Thursday, May 23, 2013

Teaching kids to drink

Oh boy, am I going to catch hell from somebody for this post. But this is an interesting idea I saw in Slovakia I thought I'd pass along.

Slovakia currently drinks twice as much wine as it produces. But per capita consumption isn't great, at 11.9 liters per year, which puts it near the bottom of the European Union. (The US drinks only 9.4 liters per year per capita, but we have 60 times as many people.)

So Hubert, the largest winery in Slovakia, is concerned about its future. Hubert is a 188-year-old sparkling wine specialist that has dominated the market since the Communist era, when it was nationalized. Check out its video history in English; the highlight is women with hammers pounding in corks in the 1970s.

The government in that era was proud to make better sparkling wine than those capitalists in France -- heck, Emperor Franz Joseph said so in 1896 -- and put out a steady stream of propaganda about how Czechoslovakians could celebrate their milestones with the finest wine in the world. For older Slovaks, that's still powerful.

But Communism has been gone for 23 years, and people under 30 don't remember the Hubert campaign. So Hubert, which was purchased by the German wine company Henkell in 2002, has to reach out to the next generation of customers.

Hence, Bambino Party.

Bambino Party is natural juice -- apple, peach or raspberry -- made sparkling (Charmat method, for you fermentation fans) and sold in essentially the same packaging as Hubert's regular lineup. It's non-alcoholic. But it's clearly designed as a gateway drug.

"You must teach the people to drink," says enologist Ingrid Vajcziková."You must teach them to drink good things."

Vajcziková could never say such a thing in the US. If Gallo started selling sparkling apple juice packaged like this, some red-state Congressman would be all over them.

Or would they? It's not illegal. It's not even immoral.

Think about it. When people reach 21 today, they have no idea how to drink responsibly. They're encouraged by their peers to drink Tequila shots or Red Bull and vodka.

I love the idea of Bambino Party for the US. And the drink itself was pretty good: light body, pure raspberry flavor, fairly sweet but with the acidity to carry it. There are plenty of sparkling wines that aren't as tasty as this. I'd love to slip it into a blind pink bubbly wine competition to see if it gets a medal.

Ingrid Vajcziková
Vajcziková says sales are down because at 2 Euros, Bambino Party represents a splurge for that age group. But even that is a lesson that a sparkling wine company could see as worth teaching.

That's said, Vajcziková says, "My boys love it, but without CO2. So they shake it up."

Don't try this with Krug.

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Unknown said...

In my opinion, the problem here in the US is that some parents do not teach their children about alcohol while they are growing up. Somehow at the wonderful age of 21, young adults are expected to know how to drink alcohol responsibly. It doesn't make sense.
On the other hand, I do not believe that packaging non-alcohol juice to look like wine bottles is a good idea.

KenMS said...

Martinelli's sparkling non-alcoholic cider is a regular fixture on holiday tables and is packaged very like sparkling wine. And it is commonly served in wine glasses.

W. Blake Gray said...

I used to love Martinelli's, and now I love sparkling wine. Coincidence?

Unknown said...

Martinelli's has always been on our table, too, but there is another "option."

I started tasting wine at my family's dinner table when I was 10. Not a glass diluted with water, a la the French, but just a sip or two. Now, admittedly, I had an uncle that owned a wine shop in the days everybody else had liquor stores, but some I liked, some I didn't. I went to work for my uncle as a summer job when I was 16, and spent the next 35+ years working in the wine trade.

With my own kids, I, too, began offering them a sip or two of wine at the dinner table when they were about 12 or so. Some they'd like; some they wouldn't. Today, my 18 year old loves Champagne (but still drinks Martinelli's); her sister doesn't much care for wine, and she, too, likes Martinelli's . . .

The Sommeliere said...

Women for WineSense
is a 20 year old organization that promotes responsible drinking.

Many of the founders were winemakers whose children learned to drink wine at an early age and grew up not abusing alcohol.

Anonymous said...

Bottling sparkling juices to look like wine bottles just helps the younger children to feel more grown up. It is also a way for teetotalers to save face in parties where everyone else is drinking without undergoing ridicule.

I believe parents should teach their children who are 10+ about liquor in their homes responsibly... a sip of this or that.

My father saw to it I would never like Brandy... he poured me a shot glass of Slivovitz (Yugoslavian plum brandy) and told me to gulp it. I did and it burned my throat. To this day I'm not fond of Brandy.

I prefer the sweeter wines when I drink, but that is not often. I do not see sparkling fruit juice as a gateway drug. That is a ridiculous claim in my opinion.

My parents had a glass of wine once a week with dinner on Sundays. At things like weddings once we were 13 we were allowed ONE glass of champagne under our parents' watchful eye. After that we could have water, juice, sparkling fruit juice, or whatever. That was their way of teaching responsible drinking. To this day I drink responsibly and have never had a DUI.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to mention too that the Lutheran Church I attended served REAL port wine in their communion and kids 10 years old were put through a special class that enabled them to join the adults in communion. It was NOT grape juice. It was common cup.

My first time at Communion the man on my right seized the cup and downed it. When the pastor came to me, he looked at me apologietically, refilled the cup, reblessed it, and I took the sip that was customary. It did not serve as a gateway drug either. I came to respect and not abuse liquor.