I know some people who run a summer camp in the middle of a small wine and oil producing town and they complain that these days a lot of the children believe that milk comes from boxes, not cows. And, as I said, you hardly get served wine but strong spirits in clubs and upscale bars. And don't forget that being relaxed aroun wine is a double edged sword. People may not feel that a couple of glasses in a meal qualifies as "drunk driving", because after all, they haven't been having hard spirits on an empty stomach, have they? I still agree with most of what has been said, but I wanted to add this.
MamaD MamaD 8 years
I don't think educating kids on the process will promote the use of alcohol. I think that's a ridiculous way to look at it! Then let's not educate them in the fields of agriculture and food processing since it may promote obesity! That's just silly. I think education is the smartest way to go in all areas.
Soniabonya Soniabonya 8 years
European countries have the right idea when it comes to kids and alcohol. The legal drinking age is lower there, depending on which country you're in, and they each have a respect for the alcohol they drink. They are taught to savor, to enjoy, to relax with the family. It's a family thing. Here in the US, who, I think, was one of the only countries that had Prohibition for 13 years! Alcohol is seen as a drug and in many instances can be. It's offered like forbidden fruit and the more alluring and restricted it is, the more the kids want it which leads to binges, over drinking and possible death. Starting the kids off with small sips isn't harmful, as long as the parent monitors the kids reaction and doesn't give them a whole bottle of vino or mug of beer.
pintsized pintsized 8 years
I have to echo SugarFreak, my parents arent European either, they just have good sense. I've had wine from an early age, took all the mystery right out and it feels good being able to drink at family functions and all that.
chiefdishwasher chiefdishwasher 8 years
Recently we had a high school exchange student from Italy. He was raised drinking wine. He could not believe how American high school students got wasted on booze every friday and saturday night. It is amazing how many adults favor raising children to have an appreciation for alcohol. Don't just comment here, let your congress person know too.
UrbanBohemian UrbanBohemian 8 years
I think if kids in America are introduced to alcohol at an younger age, in a positive yet responsible way, there may be less cases of irresponsible underage drinking in the U.S. I'm sure we can learn a thing or two about how Europeans address youths and alcohol. I think when children are dining with their families in their own homes, then it's O.K. I started when I was a teen at family gatherings, and I rarely touch alcohol now that I'm in my 20s.
mireille mireille 8 years
I never had any restrictions regarding alcohol, I'm still underage but my father didn't have a problem with me trying anything even when I was quite young. Growing up seeing it as something I can have I see as a good thing, it isn't mysterious and I don't need to sneak around to drink it. I'm not tempted by it and have decided not to drink, I'm sure I can credit this attitude towards alcohol to it never being a mystery to me. There's no excitement left in it that I care to seek out while my acquaintances spend half their time passed out in fields.
Katys Katys 8 years
Like most of you here I was introduced to wine and alcohol early. It ended up not being a big deal to me in my later years, and drinking still isn't important to me. I don't see the harm in showing children the work that goes into wine. I grew up in a farming community and we went to tour dairy farms, mills, etc. None of that ever caused me to drink milk to excess, use freshly milled grains in all my cooking endeavors, or anything crazy. If you don't put a taboo on something then children won't see it as a viable option for rebellion.
Allytta Allytta 8 years
good idea. i'm 20 and don't know anythign about wine. i wish i did. wish somebody thought me that.
Sungoddess379 Sungoddess379 8 years
I think that this experiment is another example of how Europeans view alcohol as opposed to Americans. For Europeans, alcohol is not a big deal because they are raised with drinking wine with dinner and the like, and they don't have a legal drinking age as high as America's. America, on the other hand, has an out of sight, out of mind policy towards underaged drinking. The legal age is 21, but it is common in the culture for kids to not only drink under the legal age but ti also abuse alcohol. I think that if children learn a/b alcohol at a younger age, they won't abuse it as much as when they get older. America needs to be honest with itself in terms of underage drinking by lowering the age, and teaching kids a/b alcohol when they are still young.
minaminamina minaminamina 8 years
I received a glass of wine every night at dinner since I was 14 - good French or Spanish wine. I started going to cafe's with friends when I was 16 or 17, and would maybe drink wine there too, but usually a cafe au lait instead. Once I entered university was when I took drinking alcohol in a different light - I maybe now will drink to become inebriated, once in a very great while. But mostly, I will share a bottle of wine with a friend, and this seems more fun to me. I had a great environment for learning about drinking responsibly, and while no one ever sat me down and said, "These are all the terrible things that will happen to you if you get drunk!" it seemed a waste of good liquor or wine to get drunk, anyway.
CiaoBella2 CiaoBella2 8 years
When I was young, our family would go to my grandparents house for Sunday dinner. As children, we would drink maybe 1/2 an ounce of wine with lots of water at their house. It was something we did with family, so drinking was never an issue. Drinking wine was and still is to some degree part of my cultural heritage. We went to wineries in NY state on family trips and all so made wine with my grandparents. I hope to pass on a passion for the grape and responsible drinking to my son.
KerryG KerryG 8 years
I'm actually in favor of encouraging underage drinking, as long as it's done responsibly. My parents don't drink much (my mom hardly at all) but they used to allow us small sips of whatever they were having when we were as young as 4 or 5. My brother and I thought it was gross (it was! - like colormesticky's, my father drank a lot of cheap beer when we were young and has since mysteriously turned into a beer snob) and barely drink to this day. My sister loved it and drinks regularly now that she is of age, but has a respect for and appreciation of alcohol that many Americans in their early 20's entirely lack. Parents who buy kegs for their high school kids and consider themselves responsible because it's "supervised" and reduces drunk driving make me sick with their stupidity, but it's been my experience that most kids whose parents gave them small quantities in a casual, but supervised way turn out to be much more responsible drinkers than the majority. I'd also support lowering the drinking age to 18, because everyone drinks in college and I'd rather it were out in the open, both for the sake of those, like my sister, who are already on their way to becoming wine snobs by that age, and to increase our ability to supervise the idiots who think drinking until they pass out in a pool of their own vomit is fun.
veside veside 8 years
This is why I love this site, there's a lot of bright people in it! Everyone here pretty much agrees that there's nothing wrong with exposing children to the science of alcohol and alcohol as a food accompaniment itself. We were always allowed to have a little taste of wine on special occasions as we were growing up, and there's many an oenophile and nary an alcoholic among us...
lexichloe lexichloe 8 years
We go to parties where the adults get plastered, while their children run around and are witness to it. They keep their kids out until midnight or later, while they get increasingly more drunk. Mind you, this is not every weekend, but it's still damaging in my eyes. My husband and I just look at each other in disbelief most of the time. I see nothing wrong w/ a field trip to a winery for children, but you've also got to keep in mind what homes these kids come from. Many of these homes already have alcohol abuse, so I don't know if the field trip would be positive or negative for them.
Megatron Megatron 8 years
I went to an elementary school named after a winery and we got a tour their in, like, third or fourth grade. I didn't associate with with alcoholic drinks at the time. I was also raised in a family where wine is just part of parties and what not. When I was young, I drank Martinelli's and that would be my "wine," but I started drinking the real stuff on Thanksgiving and Chrismas at 16 or 17. My parents figured if we knew what the big deal was before we turned 21, then it wouldn't be an issue when we DID turn 21. I am a very responsible drinker now and I think my parents did the right thing with that issue.
ClassicsDiva ClassicsDiva 8 years
The culture surrounding the consumption of alcohol varies from place to place and family to family. When I was growing up, starting in about junior high, my dad would let me have sips of his drinks, usually mixed drinks consisting of hard liquor and pop or juice. I wasn't impressed, but I noticed the context in which he drank: every few months, after dinner, when he didn't have to pay bills or mow the lawn, relaxing while watching a movie. I have no problem with this. It strongly parallels my own consumption of hot cocoa. Then I went to high school, where parents would buy kegs for their kids to have parties. They thought they were being responsible because they supervised the parties and didn't let people drive drunk. This bothered me because it wasn't supporting responsible drinking, but rather demonstrating to kids that intoxication is a valid form of social recreation. Then I went to college, where people didn't care if they were drinking paint thinner as long as they got trashed. They weren't getting drunk because they didn't know their limits or were enticed by the forbidden nature of alcohol. They were getting drunk because they really really enjoyed being drunk, for some bizarre reason. I bet that this is connected to the aforementioned parent-sponsored keg parties. Then I met my fiance's family, where wine is considered one of the key signs of adulthood, and a mark of sophistication. They are, to put it bluntly, wine snobs. To ask them to give up drinking wine is like asking me to give up drinking water. They never get drunk, but they'd be baffled if you tried to throw a dry party, or have a nice meal without wine. It seems really pretentious to me. My point is that it's not whether or not you let your kid drink, or when you let them start, but the kind of drinking habits you model to them. You can forbid them from ever tasting a drop, but if you come home tipsy every time you go to a dinner party, they're going to learn that intoxication is part of having a good time. People tend to be most comfortable with what they are raised with, so think strongly about not just what you're allowing your kid to do, or what you're telling them to do, but what are they actually seeing you doing? That's what counts, and that's what shapes the kinds of drinkers they'll be.
mayara mayara 8 years
My underage drinking was all supervised, in the sense that my parents were always there with me, and almost all of it was splitting something with my mom. From that, I learned that a little on special occasions was an okay thing, and that alcohol was not in itself a "naughty" thing, and I learned to not overdo it. By the time I was in college, I had absolutely no interest in the stupid things that many do at that age that involve getting wasted, as that was not the role alcohol had in my world view. I see nothing wrong with a little controlled and supervised consumption of alcohol by minors, as long as they have appropriate role models.
Sunshine-in-Seattle Sunshine-in-Seattle 8 years
There is nothing wrong with learning about winemaking at any age. In grade school we learn that our forefathers grew tobacco and that people made moonshine in bathtubs. this isn't even relevant today and winemaking is. I think it's refreshing and a hell of a lot more useful than a pumpkin patch or petting zoo.
Pheefs Pheefs 8 years
I think it is better to introduce kids to what alcohol is before they hit the age where it seems "cool". My parents and grandparents would let us taste what they were having, and usually get a laugh at the kid's reaction (they still do that actually).
colormesticky colormesticky 8 years
I was always allowed to taste whatever my dad was drinking. I never liked it and after while I didn't want any more. I guess one way to scare your kids off alcohol is to drink cheap beer when they're young. Now that I'm an adult, he's quite the beer snob.
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