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Last Updated: Friday, 27 April 2007, 14:09 GMT 15:09 UK
'Wine was always on the table'
By Giancarlo Rinaldi
South of Scotland reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Glasses of wine
Concerns have been voiced about parents giving children wine
Throughout my childhood a Sunday lunchtime meant only one thing - a pilgrimage to my grandparents' house for a traditional Italian meal.

My grandmother, or Nonna as I called her, would have been working hard in the kitchen for hours in preparation.

While reclining in his armchair my grandfather - my Nonno - would proffer his opinions on world issues.

The dining table was heaped high with bread, crostini, antipasto and, always, a bottle of red wine.

There was never any question of keeping alcohol out of the way of the children in a Scottish-Italian household.

If my sister or I wanted a glass of watered down Chianti it was not an issue.

This was a long time before either of us reached our 15th birthday.

Shock suggestion

That is why suggestions that parents of under 15s be prosecuted for letting their children drink alcohol came as something of a shock.

The motivation of the call - by Alcohol Concern - is understandable.

It wants to bring parents on board in the fight against underage drinking.

However, it is hard to believe that making it a crime to pour your child a glass of wine would achieve that.

My own experience was that having wine on the table actually put me off drinking alcohol for some time.

I thought it tasted foul compared to soft drinks and would - more often than not - go for milk ahead of Montepulciano.

Food and drink
Food and drink form a huge part of Italian culture

It also meant that when I was in my teens the discovery of alcohol held no great excitement for me.

While my friends were busy creating vile cocktails of anything they could find in their parents' drinks cupboards, I found the resulting brew held little interest.

There was none of the fascination I might have had if it had been banned from the family dining table.

During summer holidays with my teenage cousins in Italy, I found confirmation of how different attitudes to alcohol produced different results.

My relatives had easy access to wine or spirits both at home and in the little bars of their home village.

Yet I never saw them drinking to excess that I can remember.

Alcohol Concern is right to highlight the dangers presented by increasing numbers of 11 to 13-year-olds drinking heavily.

However, the answer might lie more in a cultural change rather than prosecuting parents round the dinner table.

Relaxed attitude

I like to think that having been around alcohol from an early age gave me a more relaxed attitude towards its consumption than I otherwise might have had.

If my parents and grandparents had been scared to pour me a glass I don't know how different that might have been.

Looking back at my childhood I think they did the right thing by giving me the choice of whether I wanted to try a bit of Brunello.

And I hope that I will be able to offer my own children the same choice - without being afraid of the police coming knocking at my door.




SEE ALSO
Child drink ban 'a step too far'
27 Apr 07 |  Scotland
Pupils give MSPs alcohol evidence
30 Oct 06 |  Glasgow and West
Warning over toll of drunk teens
17 Aug 06 |  Scotland

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