Wine Diarist

The Wine Ethicist: What’s Alright For The Kids?

Let’s start with full disclosure: I am working on a story about children and wine and am raising the subject here as part of my reporting. I won’t quote any of you by name, but I anticipate that whatever discussion we have will very likely provide some interesting material for my article.

So I have two children, and I also have wine on the table pretty much every night of the week. I’ve always assumed that exposing kids to wine encourages responsible drinking later in life, and I let my children dip their fingers in my glass periodically. How very French of me, I know. With regard to kids and wine, I’ve forever viewed the French as beacons of common sense; they don’t treat alcohol as taboo, and it was my impression that French teens and twentysomethings were far less prone to excessive drinking than American youths.

But that just ain’t so—not these days, anyway. NPR aired a story last month about the rising incidence of binge drinking among French teens and the growing doubts in France about whether early exposure really produces better outcomes. And, in fact, alcoholism has long been a major public health problem in France, which suggests that the French approach perhaps isn’t all that enlightened. As with so many issues like this, the academic literature on children and alcohol can point you in whichever direction you want to be pointed: some studies show that permitting kids a taste promotes intelligent behavior, and other studies indicate that it has the opposite effect.

Self-doubt seems to be a condition of modern parenthood, and while I haven’t caught my son or daughter taking any unsanctioned swigs, I am giving a lot of thought to whether or not I’m doing my kids a service by allowing them to experience wine. I would love to get your thoughts on this topic. If you have children, do you let them taste your wine, and at what age did they start? Those of you who don’t have kids should weigh in, too. Was alcohol off-limits when you were growing up or did your parents permit you an occasional sip, and in hindsight, do you think that they had the right idea? With so many Americans now making wine part of their daily lives, I think this is an issue that a lot of people are confronting, and I am eager to hear what you have to say about it.