Dec 13, 2019
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Fresno State student Steve Grande checks the clarity of his wine during the wine tasting portion of his enology class.

New bill legalizes wine tasting courses for students under 21

Fresno State student Steve Grande checks the clarity of his wine during the wine tasting portion of his enology class.

Fresno State student Steve Grande checks the clarity of his wine during the wine tasting portion of his enology class. Darlene Wendels / The Collegian

Students who are under 21 will now be allowed to taste wine in wine-evaluating courses at Fresno State after California passed the “Sip and Spit” bill over summer.

Signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in July, the bill is intended strictly for educational purposes. Its aim is to allow viticulture and enology major students to graduate at a faster rate by allowing them to take major courses right when they enter college.

James Kennedy, professor and chair of the department of viticulture and enology, is a supporter of the sip and spit bill.

“We want to make sure that our students are as trained as possible when they move out into the workforce,” Kennedy said. “[Wine tasting] is part of their training. It’s really about preparing our students.”

The wine courses at Fresno State require their students to taste wine. However, drinking is not a requirement or an objective of the classes.

“It’s a sip and spit law,” he said. “You don’t need to drink wine to evaluate wine. It’s about smell and how it tastes, then you expectorate it. It’s never designed to have any consumption.”

Megan Long, an 18-year-old freshman at Fresno State, supports the sip and spit bill.

“I think it’s a good thing if it’s used for educational purposes and used only in the classroom,” she said.

Ryan Atendido, a senior at Fresno State, is 28 years old and said the bill will be good for Fresno State students.

“I think [students under 21] will take it seriously and not abuse it, because this is the career path they chose,” he said. “If these wine programs were available for any student as a class, not within the student’s major, then I wouldn’t support it.”

Fresno State conducted a risk-assessment meeting last week to discuss how the syllabuses of wine-tasting courses would be affected by the law, and how the law was going to be implemented at the university, according to Kennedy.

University officials also discussed the safety of faculty members and the students. However, everything is on track to be implemented smoothly, Kennedy said.

“When you’re in the wine region and you’re doing wine tasting, it’s always about making sure that people drink responsibly, and it starts with you as a winemaker,” he said.

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