The culture of wine and its impact on the youth of today
Cork Talk by Colin Harkness There was no alcohol in our house when I was growing up on the Wirral (that peninsular between Liverpool and North Wales bordered by the Rivers, Mersey (yep, I took the ferry more than once) and Dee. Neither was there any in the family home in Southport, where we moved when I was seven. My parents were Methodists – I’m not sure if they actually signed ‘The Pledge’, but they certainly abided by its conventions. I took a different view! This, inevitably, in my case at least, led to a regrettable amount of dishonesty and deceit – which, of course, still sits uncomfortably, the more so as my parents have long since passed on. However, I would argue that it is precisely this claustrophobic existence that led me to, occasionally, act in a rather irresponsible manner regarding alcohol.
As an adult, I learned that the French way was rather different. In the households of France, in years gone by, but also, I believe, today, parents actively introduce their children to alcohol and from a quite young age too. Now, there is of course, alcohol and alcohol – and you might guess, given that I’m talking France here that I’m referring to wine more than anything else. Wine, as most French people will tell you, is an integral part of French culture – I wouldn’t say that wine is their ‘raison d’etre’, but I wouldn’t be taking too much of a risk by stating that it is at least a part of their ‘joie de vivre’!
Therefore, the argument would go, it is incumbent upon French parents to introduce their offspring to part of their wonderful culture – responsibly, of course. This took the form of giving them a little wine with water at the evening meal while the parents enjoyed a glass too. Those parents with an interest in wine would tell their children of the flavours and aromas they might be able to discover, perhaps also linking them with another part of French culture, their cuisine.
At the same time, they would also mention the dangers of drinking too much. In this way, over a period of time, they would have educated their children to enjoy wine, but to do so responsibly. I’ve always gone along with this theory, and indeed have done the same with my stepchildren, with their mother’s approval, of course. In fact, they are halfFrench, so it seems even more appropriate!
However, parents and grandparents beware - according to a recent report; it seems that we, along with many other parents, have erred!
A six-year study by the University of New South Wales followed nearly 2,000 youngsters aged 12 – 18 years old – their findings were, well, worrying.
Just over 60% of those given no alcohol at all during these formative years, went on to binge drink (described as four of more drinks in one session). For those given alcohol by their parents, in the now believed to be mistaken belief that they were helping ‘educate’ their children about responsible use of alcohol, that figure rose to just over 80%!
The report highlights the fact that schools, governments and the medical profession are on a mission to get the message home to children, but points out that there is a significant un known – the influence of parents (yes, and grandparents!). The report concludes that parental approval of limited alcohol consumption in the home is in fact associated with risk, not protection!
Interesting to note then, that in France during the last few years there have been lessons about vine growing and the resulting wine, given to primary school children. There have been, it seems, two objectives here – to develop a feeling of French culture, as well as attempting, at such a young age, to steer them away from more hard-line alcohol.
Whilst not concerning children as such, there is also a move in this direction in Spain, with many bodegas at pains to bring ‘los jovenes’ to wine, rather than spirits (and beer). Witness, if you will the ‘cool’ labels on bottles, and advertising campaigns that highlight late teenagers and early twenty year olds having a great time - with wine!
Time for a re-think? What do you think – please e-mail email@example.com with your views/experience/ worries?!
Acknowledging The for my research. Telegraph