Some students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln take professor Paul E. Read’s horticulture course just so they can drink wine in class.
Read said he expects students with that goal to drop out. To him, wine is a serious matter. To Read, the course “Vines, Wines and You” is a “life experience class.”
In the class, students learn about everything from the geography of where wines are made to which wine is best paired with beef burgundy to understanding the culture behind wine.
“This class is not aimed at a major,” Read said. “The intent of the class is to help people appreciate the rich history associated with grapes and wine production since it’s one of the four or five most ancient crops that humankind has cultivated.”
Throughout the half-semester class, students learn how to understand different wines and try up to eight wines per night.
To take the course, students must be 21 years old, and Read must submit forms to be approved by the regents and the vice chancellor’s office.
During the first class, Read makes a copy of each student’s ID and the students fill out a waiver. Also included in the curriculum is how to be safe with alcohol and the effects it can have on the human body.
“We discuss a lot of things related to safety,” he said. “I am an advocate for designated drivers.”
According to Read, there is much more to wine than the alcohol content.
“Wine is not something you drink just to get drunk,” he said.
Read said the class also includes a field trip to James Arthur Vineyards, located outside Raymond.
This means students in the spring course go on the field trip later in the semester, and those in the fall section go earlier in the season, so they can see the grapes as they are still growing.
At the vineyard, students can see the botany of the grape vine they learned about in the classroom.
James Arthur Vineyard is not the only connection UNL has to the Nebraska Winery and Grape Growers Association.
According to Lori Paulsen, executive director of the NWGGA, several graduate students have worked with vineyards in Nebraska.
“When [graduate students] do their research, that information is then available to members in the state,” Read said.
The research includes information about which kinds of grapes can be produced with Nebraska’s harsh winters and which wines can be made from them.
“They have to be cold-weather, hardy grapes,” Paulsen said.
She said Edelweiss is a wine that does particularly well in Nebraska. In fact, wines from Nebraska wineries have won national and international awards.
“People are surprised,” Read said. “But they are very pleased with Nebraska wines.”
Wines from all over the world differ in taste and can change year to year depending on factors like the minerals in the soil where the grapes grow, but Paulsen said one thing stays the same.
“We always say you can taste a little Nebraska in every glass.”