Introduce your offspring to sensible drinking as they get ready to head off to university

The last few weeks have been traumatic for anyone with teenagers in the house. A rollercoaster of hopes, worries and fears brought on by exams have, in many cases, been transformed into results and plans of action. To most parents it will have come as a surprise that, despite all appearances, the students who usually clutter up the sofa and bathroom have actually been working and managed to achieve decent grades after all.

Whatever the results, there will be new horizons ahead. The A level students may soon be heading off to uni or to travel the world while the proud holders of shiny new GCSEs will be choosing subjects, maybe moving schools and thinking of career prospects.

So, before it all changes, now is the time for a family celebration to mark this change in status. Although the legal age for buying alcohol is 18, anyone over 16 can be bought wine, beer or cider in a pub or restaurant so long as it is consumed with food and if your celebration is at home, then a glass of wine or champagne, is a terrific way to introduce your offspring to the notion of responsible and moderate drinking. Alcohol doesn’t necessarily mean an evening of vodka shots or as-much-beer-as-you-can-drink nights.

If your A level student has hit their target grades to get to their university of choice then there is much to do. A place to live, a set of pans and at least 4 coffee mugs are the bare essentials. The idea behind having lots of mugs is to build friendships over coffee and with that in mind, your student should be packed off with some wine glasses too.

We have all drunk wine and even champagne out of chipped mugs and plastic cups, but despite thinking it was fun at the time, it really didn’t taste right. A set of glasses will set the tone and could be the start of an interest that will take them through the next few years.

Whether you like it or not alcohol is probably going to play a fairly major role in your off-spring’s life and if their consumption can be directed towards wine then they will gain pleasure, knowledge and probably a nice group of friends instead of just a hangover.

Most universities have wine societies and once they get past the idea that this is just a collection of bores talking about Bordeaux there is probably a lot of fun to be had at wine tasting evenings. Some serious wine business careers have been cultivated at university, and wine companies are always interested in showing off their wares to students who one day will have paid off their loans and be in the business of buying good wine. So as well as teaching your sons and daughters the essentials of washing socks and survival cooking, now is the time to make sure they have enough basic wine knowledge to steer them in the right direction.

Joining a university wine club might lead to visits to châteaux in France

Buy them some cheap supermarket glasses which will inevitably get broken on a regular basis and make sure your student knows to fill them one-third to half full, and not to the brim. Demonstrate that you can get six glasses of wine from one bottle, which echoes the coffee-mug principle and could be a great way of building friendships.

Pack a corkscrew. Despite the proliferation of screw caps, if your student wants to impress the girl/bloke down the corridor, then competence with a corkscrew could help. All children should have been taught at an early age how to open sparkling wine by twisting the bottle not the cork, and never by pushing the cork out so it shoots in the air. Remind them of this, just in case they haven’t been practising.

Now comes the tricky bit – show them how to drink. Start by swirling the glass and sticking your nose in to smell the aroma. They will laugh at this stage but with a bit of practice they will get the hang of it and in time you may notice that there is a slight hesitation between getting a glass of wine in their hands and knocking it back. This is the start of building a wine tasting vocabulary. They won’t immediately start using terms like ‘red berry fruits and forest floors’, but they will start to notice the differences between basic wine flavours.

They may have mastered exam papers but they probably have never read a back label. Get them to notice the alcohol level on a bottle of wine which can be as low as 11% and may be as high as 15%. The difference this makes in terms of alcoholic effect is drastic.

In time most students end up giving small dinner parties in their shared flats and this is where the bank of Mum and Dad can be a real help. Instead of letting them spend their meagre allowance on supermarket cheapies, why not join a wine club, such as The Yorkshire Post Wine Club, or The Wine Society and send the impoverished students an occasional case of wine? These come with tasting notes and the arrival of a new selection box of wine could trigger a social gathering over a plate of pasta or chicken casserole.

But it isn’t just the students who need the occasional glass of wine. Mums might find the whole empty nest syndrome difficult to cope with, so if you find yourself sitting in a strangely tidy and quiet room which used to throb with music and dirty washing, then grab a glass of wine and a travel brochure and start planning your own gap year.

Here are a few suggestions for student drinking.

Les Richoises 2016, South West France, Morrisons £4.75

Fresh, crisp and zippy. Perfect with a packet of crisps.

Castellore Sicilian Pinot Grigio, Italy, Aldi £3.89

Easy drinking, light fruit flavours and seriously good value.

Cepa Lebrel Rioja Joven 2016, Spain, 13.5%, Lidl £4.49

Bright, juicy, red berry-filled wine. Great with pasta.

Claret 2015, Bordeaux, France, Morrisons £4.50

Unbeatable value in this serious styled cassis-filled Bordeaux red.

Barbera 2015, Italy, Co-op £5.49

Lively jammy fruit with a twist of sophistication.

Comte de Senneval Champagne Brut, Lidl £9.99

Astonishingly drinkable at a bargain price



About The Author

Christine is a wine writer, broadcaster and a wine judge for several international wine competitions. She has a technical background and spent five years as a buyer for a major supermarket before moving to wine writing.She writes for The Yorkshire Post Magazine and organises the York Festival of Food and Drink. She has won both the Lanson and the Roederer prizes for wine writing.

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