Learning About Wine at an Early Age
By Jeff Morgan, west coast editor
My kids don't drink wine; not even a few drops in their water at dinner the way some do in the Old Country. They don't even like wine, which is fine with me. They're too young to drink it anyway. But they see wine at our dinner table every evening, and they know it has a place in our family mealtime tradition. It's a good introduction to the concept of regular and moderate wine consumption.
Every year we read about some college student who kills himself binge drinking, usually the result of some juvenile dare and a profound lack of understanding regarding effects of alcohol. As our children grow up and become drivers, they risk harming not only themselves, but also others, should they underestimate the influence alcohol can exert on their perception. How should we, as a society, address the dangers of alcohol abuse? Education is a good place to start. Perhaps the best way to promote responsible behavior regarding alcohol among adults is to introduce them to the culture of wine when they are children. Last week my 9-year-old daughter, Skye, came home from school with an assignment to make a model representing a popular California industry. She chose wine (on her own, without pressure from her dad). To complete the project, Skye and her friend, Emily, decided to make a model of a vineyard, complete with vines, tractor and even a little old winemaker. They also researched and wrote a report on how wine is made, discovering, in the process, that wine is multi-faceted. They learned that wine involves agriculture and care of the earth. They encountered history, reading about how grapes -- and not gold -- were the real prize for some of the 49ers during the California gold rush. They even learned about yeast and chemistry, and how the sweetness in grape juice is miraculously transformed into alcohol. Yes, it is a miracle of sorts -- and it's no accident that wine plays an important role in both Christianity and Judaism. The children proudly brought their project into school where it was surveyed by their teacher and classmates, many of whom had never seen a vineyard, prompting questions that Skye and Emily answered with new found authority. There was much to discuss, because wine is so much more than a beverage. It's a lifestyle. These kids were getting the message, long before they will ever drink a drop. Hopefully, understanding and respect for wine and its place in our culture will guide them towards a healthy relationship with all alcoholic beverages. Behavior such as binge drinking and drunk driving may be avoided by starting the right lessons early on. The only way to deal with wine or any alcoholic drink is in a responsible manner. As my daughter's class project demonstrated, laying the foundation for this understanding can occur even among young children. The partnership of school and home makes the lessons effective and lasting.
This column, Unfiltered, Unfined, features the opinionated inside scoop on the latest and greatest in the world of wine, brought to you each Monday by a different Wine Spectator editor. This week we hear from columnist Jeff. To read past Unfiltered, Unfined columns, go to the archives. (And for an archive of Laube's columns written just for the Web, visit Laube on Wine.)