Get Them Drinking Young!

Is it OK to question the policy that drinking alcohol should be outlawed for anyone under 21 years of age?

Or if you do, are you promoting inappropriate behavior?

You don’t hear many people advocating that the drinking age be lowered from 21. It’s a no win argument that will lead to being painted as irresponsible and uncaring for the well being of America’s youth. But the fact is, a drinking age of 21 is simply ludicrous.

Diageo, one of the largest drinks companies in the world that owns the likes of Johnnie Walker, Guinness, Smirnoff,
J&B, Baileys, Cuervo, Tanqueray, Captain Morgan, Crown Royal, Beaulieu
Vineyard and Sterling Vineyards wines is touting its desire to prevent underage drinking and keeping adults from providing alcohol to minors. I’m not willing to question their commitment to these goals by suggesting that such a PR initiative is just cover for the fact that it’s often their products that wind up in the hands of minors. But I am willing to question theirs and others nothing that a 19 year old person is incapable of drinking responsibly and ought to be prevented by law from doing so.

In a press release, Diageo states, "Diageo supports a zero tolerance policy for underage drinking and we are
proud to lead the industry by proactively working with lawmakers across the
country to combat underage drinking,"

I’m just dying to know what Diageo thinks of my habit of putting a small taste of wine in front of my 12 year old Boy and letting him taste it as well as try it alongside whatever disaster I’ve cooked up for the family meal? Would they have "zero tolerance" for this attempt to educate my boy in the complimentary character of wine and food and the way by which one can evaluate a wine?

Again from the Diageo press release we learn that Diageo supports the creation of "Administrative Driver’s
License Revocation (ALR) for any adult who knowingly furnishes alcohol to a
person under the legal drinking age."

Now, given the way my car has been functioning of late I’m inclined to dump the vehicle on the capital steps and just give it to them. But does Diageo support the revocation of my drivers license if I put a small glass of Anderson Valley Pinot Noir in front of him and ask him what he tastes and feels on his tongue?

It has become a cliche to point out that 18 year old’s can die in the service of their country,that they can take on the responsibility of voting for elected officials and that they can stand trial as an adult. Yet somehow, they are deemed incapable of lifting a mug of lager or a glass of wine with responsibility. This cliche ought to be very convincing to anyone, or any large drinks company, that believes respect is something that 18 year old’s deserve.

Those of us who keep alcohol in their lives and enjoy it, have a responsibility to introduce this category of drink to young people at an early age precisely because it’s the responsible thing to do. Today we are printing "WET PAINT..DON’T TOUCH" on alcohol. And we all know what happens when a sign like that is held up in front of a younger person. Teach them that too much alcohol impairs them. Teach them that alcohol is for drinking, not chugging. Teach them the great traditions that surround the consumption of alcohol. Teach them.

15 Responses

  1. Jack - April 27, 2006

    Yeah, it is totally ridiculous. How can you kids learn responsible drinking when they aren’t legally allowed to drink until 21? (And therefore no longer under parental guidance.)
    I think we have this quasi-crazy law because of automobiles – teens driving under the influence of alcohol. Do we let them drive young so that fast food restuarants have someone to employ and eat their crap, or do you let them drink under 21?

  2. Outdoorgrrl - April 27, 2006

    There used to be a restauranteur in Seattle who would allow his baby to taste wine. He’d dip a pinky finger in his glass and let the wee one suck on it. (Before anyone gets high and mighty, it’s no worse than rubbing hard liqour on the gums of a teething baby.) Anyway, you wouldn’t believe it unless you saw it, but the kid would make different faces depending on the wine…and consistently!

  3. Lenn - April 27, 2006

    Tom…couldn’t agree with you more. By giving your son tastes of wine (my dad did the same thing…but it was with crappy beer) you’re “normalizing” alochol. By making it a part of every day, or at least regular, life, you’re teaching him that alcohol isn’t this forbidden fruit that he can’t have until the arbitrary age of 21.
    I often think of Todd Marinovich, the former USC and Raiders QB. Growing up, his father forbid him from eating any sort of junk food. No McDonald’s. No soda. None.
    And what happened when he moved out of his parents house and his father’s domain? He gorged himself on Big Macs and became a drug addict.
    I’m not one to get all Biblical on anyone…but Adam couldn’t say no to the forbidden fruit either.
    Teach kids that alcohol is something to be appreciated and enjoyed and I think everyone is better off.
    Any idea how they picked 21 anyway? I remember as a kid, we used to visit my grandparents in NY (I was in PA) and the drinking age was still 18. Then…when I was about 15 they bumped it up to 21. I remember being bummed.

  4. Jiggledy Snork - April 27, 2006

    My great uncle used to make wine in his basement. Every time we would visit, he pour us kids a little “grape juice.” Not much…just a taste. He’d ask us what we thought. Sometimes we liked. Sometimes we didn’t. My love and appreciation for wine started then. I don’t think he did me a disservice.

  5. Fredric Koeppel - April 27, 2006

    I grew up in a house where alcohol was never touched, nor tobacco. The result? I started smoking in the 10th grade, and as soon as I got to college, it was Cuba Libre and cheap wine time. (I also stopped smoking in college.) When my children were about 12, we started giving them small tastes of wine, or a tiny bit of wine diluted with water in a glass at meals. Within a few years, because of the way we introduced them to wine and talked about it at dinner, they knew a surprising amount. Today they’re grown up, and while they had their flings in their own college days, they’re completely comfortable buying wine, consuming it and matching it with food. Take away the allure or the “evil” and make wine part of a responsible, pleasurable life.

  6. tom - April 28, 2006

    My boy makes those faces too, even at 12. I will say that I honestly wanted him to really like wine. But I realized that dry wine probably wasn’t going to meet his expectations at age 8. So, we started him with sweet wines. And he thought they were terrific. Now he appreciates drier wines…some of them. And the faces remain.

  7. tom - April 28, 2006

    I entered the dorms when I was 22 years old. So I could buy. However, most of my dorm mates were under 21 and had never been away from home before. Saturday night in the dorm bathroom was the most dangerous place on earth. Eventually, half the guys ended up there. Too many had never been introduced to alcohol. Most only had a passing familiarity with it that came from drinking behind the Golf Course at night in High School. The results were terrible.
    My own wine education really started in college…but that’s a story for another time.

  8. Bill - May 2, 2006

    In college our VP of Student Affairs held the unenviable task of reigning in student drinking for liability reasons, and she was widely villified as a crusading killjoy.
    In fact, she strongly disagreed with the 21 drinking age for developmental reasons. She agreed with you that the law made alcohol illicit and helped foster an immature, binge drinking culture. I always remember that dichotomy; the expert in her knew the law was wrong, but the administrator in her required fealty to it anyway.

  9. Wine Boy! - May 7, 2006

    I served in the U.S. Army at the young age of 18-21 and was stationed in Germany where I was attached to a unit that handled, guarded and when ordered would fire nuclear warheads (luckily this never happened). I was allowed to try and drink beer and wine at home,but never really enjoyed it. I do remember seeing for the first time a beer machine and totally flipped out. Insert your Deutsche Marks and out comes a cold one! As the years passed the (in America) forbidden fruit phase wore out. I do remember once being home on vacation when one of my friends wanted to go out and have a few and I even totally forgot that I was only 20 years old at the time. How ludicrous can it be that a 20 year old can serve his country, be trusted with nuclear weapons (like I was) and still can’t drink in his own country?
    I will allow my kids to drink in the German tradition and if they want to take my drivers license away for it then so be it.

  10. britney - October 16, 2007


  11. britney - October 16, 2007

    i love you jonathan tufts and michael grimaldi and michael egan– love tanica

  12. britney - October 16, 2007

    i love you jonathan tufts and michael grimaldi and michael egan– love tanica

  13. britney - October 16, 2007

    i love you jonathan tufts and michael grimaldi and michael egan– love tanica

  14. britney - October 16, 2007

    i love you jonathan tufts and michael grimaldi and michael egan– love tanica

  15. britney - October 16, 2007

    i love you jonathan tufts and michael grimaldi and michael egan– love tanica

Leave a Reply