Christina Carani

Miami University students got a taste of Ohio’s wine country Saturday, as students from the Viticulture and Enology (BOT244) class traveled to Valley Vineyard Winery.

Jack Keegan, Miami’s greenhouse manager and instructor, took students to the vineyard in Morrow, Ohio, for the chance to observe grape growing, receive a tour and observe the various practices associated with growing grapes and producing wine.

“I thought the field trip was great, a lot of what we saw at the vineyard and winery were things we have been learning about in class,” said senior Lindsay Earle, who went on the trip. “We also got to taste five different wines and learned something about each of them.”

Even though the class is regularly offered to Miami students who are 21 years of age, its instructor brings an additional credential to the table this semester. Keegan was awarded the title of International Bordeaux Wine Expert in December 2006. He was a top scorer in an exam at a symposium on Bordeaux and he attended an intensive week in Bordeaux, France this past fall.

Since receiving the title, he has been receiving calls to do training sessions and give lectures to the staff at Columbia Sussex company. Columbia Sussex is a private hospitality company based in Fort Mitchell, Ky. The company owns and operates 80 hotels and casinos in various parts of the United States.

BOT244 complements horticulture with the study of viticulture and enology and is for students of age who share a common interest in wine, wine making, and the history of wine through the ages and around the world.

“(The class) is really interesting and a lot more in-depth than people think it is,” said senior Kristen Carey, who is enrolled in the class. “Not only is it a great asset in the business world, but also vital knowledge that people need for real life.”

There are two sections of the class, both of which meet at night and have an ideal capacity of 75 students. However, due to the popularity of the course on campus, approximately 95 students are enrolled in each section.

The class itself is a study of not only the history behind wine and wine making, but also teaches students the science behind these processes.

While tasting wine is a part of the course, Keegan emphasized the responsible adult use of wine.

“(I want students to) understand the good and bad effects of alcohol, and that when used in moderation can be good for your health, (or not), if abused,” Keegan said.

As they are currently in the fifth week of instruction, students have not yet tasted wine in the classroom setting. Up until this point, Keegan has taught students about the growing of grapes as a horticultural product, grape variety, how grapes are grown in various countries and the difference between them.

“Wine and wine appreciation can be a lifetime interest,” Keegan said. ” … (This class) is just another example of becoming well informed … and can be very helpful in business situations as well.”

Initially, there were some difficulties with starting this class at Miami and receiving university approval. According to Keegan, the university and its judicial review approved the class understanding that Keegan stresses moderation and proper academic conduct in his classroom and during wine tastings.

Keegan usually offers about two field trips a semester, and a trip to Jungle Jim’s International Farm is planned for Feb. 24. According to Keegan, the store carries more than 9,000 different types of wine.

“One of the things we discuss in class is the incredible variety of wine throughout the world,” Keegan said. “One of the major problems (is that people) don’t understand what is on the label. They don’t understand the regions from the various countries and the grape varieties. What I try to do in class is to elucidate that.”