For those of you who have stuck by us over the past three years, you may have struggled with me as I attempted to maneuver my way through the Spanish educational system. For one year, I eagerly taught English to five year olds in a small Catholic school in Barcelona before joining Catavino full-time. Renowned for its alternative education, the school gained its notoriety based on a methodology it employed called, the Theory of Multiple Intelligence, which also happened to be the main crux behind my master’s thesis in education. Created by Howard Gardner, the theory states that we as humans have a wide range of abilities, or intelligences, that are neither utilized nor nurtured. But through interactive and dynamic learning, where all intelligences are acted upon, we have the ability to truly excel and reach our highest potential.
Let’s bring this down to layman’s terms. Old school methodology that you and I experienced throughout our youth was based on one directional learning. Put another way, your traditional static website, which simply provides information without dialogue. Basically your “I’m the expert, so you must believe what I say” principle. While, the Multiple Intelligence Theory says that learning needs to be hand’s on, interactive, dynamic and conversational – translating to web 2.0 or social networking. Learning now becomes a relationship between the student and the material, where the student can play and manipulate the information.
Now, although the school was an administrative disaster, their intentions were honorable, and the children were able to learn incredible lessons, like the art of winemaking. For two months, these children were immersed in lessons ranging from math (10 grapes minus 6 grapes) to music (create a song from stomping on grapes), which also included a tour of Bodegas Torres. And after drawing, creating, picking and eating grapes for eight weeks, they could recite the process of winemaking, share their experiences tasting food and wine, and give their overall opinions on what quality means. For me, the experience was absolutely mind-blowing, and convinced me, beyond a doubt, that children need to appreciate winemaking from an early age.
Wineries across Spain are receptive to teaching children about winemaking, unlike many other countries; however, I was floored when I received an email a few weeks ago promoting a new interactive program to teach children about wine, so that in the future, they may become more responsible and educated consumers. What a concept (enter sarcasm here)! Located in the dead center of Spain, Bodegas Castiblanque is piloting a viticultural program with the support of the Castile La Mancha Educational Board to actively educate children between the ages of 6 and 12 on the art of winemaking. But we’re not talking a little tour of the winery and a general description of the process, Bodegas Castiblanque has raised the bar in winemaking pedagogy by including their own literature on winemaking, interactive workshops, and two trained guides dressed as grapes to promote interactive learning. How cool is this!
Having voiced my frustrations across the Internet, alongside Dr. Vino and Dr. Debs, on issues such as prohibiting children into wineries and restricting the conversation of wine in schools, I am ecstatic to bring you an alternative perspective. What I’ve included in this post is an interview with Miquel Angel Castiblanque, who happens to not only be the founder of Bodegas Castiblanque, but also the innovator behind this new interactive winemaking educational program.
Interview with Miguel Angel Castiblanque
1. What Influenced you to create an interactive and dynamic program to educate children about winemaking?
We have found that not only Castilla-La Mancha (our wine region), but Spain in general, is suffering from a lack of wine culture, despite the fact that we have more land under vine in the world. And because the normal age for an individual to enter the world of wine in Spain is between 30-35, we felt that this was a serious error that needed to be changed.
Learning about wine at this age [as an adult] is inappropriate. In Spain, it is traditionally an obligation made in one’s work place (namely to know just enough to defend your choice of wine to pair with your food); so when you arrive home, taking off your suit and tie to relax, the last thing your going to think about is wine. Additionally, in your mid-thirties, there is a motivation to learn about wine as a way to climb the social ladder, an opportunity to be fashionable and trendy because you “know something about wine”. When you acquire knowledge on these grounds, your knowledge about wine is not only reduced, it is superficial because you’re placing greater importance on manner in which your learning it. Moreover, the way in which we learn as adults is very targeted, based on our prejudices we’ve acquired beforehand.
However, beginning at age six, children have a very innocent and authentic way of learning. At this age, they are virtually sponges, capable of absorbing information rapidly because they see it as a game. Therefore, from the moment when we begin to talk about the culture of wine, we ensure to make two points very clear: how to cultivate a healthy relationship between food and wine, and how to consume wine in a responsible and moderate manner when they’ve reached the appropriate age.
This is the reason why we want to plant the seed now. Taught by specially trained teachers by the Castile-La Mancha government, children are learning invaluable lessons through material adapted for easy comprehension. In addition, we have created two characters – the white grape, Blanquita Castilblanque, and the red grape, Negrita Castiblanque) who guide and teach children through play about the winemaking process from the vine to the glass. These characters guide children through educational workshops to deepen their understanding of the process by tasting different grapes, pressing grapes to obtain the resulting juice. Then once the children have tasted the ‘mosto’ or juice, we begin to educate them on the process of fermentation.
This entire project is based on the notion to: NOT BAN (wine education), BUT EDUCATE!
2. Bodegas across Spain have incorporated programs for children. Why do you feel that Spain, as a country, is so open to educating young children about winemaking?
First of all, we have a social and cultural responsibility. Spain is a country that produces wine, and throughout our history, wine has always been present in our lives. Wine is cultural and a part of our heritage. Therefore, it should continue to be passed on for generations to come.
Moreover, we must not forget that wine consumption has declined over the last decade and that our children are the future consumers. Therefore, we have an important responsibility to adequately convey this cultural and gastronomic heritage, not to mention the economic importance it represents in a wine producing country. The quality and responsibility for our future consumer depends on our work as an educator in the present day.
3. It has been said that there is a correlation between children learning about wine and their attitude towards alcohol later as an adult. What are your thoughts about this?
It is essential to properly convey the message in a clear and concise manner without a message of fear. On the contrary, what is so exciting about our efforts to teach these children is that it [educating about wine] can be exciting and fun. Wine like food is healthy as long as you consume it appropriately and in moderation. And just like any other food you ingest, it is beneficial as long as it is in proportion.
Wine as a cultural element:
Wine is unique and exciting, because it changes from year to year, depending on the influence from the winemaker and the viticulturists, who continually look towards the sky, as there is always a chance for uncontrollable meteorological misfortunes.
Wine is distinctly alive, changing from moment to moment, and is influenced not only by the state of mind of the person drinking it, but also the company and the concrete circumstances of both time and place.
Assuming the children adopt the lessons we’re trying to teach them, they will most likely have a change in attitude towards alcohol when they reach a mature age. But what is most probable to occur, is that at the very least, we will have created a consumer of high quality and accountability.
4. What do you feel children gain from visiting your bodega and learning about winemaking?
Our intention is simply to properly educate children, in order to create a quality consumer in the future who knows how to enjoy and appreciate wine.
For example, when we teach them how to taste the must (grape juice), we are helping them decide if what they are drinking is good enough for them to consume. Put another way, if you see a little mold on top of a piece of a bread, you don’t eat it. Likewise, we want children to understand the very minimum requirements to enjoy a glass of wine, such as the temperature it should be served, that one glass is more than adequate, etc.
If these children look back at their experience at Bodegas Castiblanque with fondness and warm memories, we feel as if we have succeeded.
5.What advice do you have for those who view a winery as a sacred space for adults, not children?
On one hand, it is the responsibility of those who live in the world of wine to go out and educate others on how to love and respect wine, both from a cultural and from a nutrition standpoint. From the tangible aspects (fermented grape juice) to the intangible aspects (metaphysics of wine, emotions surrounding wine), education should be comprehensive to nurture a responsible and discerning consumer.
However, we must not stray from the reality, because this project should not be another differentiating factor between wineries who value training and wine tourism. In our particular case, when a family with children visits our winery, we have found that by educating both children and adults, learning becomes more didactic and dynamic.
Thank you Miquel Angel for your time and effort in creating a program that I can only hope will act like a model for others to follow.
Do you stand? Would you allow your child to take field trips to a winery? Would you permit your six year old to partake in pressing grapes and analyzing grape juice? Do you feel that these lessons can alter the way in which we approach wine as an adult? Where does your state or country stand on teaching children about wine?
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