I've lived on the continent for a decade where the kids can go to the clubs and drink beer/wine at 16 and 18 for hard liquor. And frankly a beer in a restaurant is often cheaper than a coke.
From what I've seen they have less alcohol related problems than we do in North America. However that being said, the British seem to have a whole other culture that I've seen that makes their youth drunken idiots. Not sure what the drinking age is but getting drunk and throwing up seems to be the goal. Scandinavia has a similar experience. Both of the UK and Scandinavia taxes the shit out of booze. Perhaps the Psychologists amoung you know if this has some influence on the drinking culture.
My caution would be to greatly increase the penalties for drunk driving however so that the youth would take a cab/public transport or ride with a friend/parent home when they do over do it.
My vote is 16 for wine/beer. Nightclub entrance at 16 as a better supervised enviornment than house or bush parties with less likelyhood of things getting out of hand.
"Do I wanna do it? Does the Pope help Pedophiles get away with their crimes?" Eric Cartman