Texas Tech University students will soon have the chance to earn a degree focused on viticulture and enology, giving them the tools to be winemakers of the future. The school believes the program will also help Texas' wine industry grow.
The Lone Star State is currently the fifth-largest state in terms of wine production, with more than 175 wineries and eight appellations. Texas Tech sits in Lubbock, in the middle of the state's second-largest appellation, the High Plains AVA. (Ironically, Lubbock was a dry city until a vote earlier this year.) Viticulture and enology programs at schools like University of California at Davis and Cornell University in New York are credited with helping their states' wine industry grow and mature.
Texas Tech's viticulture and enology degree specialization is currently being offered within the Horticulture and Turfgrass Sciences major and will begin with the fall 2009 semester. "This course is brand new, we've never offered it, nor has anyone else in the state," said Dr. Ed Hellman, professor of viticulture at Texas Tech. Hellman explained that the course arose out of a vacuum of wine education that exists between the coasts. "We've wanted to do something like this for awhile, but only recently have we had the staff."
Interest has come from around the state and beyond. "We receive several inquiries each week, calls from out of state, from newer regions like Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arkansas, and calls from established regions as far away as Oregon," said Hellman. "Viticulture and enology, at its fundamentals mind you, are the same everywhere; our program won't be anything radically different from any other course, except that we are doing this in Texas, under Texas conditions."
With over 4,000 acres of vineyard land around the Lubbock area and the surrounding Panhandle (quite a jump from the original 10-acre plot in the area, planted in 1971 by two Texas Tech professors), there are plenty of opportunities for students to not just practice what they're learning in the classroom, but to find work right out of school.
"If we see enough of a demand, we will grow this into a full-fledged degree program, separate from the Horticulture and Turf Sciences track, and early indications are pretty positive," said Hellman. The expanded program would offer studies in winery tourism, management and marketing in an effort to equip graduates with everything they need to build a winery from the ground up.
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