By SUBHASH ARORA | DELWINE Newsletter | Thursday, 25 November 2010 10:56

The recent revelation by Emma Watson, the co-star in HARRY POTTER films, that she was given wine by her family at the age of seven might have been made public for its shock value and as publicity gimmick for the latest Harry Potter film released last Friday, but it might send out wrong signals that its fine to start seven-year olds on wine, when seventeen may be the right age to start under parents’ supervision.
There has been an onslaught of this news report in the media before the worldwide release on November 19 of the latest film-Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. I found over 11,000 items listed in Google where the 20-year old actress reveals that her lawyer parents Chris and Jacqueline always treated her like an adult and she was allowed to drink wine with meals as a child.

She also believes that her parent’s attitude to alcohol stopped her from drinking to excess as a teenager like many of friends. “I was never not allowed alcohol — I was seven when I had my first glass of wine, mixed with water and with a meal. I found it really strange when I got to school and everyone was like, ‘Ooh, we’ve got alcohol!’ I wasn’t interested” write the multitudes of these reports often quoting the same source.

She opines that « indeed, children who are allowed to drink at an early age tend not to drink in excess later on, » thankfully commenting at the same time that she finds it « disrespectful » that she was allowed to drink alcohol when she was just seven.

This reminds me of many Italian wine making families where the children grow up amidst vine and wine. There have been mixed accounts of when the kids have their first sip of wine. Though seven is not uncommon, it does not appear to be the norm. An Australian winemaker friend in Claire Valley told me once that his 5-year old daughter can not only tell the difference between his Shiraz and Cabernet but actually preferred Shiraz!

Another friend told me once that he was shocked when the sommelier refused to serve his teenage son when he went with his family to Opus One in Napa even when he told them it was fine with it. In non-winemaking families the age is much older- generally into the late teens. In any case, drinking a glass of wine with food is no big deal in such regions.

But to assume that it is all right to start serving wine at seven could be a gross mistake-certainly in India where the wine culture is in the state of infancy. I distinctly remember reading a news report about a woman in the UK, who grew up in the family of a wine shop owner, tasting wine as a child and soon became a wine expert. She also ended up becoming an alcoholic at a young age and had to go for rehab.

They say it is customary in Champagne to give a couple of drops of the bubbly to the newly born but I doubt if they start the child drinking Champagne at seven. Besides, I don’t see the point or the hurry in starting with wine and water mixture as if it were a medicine or a blend! Incidentally, though it is strictly a personal affair, I cannot but wonder if the divorce between her parents when she was five had something to do with her getting to drink wine at seven-maybe it is irrelevant!

I feel that the right age to start is a personal matter and depends a lot upon the lifestyle of the parents and the family and how the child is brought up and the discussion is not within the scope of this Blog. However, there are as many pitfalls in starting with wine at an early age as for keeping one away from alcohol, as Watson claims. I’d be more comfortable with a glass or a half of fruity and fresh wine, at the age of seventeen or perhaps even at sixteen, but seven ought to be a no-no.

What in your view is the right age to start with wine? I am sure it would range from seven to seventeen. Do share with us keeping in mind that the legal age in India in most states is an unrealistic 25!

SUBHASH ARORA (Indian Wine Academy) Thursday, 25 November 2010 10:56