The Myth of Protecting the Children From Wine

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Dear Congressman Mike Quigley (and many others, but Mr. Quigley represents my district in Chicago);

I appreciate your sincerity when it come to wanting to protect our youth from demon rum and wine being shipped directly to our homes from the wineries of our choice. I do. Really. I had a lovely conversation (eventually) with your legislative aide on the subject and he emphasized your deep and unabiding concern “for the children” and therefore supported HR 5034.

There is just one problem.

It is rubbish.

As a theory, it is lovely. The reality is that it can’t be done. And whats more? It probably shouldn’t be done.

Why shouldn’t it be done? Well, alcohol, particularly when we are talking about wine has been woven into the fabric of our culture. Football and beer. Celebrations and champagne. Family dinners and wine. And how do we teach our children about these things? They can’t participate. We build the belief that some magical day they will be “mature” and know what do with alcohol. Poof! You’re 21! Mysteriously the knowledge comes to you! Go forth and be responsible.

The reality is very different. We wait until our children are 21 and outside of our control to allow them to start experimenting with wine. And what happens then? Binge drinking and foolishness because they are now, FINALLY, allowed to imbibe. It is cruelly timed that we set them off on their own at the same time we let them start learning about liquor. In fact, it is an invitation to disaster and no one’s family has been immune to it. Wouldn’t it be smarter to have this experimentation being done when there is an adult to supervise and guide them?

Very simply, I say yes. Will everyone teach their children responsibly? No. But then we can’t guarantee that anyone is raising their children to learn anything responsibly. We can’t guarantee that all adults use alcohol judiciously.

As to why we can’t control our children’s access to alcohol? There are two main reasons. Firstly, there is access to it out there in the world. Not delivered on the internet. Not at the corner store or neighborhood tavern. Alcohol is in our homes. A couple of beers in the fridge, a bottle of wine on top on the counter, a bottle of vodka in the cabinet. There in your house, most likely in a place that anyone can access. If there isn’t any liquor in your home or if you have managed to secure every ounce of it under lock and key (including your Listerine, rubbing alcohol and vanilla extract) you are probably the only parent that does. You may be sure that some kid in your child’s acquaintance will have access to an unguarded liquor cabinet.

The other reason that we can’t control our children’s access? Fermentation is a natural process. To make alcohol all a teen needs is a sweet liquid and yeast, ingredients that can be found in any grocery store and frankly, wild yeast circulates in the air. It is basic science that we teach them. In. High. School. When I was in high school fermenting grape juice was considered a legitimate science project.

Which leads me back to Rep. Quigley and his support for HR 5034. Let’s be honest. The purpose of HB 5034 has nothing to do with protecting our children, because when push comes to shove, we really can’t keep our kids from getting access to alcohol. It is time to stop hiding behind our kids and explain to your constituents your real reason for supporting this legislation. I doubt the reasons will sound as noble.

And if you are concerned about your access to the wines of your choice being stripped from you with vague and specious concerns for your kids, join the American Wine Consumers Coaliton or Free the Grapes

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5 Responses to The Myth of Protecting the Children From Wine

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  2. lubos says:

    It is completely customary in my native Slovakia to offer kids small amount of champagne on New Years, even when the kids are just barely in their teens. My parents did it and so did everyone else. I turned out just fine. I did not become a drug addict. I did not become a criminal. At least not yet. I may one day decide to repeat this tradition with my own kids – which, from what I hear, is a huge a no-no over here…

    I don’t actually know what this new house bill is all about, but I definitely agree with your main points. Waiting till kids are in college – and away from parental oversight – is a bad time to introduce them to alcohol.

    • admin says:

      I grew up with wine in that same way. My girls have been offered watered wine at holidays and champage that I serve them in cordial glasses (which hold about an ounce). They are good girls and mostly at this point say no (they are school athletes and have signed no alcohol pledges that they honor).

      The proposed law is nominally about protecting our children but in reality more about protecting the middle men in the wine distribution networks that are so common here.

  3. Tony T says:

    When I was growing up, on all major holidays, we were given a small glass with half 7 Up and half red wine. (Sometimes when visiting grandma, she would sneak it to us even if it wasn’t a holiday). It was a holiday tradition I never forgot and carried it on with my own two daughters. Now, my oldest daughter does not drink alcohol at all and my youngest is only a social drinker. They both were straight A students with honors in college and I didn’t turn out bad myself. I think it was the wine 🙂

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