Wine classes face budget issues

Heather Bing

Students in the Geography of Wine class watch as a winery owner demonstrates how wine is processed. The class, and other popular special topics classes on Wines of northeast Ohio and Wine and Food Pairing, may not be offered as frequently as they have be

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

There is more to drinking than Thursday nights at the bar with friends.

Kent State offers a Geography of Wine class and special topics classes on Wines of northeast Ohio and Wine and Food Pairing that teach participants how wine is made, what foods go with what wines and why it’s important to select a well-crafted wine.

Because of budgeting issues, the special topics classes may not be offered as frequently as they have been in the past.

Jay Lee, geography department chair, said the semester-long Geography of Wine class will still be offered, but he has to wait for the new budget in order to determine how many special topics classes can be offered each semester and how frequently each topic will reoccur.

The College of Continuing Studies stopped sponsoring the workshops, so departments had to take on the classes, he said. The geography department currently pays for the courses with money it receives from the university, as well as donations.

“This puts all the special topics classes in jeopardy,” he said. “It will depend on how much disposable income we have each year.”

In order for students to take these classes, they will have to pay for the college credits as well as the course fees. Lee said this makes the classes difficult to arrange because course fees have to be reassessed each year and approved on every level up to the Board of Trustees.

Tony Carlucci, enologist and wine educator and consultant, teaches the special topics courses . He said losing the classes would be a tremendous loss for students.

“I really want to keep the special topics classes going because I really believe in the educational value for the Kent State students,” he said. “I know how much everyone involved is committed to making this a great experience.”

Carlucci has been teaching at Kent State for eight years and was the first student to graduate with a bachelor’s of science in Enology and Viticulture from Mississippi State University. He has been making wine for the past 20 years and loves teaching students.

“The key for me is that I want kids to learn something they can apply to the real world,” he said. “In these classes, we sample a little wine, match them with foods and meet small business owners. It’s more than just sipping wine.”

Students are usually surprised that it is more of a business class, he said. They learn the process of making wine, beginning in the vineyard where they pick, crush and taste grapes.

Carlucci said students come into the class knowing more about the topic each year. Students are more sophisticated and cultural when it comes to drinking than in the past, he said.

Shari Faber, senior art history and classics major, took the wineries workshops last semester and signed up for the Geography of Wine course this semester. She said she found both classes extremely informative, and that they are not just about drinking wine.

“From a business perspective, knowing which wine you should have with dinner leaves a good impression on your business partner,” she said. “It also allows you to enjoy your meal that much more by relaxing you and having the food match well with your beverage.”

Along with learning how to order wine, she has learned to appreciate where that wine originated.

“Tony’s (Carlucci) very knowledgeable about how to make wine and maintain a wine business,” she said. “He also covers the history of winemaking and the technical chemistry and biology involved in making wine.”

Faber said students who drink wine, rather than beer, realize the drink has a rich history that most people don’t know about. She recommends that students who enjoy wine and are interested in travel or business take the class.

Nicole Terry, senior justice studies major, is also taking her second wine class this semester. She said the classes are helpful and informative to all students regardless of wine-drinking experience.

“Even if you don’t like wine, like me, you might find yourself having a different opinion by the end of the class,” she said. “I started out hating all types of wine. Now at least I have respect for the art of making wine and what goes into just one bottle.

“The most beneficial thing I have learned from the class is to appreciate all types of wine. Just because a wine is expensive in no way means it’s good.”

Carlucci said the increase in course fees for the class has not impacted the number of students taking the courses. While several special topics classes are full, students can still sign up to take a class this semester where there are openings. He hopes that after taking the class students will realize the many benefits of appreciating and drinking wine.

“Life is fast-paced, and this teaches you to slow down and enjoy life,” he said. “That’s what it’s about: wine and food and family and friends.”

Contact College of Arts and Sciences reporter Heather Bing at [email protected].