How to educate children about wine
By Aymeric de Clouet
I have always felt that children should be educated about their alcohol consumption. Not by forbidding it, but by accompanying it. Over the years, I have seen that children used to taste good wines do not find pleasure in blowing their brains out with cheap stuff, and not even the necessity to find pleasure in artificial paradises.
I try to educate my daughter to the pleasure of smelling wines, to develop her nose, but of course she is the one who wants to taste, and does so in a very orderly fashion. I like how she tries to express her sensations with her own vocabulary, but when it comes to choose between two wines, I am the proudest father for she does choose the right one.
Her understanding is far above mine at the same age, because strangely enough, like many Bordeaux families who drink wine at each meal, I was served the daily wine to try wine for the first time. Big mistake! Serving an ordinary wine to children is stupid, how can one like those, if they try for the first time? Did you taste the cheapest cigar for a first? The worst restaurant for a first date? The ugliest girl for a first night?
The first wine should be very good, I am not saying just good, or very prestigious, but very good, that means with sweet tannins well integrated, freshness but not overwhelming acidity, something like a Grand Puy Lacoste 85, a Pichon Baron 94, a Lynch-Bages 93, etc. A lot of aromas, not a lot of alcohol. And it should definitely be red, because Sauternes or sweet whites is too easy (no kid cannot love those) and dry white is too aggressive, for a first.
Children also love Champagne. It is as funny as it is pleasant. The tickling on the nose, the mousse in the mouth, Champagne is children’s favourite. All the same, Champagne is not just a bubbly, it is a variety of very different wines (from rosé to Blanc de Blancs) that need to be taught, even to adults! No need to get Dom Pérignon or Cristal (although my daughter had her first with cristal 97), but a good regular NV like Pol Roger, then the Blanc de Blancs (Pol Roger again, de Venoge, or Gimonnet), a vintage (Lanson, Laurent-Perrier), a rosé (ideally Dom Ruinart, but it is slightly too expensive, so Laurent-Perrier, Billecart-Salmon, de Venoge again). There it is: the ideal birthday party for 8 years old! Other parents would not approve…
All this of course must be clear: my daughter does not drink, she tastes. I will not let her sip until the age of 12. But I am convinced that she will be clever enough to continue her reasonable path towards good drinking, and nothing more.