Winemaking School

Despite its problems, there are still a lot of things that Italy gets right. One of them is the attitude towards alcohol. Put simply, it’s not such a "Big Deal" like it is in the US. It’s a normal part of life, rather than the forbidden fruit it has turned into for those under the age of 21 in the US. Binge drinking is uncommon, and the idea of drinking so much that you throw up or pass out is viewed with the proper revulsion rather than some sort of badge of honor. It’s normal to have a glass of wine with lunch and dinner, and when out with friends it happens that you might drink too much, but it’s not seen as something to be pursued as an end unto itself. There is no real drinking age in Italy (if there’s one on the books, it’s ignored), and of course anyone can buy alcohol in supermarkets. The end result is that there is probably less problematic underage drinking in Italy than in the US.

My mother in law works at a local "high school". Italy actually has different categories of high school, ranging from the liceo classico, where latin and greek are still studied, to more practically oriented institutions, like where she works, which is best described as an agricultural school. A short drive outside the center of Padova, the school really does provide hands on experience: they have their own fields, orchards, greenhouses, and even chickens, pigs and cows. What really makes me smile though, is that they have a fully functional wine cellar, where the high school students are involved in each step of the wine making process. They get the grapes from the Colli Euganei, and learn about the necessary procedures to turn grapes into good wine. And truth be told, the wine isn’t half bad: it’s sold to the public in limited quantities, along with other fresh fruit and produce from the school. I’ve visited the school a few times, and I’m always struck by the contrast between seeing students working diligently in the wine cellar, and the fuss and consternation that would come from having *high school students* work around *alcohol* in the US. Oh, and yes, the students do taste the wine. They need to understand what good wine is in order to produce it!

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