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"Flitwick," said Ron in a warning tone. The tiny little Charms master was bobbing his way toward them, and Hermione was the only one who had managed to turn vinegar into wine; her glass flask was full of deep crimson liquid, whereas the contents of Harry's and Ron's were still murky brown.

The Half-Blood Prince - page 515 - Bloomsbury - chapter 24, Sectumsempra

Why in the world would a school teach a group of teenagers how to make wine out of an easily accessible substance? It seems very short-sighted.

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    Just for reference - people age 16 and 17 in UK may drink wine, beer or cider in legal premises with meal. From 5 to 17 in their or theirs friends home with permission of thier parent or legal guardian. So 16 year old in UK have easier access to wine then most teenagers. – Maciej Piechotka Aug 9 '12 at 5:12
  • Ah, I was thinking it might have been because of the UK laws, but I hadn't actually ever heard those laws. That makes a lot of sense. – forgivemymoccasins Aug 9 '12 at 5:23
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    The more obvious questions are: why wouldn’t he? And: is it good wine? – Konrad Rudolph Aug 9 '12 at 13:19
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    It was part of Harry's messianic training. – user68762 Jul 28 '16 at 21:20
  • Also, the alcohol is a needed antiseptic and pain reliever for dealing with injuries resulting from broomstick falls, giant spiders, basilisks, trolls, evil wizards, DADA demonstrations gone wrong, etc. let’s face it “keeping our kids safe and healthy” isn’t exactly a tenet of Hogwarts. – Paul Nov 15 '18 at 12:48
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Hogwarts is in the UK, which is less concerned about under-age drinking than the US -- and in fact those sixteen-year-olds can legally drink wine in a pub or restaurant as long as they're having it with a meal.

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    +1. Pretty close to what I was going to answer, but I'd also add that for Wizards, they become adults at 17, not 18. Some of the kids were likely close to 17 or over 17 at the time. (otherwise they wouldn't be eligible for apparition lessons.) That, combined with a relaxed attitude toward drinking, culturally would make it seem like less of a big deal. Plus, I'm sure they learned how to make far more interesting brews than wine in Potions. Who would bother drinking something that could give you a hangover, if there are other options. Less appeal=less risk of abuse. – David Stratton Aug 9 '12 at 5:20
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    +1 but just so that non-UK people aren’t misled: 16–17 year olds must still be accompanied by adults to legally drink alcohol with a meal (except in Scotland, apparently). – Konrad Rudolph Aug 9 '12 at 13:29
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    @KonradRudolph Hogwarts is in Scotland. :) – Gabe Willard Aug 9 '12 at 16:39
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Different cultures have different attitudes towards "adult" subjects such as nudity, violence, and alcohol. In many parts of Europe, they would rather their children watch shows containing nudity than shows containing violence. Many French parents think nothing of serving their children moderate amounts of wine.

[edit] I wasn't aware of the laws in the UK regarding alcohol, but that makes complete sense.

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We had an A-level physics class (in the UK) when I was 17 where the teacher taught us how to distil the alcohol from vodka (not sure what it had to do with physics!). And allowed us to have a finger's lick of the pure alcoholic result.

So teaching students how to turn vinegar into wine seems tame in comparison. :)

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    We did something similar in chemistry. It was fun and the chemistry teacher was even cooler than before. I think this might be partially the same, to show off. The same goes to McGonagall transfiguration into cat. – quapka Jun 3 '14 at 17:33
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Leaving aside the geographical differences talked about in other 2 answers, we also gotta remember that Harry Potter's wizarding world is - deliberatly - stuck pretty much in Middle Ages culturally.

And, due to lack of good access to clean water, through 99% of human history - Middle Ages included - people drank beer/alcohol as "normal" drink, including young adults (certainly 15-17 year olds) and even kids drank beer.

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    This likely does not apply to Hogwarts though, which certainly has access to clean water. Just think of the prefects' bathroom from Goblet of Fire. – b_jonas Aug 9 '12 at 15:41
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    @b_jonas - it's about the culture. It's perfectly acceptable to have 16 year olds to have wine, because they never got familiar with the modern prohibition movement – DVK-on-Ahch-To Aug 9 '12 at 15:56
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Pedagogical purposes

Quite simply, to teach them the principles of magic. If I had to guess, I would say that certain transformations are "easier" than others, and thus ideal for teaching basic magical principles. For example, turning vinegar to wine is simply the reverse of the natural process of wine spoilage, in which wine can turn into a kind of vinegar.

This is the same reason, for example, that McGonagall has students transform hedgehogs into pincushions.

“Maybe not, Thomas, but believe me, you need all the preparation you can get! Miss Granger remains the only person in this class who has managed to turn a hedgehog into a satisfactory pincushion. I might remind you that your pincushion, Thomas, still curls up in fright if anyone approaches it with a pin!”

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

There appears to be a sort of Law of Similarity at play, in which transforming one object into another that is close is relatively easy.

As to whether Flitwick would be worried about safety, I think not:

  • The students are already drinking butterbeer, which is mildly alcoholic.
  • They can probably procure mead from Hogsmeade or the kitchens easily enough.
  • They do far more dangerous things on a regular basis, such as detention in the Forbidden Forest, zooming around on brooms at bone-breaking speeds, and dealing with lethal plants and animals. Compared to this, the risk of students getting drunk seems tame.

The real question is why transforming vinegar into wine is being taught in Charms class, rather than in Transfiguration.

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  • Um, i am not sure the transition of a hedgehog into pincushion is a natural process.. – user68762 Jul 30 '16 at 17:29
  • @WillRosenberg - Definitely not. But they both have pointy things stuck in them. – Adamant Jul 30 '16 at 17:32
  • This would also be why they very first thing they do in transfiguration is matchsticks into needles. – Ummdustry Nov 15 '18 at 8:13
  • @Ummdustry - I didn't remember that, but yes! Rowling's world isn't the most carefully contructed one I've seen, but she did a lot more thinking about how magic works than she's often given credit for. – Adamant Nov 15 '18 at 8:14

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