The Viticulture and Enology program offers experience for students interested in the wine industry.
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 thriving Texas Wine Industry.
With more than 300 wineries comprising the rapidly growing wine industry in Texas, Texas Tech's V&E program is ideal for any student looking to gain hands-on experience in this field. Through the four-year undergraduate program, students earn a bachelor's degree in Plant & Soil Science with a specialization in viticulture and enology.
Lubbock is home to 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, professor in the V&E program, said the Plant and Soil Science department recognized the increasing need for trained viticulturists and winemakers in the area. This provoked them to create the V&E program at Texas 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 Arché Wines 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.
Hellman said many graduates of the program hold excellent positions at wineries and have received great recognition in the industry.
“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,” Hellman 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.”
In addition to its course and lab work, Texas Tech now has Raiders Uncorked, an organization established to give students the opportunity to academically explore and appreciate viticulture, enology and wines of Texas and the world.
Raiders Uncorked provides experience and opportunities for students hoping to enter a career in this field. The organization is open to all students interested in the wine industry, wine tasting, wine marketing or those with a love for wine.
Frazier, president of the organization, is hoping Raiders Uncorked will grow further at Texas Tech.
“A lot of amazing things can come from this club and I can't wait to see it be extremely successful,” Frazier said.
The V&E program recently added a course co-listed with Texas Tech's Restaurant, Hotel, and Institutional Management (RHIM) program called, “Wines of the World.” Frazier said many of the RHIM classes have helped her integrate wine and business together.
“We have some great professors and classes in our program,” Frazier said. “I can't wait to see what's to come in the future.”
In the beginning, the program offered three courses:
- Viticulture I: Principles of Viticulture
- Viticulture II: Grape Production
- Wine Production Introduction
In addition to these courses, the program now offers:
- The Science of Wine
- Winemaking Quality Control and Analysis
- Wine Marketing
- Wines of the World
- Wine Tourism
Since 2013, all of the V&E courses have been offered online except for the advanced laboratory classes. Students are eligible to take the classes at the Texas Tech campus locations in Lubbock or Fredericksburg.
The program also offers students industry internships and study abroad opportunities. Graduate students can pursue a master's or doctorate degree in Plant & Soil Science with a specialization in viticulture. The program plans to continually add courses in the future to further enhance the curriculum of Texas Tech's V&E program.
V&E Graduates Success:
- Grayson Davies, winemaker at Arché Winery in Saint Jo
- Emily Simpson, winery operations manager at McPherson Cellars in Lubbock
- Spenser Igo, assistant winemaker at McPherson Cellars
- Rebecca Conley, marketing director at Brennan Vineyards in Comanche
- Daniel Bingham, winemaker at Bingham Family Vineyards in Meadow
- Caroline Garza, sales representative at Republic National Distributing Company in San Antonio
- Sherah Mills, viticulture graduate research assistant pursuing a master's degree, Texas Tech University