Have you ever wondered how winemakers obtained so much knowledge about their craft? While experience or self-study can help further your knowledge, a number of universities offer rigorous viticulture and enology programs that can give you formal training in real-life settings under the tutelage of experienced vintners. The following are two high-quality programs that prepare students for a diverse array of careers in the wine industry.
University of California, Davis
With a history going back over 135 years, the viticulture and enology program at the University of California, Davis, has had a strong influence on the world of winemaking. The institution offers a bachelor of science on the topic, with the curriculum beginning with biological, plant, and other sciences, as well as introductory courses on viticulture and enology. Students then move on to advanced studies and can choose from a series of electives in plant science, food science and microbiology, economics and business, or foreign language.
One of the main benefits of studying at UC Davis is its proximity to the world-famous Napa and Sonoma Valley wine regions. This allows students to secure internships and study alongside some of the most experienced vintners in the country. UC Davis provides hands-on training at its Robert Mondavi Institute (RMI) for Wine and Food Science. The RMI’s cutting-edge labs allow students to learn how microbiology, analytical chemistry, sensory science, and plant biology apply to grape growing and wine production.
The vineyard next to the RMI gives students experience planting vines and using multiple trellis/training systems. The vineyard features over 150 grape varieties, and students can work on production blocks that feature several Petite Sirah clones. To provide even broader training, UC Davis plans to add blocks to teach students to identify various grapevines.
In addition to the RMI and adjacent vineyard, UC Davis features the LEED Platinum Teaching and Research Winery, the world’s most sustainable winery. It is also home to the Jess S. Jackson Sustainable Winery Building, which houses experiments in which students learn about cutting-edge wine production methods, such as alternative energy use and water capture and reuse.
One unique feature of UC Davis’ program is the opportunity to study abroad. Students can spend a month in Dijon, France, taking Introduction to Winemaking. In addition to teaching students the basics of viticulture and enology, this course allows students to see some of the most prominent wine regions in France, including Alsace, Provence, Burgundy, and the northern and southern Rhone. The study abroad program even allows students to visit distilleries and barrel makers, giving them a well-rounded view of the wine production process.
Ultimately, the training provided at UC Davis prepares students for careers in production management and quality control on vineyards, as well as for graduate-level studies in horticulture, food science, or agricultural and environmental chemistry.
Washington State University
With Washington being the second-biggest premium wine production state, Washington State University (WSU) is situated in an ideal location for students interested in learning the art and science of winemaking. Students can begin their course work in the viticulture and enology program at either the WSU Pullman campus or the Tri-Cities campus. The program helps students see how wine production is influenced by a diverse array of disciplines, from horticulture and soil science to entomology and food science.
During their junior and senior years, students from both campuses come together to gain hands-on experience at the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center and at the Albert Ravenholt Research and Teaching Vineyard on the Tri-Cities campus. On the two-acre vineyard, students engage in vineyard tasks with a number of wine varietals, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay, and Riesling.
The 40,000-square-foot Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center features research and teaching labs and the world’s most advanced fermentation system. The system features 192 stainless-steel fermentation vessels, which are equipped with individual temperature controls and can constantly monitor sugar concentration while mixing wine according to set schedules. With the system’s wireless monitoring capability, students can work with winemakers to track multiple fermentations using real-time data from a central computer connected to the vessels.
Another feature of the WSU Wine Science Center is the Washington State Wine Commission Wine Library, which can hold up to 1,800 bottles of wine produced in Washington. The center is also home to a Sensory Classroom with stain-proof tables where students can sample wines and learn to take notes on them. Complementing this classroom is the Sensory Laboratory, which features five sensory evaluation booths and gas chromatographs that isolate aromas for students to identify in each wine.
WSU also allows students to major or minor in wine business management. This training gives students a broad picture of the wine industry and helps them see the relationships between wine production, finance, marketing, and tourism, among other facets of the business. Combined with the program’s hands-on experience in the Wine Science Center, this training equips students to become leaders in the booming wine industry of the Pacific Northwest.
With the above two programs, you can obtain high-quality training in viticulture and enology in two of the top wine-producing regions of the country. Before deciding on a particular viticulture and enology program, do your due diligence and research the outcomes for various programs.
Specifically, investigate what positions graduates tend to secure with their training or whether they transition to graduate-level studies. Also, consider what aspect of the wine industry most suits your strengths and interests. With a little research, you can find a program that gives you a broad understanding of the wine industry while allowing you to prepare for the niche that best matches your career goals.