In a piece on the Wine Spectator website, we learn that the French have just passed a series of laws raising the drinking age and making it more difficult to buy wine.
While wine consumption is dramatically down in France over the last several years, there has been a big uptick in incidents of binge drinking among teenagers. I would argue that these two phenomena are related.
Any time a potentially dangerous activity or product is shrouded in mystery or cloaked in an "adults" only prohibition, curious teens will find a way to not only experience them but also to abuse them.
Alcohol consumption is serious business; no one is advocating its irresponsible use. Treated with respect, though, wine offers a world of enjoyment, a myriad of flavors and aromas, and a linchpin around which our social and family lives can more memorably spin.
I would never throw my 16-year old child into a car and expect him to drive without great risk to lives and property. I don't understand why, as a country, we would think that turning 21 automatically conveys maturity and responsible behavior on a young person in respect to how to enjoy wine.
I am not talking about learning about the 1855 Bordeaux classification or how pyrazine levels in Cabernet diminish with fruit maturity. I am referring to bringing wine into the conversation with your kids and allowing them to smell and taste the wines you are having for dinner. I know with my own kids that the "big deal" of the first drink is a much smaller deal because they have already responsibily experienced it.
The French are seeing it now: they have said no to their National drink, and the kids are much worse off for it.