Texas Tech Adds Wine and Grape Courses

Expanding industry sparks new viticulture/enology programs and extension services

by Linda Jones McKee
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Mike Krawitzky, a recent graduate student at Texas Tech, takes a photosynthesis measurement in a Texas vineyard.
Lubbock, Texas -- The wine industry in Texas now has eight AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) and more than 150 wineries. A similar expansion of the grape and wine industry throughout the entire Southwest including Oklahoma, Kansas and New Mexico has increased demand for people with skills in viticulture and winemaking. Texas Tech University in Lubbock has stepped in to create the first undergraduate program in Texas for viticulture and enology.

The university recently announced that as of September 2009, the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences will offer both undergraduate and graduate level courses for students who want to pursue careers in the wine and grape industry. In addition, a new degree option will be available in Viticulture and Enology for students majoring in Horticultural and Turfgrass Sciences.

Ed Hellman, a Texas Tech professor of viticulture with a joint appointment at Texas AgriLife Extension, told Wines & Vines that the program came about because of a confluence of several factors. The demand for trained viticulturists and enologists is definitely there and, "For the first time, we have the faculty on hand to teach the courses," Hellman noted. "Five years ago we didn't have the faculty available to create a program like this." Hellman will teach viticulture courses, as will Phayne Montague, a plant physiologist. Brent Trella, who trained in enology at the University of California, Davis, will teach winemaking courses.

By 2010 Texas Tech plans to expand the course offerings to include winery business planning, wine marketing and wine tourism. These courses will draw on a range of programs including those in the Department of Plant and Soil Science; the Department of Nutrition, Hospitality and Retailing; as well as the university's Wine Marketing Research Institute.

Additional resources for potential Texas grapegrowers

Texas A & M University launched a new website that allows prospective grape growers to look at geographic data for each of the state's AVAs. Located at http://txwineregions.tamu.edu/, the site allows users to select an AVA and then view general descriptions and technical data that characterize the growing conditions for that area. A GIS (Geographic Information System) displays data on climate, topography and soils for each of the AVAs in Texas.

Extension services in Texas conduct workshops every six to eight weeks for prospective winegrape growers. The next workshop will be held on June 8 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the AgriLife Extension Office, 3033 Bear Creek Drive, Houston. According to Fritz Westover, Gulf Coast viticulture associate for AgriLife Extension, topics will include essential viticulture experience, pros and cons of site selection, risk factors, labor considerations and operational costs. Registration is $125 per person or $200 per couple, and includes a catered lunch. Register at http://agrilifevents.tamu.edu. For more information, phone Westover at (281) 855-5608 or e-mail fawestover@ag.tamu.edu.
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