Grape-growing Surge; Viticulture, enology program getting better with age
With the only bachelor's degree program offered in the state of Texas in the winemaking industry, Texas Tech University's Viticulture and Enology (V&E) program has grown steadily with the state's thriving wine industry.
With more than 300 wineries comprising the rapidly growing wine industry in Texas, Tech's V&E program is ideal for any student looking to gain hands-on experience in the field. Through the four-year undergraduate program, students earn a bachelor's degree in plant and soil science with a specialization in viticulture and enology.
Lubbock is a part of the Texas High Plains, one of eight American Viticultural Areas (AVA) in Texas. This AVA encompasses more than 8 million acres and grows more than 80 percent of Texas' wine grapes. Other AVA's in Texas include The Texas Hill Country, Bell Mountain, Escondido Valley, Mesilla Valley, Texas Davis Mountains, Texoma and Fredericksburg.
Ed Hellman, a professor of viticulture in Tech's Department of Plant and Soil Science with joint appointment with Texas AgriLife Extension, said his department recognized the increasing need for trained viticulturists and winemakers in the area. This pressed them to create the V&E program at Tech.
"No other Texas university programs in viticulture and enology existed," Hellman said, "and it made sense for Texas Tech to develop a program since the High Plains region around Lubbock is the most significant grape-growing region in the state."
Since the program began in 2010, there have been 13 graduates. These graduates have done extraordinary work in the industry, such as starting their own wineries like Grayson Davies, the first graduate of the V&E program. Davies began his winery with his family in Saint Jo in 2007 and went on to win an award for his Vintage Roussanne at the San Diego International Wine Competition in 2014.
"We have a strong working relationship with the Texas wine industry so we can readily place our students in professional internships to gain experience," Hellman said. "We can also readily place graduates in permanent positions at wineries, vineyards and related businesses."
Hellman said the constant growth of the wine industry allows for many job openings for college graduates. "In fact, there are more job opportunities than we have graduates," he said. "The outlook is very strong as the wine industry continues to grow."
Texas Tech currently has 16 undergraduate and two graduate students enrolled in the V&E program. Whitney Frazier is a current student in the V&E program and president of the Raiders Uncorked student organization. She has gained hands-on experience since entering the program in 2013. Frazier owes a lot of what she has learned to her study abroad experience in Italy.
"I learned a tremendous amount of knowledge about wine and the industry in Italy," Frazier said. "I was able to experience what the international wine industry was like and get a better grasp on the industry as a whole."
Written by Jenae Fleming
CONTACT: Eric Hequet, Department Chair, Department of Plant and Soil Science, Texas Tech University at (806) 742-2838 or email@example.com
0524NM16 / For the full text of the story produced by TTU Communications and Marketing, click http://today.ttu.edu/posts/2016/05/viticulture
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