First Student-Faculty Wine Tasting Kicks Off With Chardonnay

Layercake: Wide Array of Wines gives students a new experience they readily tackle

The first in a series of faculty-student wine tastings was held December 6, 2006 in the MU II conference room. The inaugural event was hosted by Prof. Andrew Waterhouse, interim chair for the Viticulture and Enology Department.

The event was attended by current, as well as emeritus faculty, and students who are enrolled in the Viticulture and Enology programs. The tasting consisted of three flights of Chardonnay chosen by staff winemaker and winery manager Chik Brenneman, Prof. Waterhouse, and students. They chose a wide array of wines that had been donated to the university and offered students a different perspective in an educational experience outside the classroom.

Most of the wines in the first two flights were priced between $10 and $15 a bottle, while most in the last flight broke the $30 mark. There was not a minute of silence as faculty and students alike were quick to offer their opinions when discussion time came.

"The advantage here is that we were using wine that is fairly expensive and is difficult for many of them to purchase. It's important to have professional discussions with between faculty, students and staff, and as well as giving the students a chance to taste these types of wine," Waterhouse said.

The discussion was also high in the level of expertise and Waterhouse was impressed with students' ability to identify the various tastes and smells. Students used very precise descriptors and showed that they were sophisticated, well informed, and not novice tasters, Waterhouse said. "The power of suggestion makes these fun. Interacting as a group causes you to notice things you have missed before," graduate student Laura Weissberg said.

Graduate student Alison Breazeale thought she learned a lot from this experience because of the faculty presence combined with a more open setting. "This is something that students have wanted to do for a long time," she said. "I think if we continue to get faculty support for the events then we will also get a lot more student support."

More faculty and student tasting events will be scheduled for winter and spring quarters, possibly once a month. Waterhouse already has several ideas for different themes.

"I'd really like to be able to pour a vertical tasting of red wines that go back a number of years. It would give (the students) a chance they wouldn't otherwise have. It'll help show them how a wine changes with age looking at the same grape variety in different parts of the world." Other future tastings should compare wines made with specific styles in mind, in order for the students to begin to see what stylistic decisions can impact.

The next tasting will be held in late January and will be a comparison of French and American Bordeaux blends, and is open to students over 21 in the degree programs, as well as faculty and staff in the Department For more information please contact Chik Brenneman at cabrenneman@ucdavis.edu.