Italians want their kids to learn about wine in school—and it’s actually a really good idea

Part of the national history.
Part of the national history.
Image: Reuters/Tony Gentile
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Alongside sprouting beans and lentils, winemaking has been an occasional feature of science classes for Italian children for decades. At age seven, I remember making white and red varieties, and waiting with my classmates for them to ferment into wine. They turned into vinegar—so we learned that grapes make wine and vinegar, too.

Now, a piece of legislature is asking for a more structured space for wine in Italian classrooms—teaching its history and role in Italy’s culture.

With nearly 5 billion liters produced in 2015, Italy is the world’s largest producer (pdf) of wine. Every region in the country has wineries, making wine a common thread of the national story.

That’s why Dario Stefàno, a senator with the group Sinistra Ecologia Libertà (“Left Ecology Freedom”), has drafted a bill to get Italian children, aged six to 13, to learn about wine in primary schools, with one hour a week dedicated to ”wine culture and history.”

While some found the proposal to be funny, it’s a serious endeavor.

“We have more vines than churches,” Stefàno said, explaining that, unlike other traditional products (such as oil), wine production is something all Italians identify with, regardless of their regional provenance. The bill, which he presented on March 24 (link in Italian), notes how winemaking is an integral cultural part of Mediterranean cultures as well as a large source of employment (1.25 million jobs).

Stefàno says he does not want to teach children winemaking but rather use wine as a way to “add to the cultural baggage taught in schools [elements] related to food education.”

He doesn’t discount the fact that it might get more students interested in pursuing a career in the gastronomic field, or in tourism—which are now, despite their relevance in Italy’s economy (tourists bring to Italy over €35 billion, or $39 billion), hardly encouraged among students.