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With Fewer Enology Majors, Fresno State Looks at Adding Wine Marketing Program

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Fresno State officials are taking a look at developing a wine marketing/wine business major. (fresnostatenews.com)
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Fresno State’s Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology has been tracking a big drop in the number of students applying and majoring in wine production over the past seven years.

And, to make up for the loss of enology students and bolster overall enrollments, college officials are taking a look at developing a wine marketing/wine business major, Dean Dennis Nef told GV Wire this week.

Nef said officials aren’t exactly sure why there’s been a drop in enology applicants and majors. There has been some turnover in the Department of Viticulture and Enology since 2015, and a plant sciences professor had to fill in as department chair for a few years because no one else was qualified for the position, he said.

Viticulture is the study of grape cultivation and harvesting, and enology is the study of wine and wine-making.

Anecdotally, professors are hearing that students don’t want to tackle the “heavy” load of chemistry courses that are required for the enology major, he said.

“Enology is pretty chemistry-dependent,” Nef said.

Ag College Enrollments Are Back Up

Overall, the numbers of Jordan College students has remained fairly steady over the past six years but did drop a bit in the pandemic, Nef said. Ag students totaled 1,957 in fall 2016, climbed to 1,993 by the fall 2018, dropped in 2019 and 2020 and then climbed again to 1,988 in fall 2021.

While the number of viticulture majors remained fairly steady over that time period — 50 in fall 2016 compared to 51 last fall — the number of enology majors dropped from a high of 75 in fall 2016 to 31 last fall, he said.

But the university also gained about a dozen students who are double majoring in viticulture and enology, Nef said.

The university offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in viticulture and enology.

Overall, viticulture, enology, and viticulture/enology majors dropped from 125 in fall 2016 to 94 last fall, according to college statistics that Nef shared.

So college officials are looking at other campuses that have developed wine marketing or wine business programs. The Department of Agriculture Business is teaming with the Department of Viticulture and Enology to examine the possibility of such a program at Fresno State, he said.

Fresno State has a long history of wine-grape production and winemaking, with a 120-acre vineyard and bonded winery on campus. University wines, many of which have been recognized with awards, are sold in retail outlets as well as online.

Are There Any Jobs?

Jobs in the wine industry have continued to expand since 2001, although the number of jobs dropped by about 10% during the pandemic, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The number of wine jobs nationwide grew from 25,363 in 2001 to a peak in 2019 of 70,596 but then dropped to about 64,000 the following year.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the majority of winery jobs in 2020 were in California, with 36,001, the bureau reported.

Meanwhile, the number of wineries has continued to grow, topping 5,000 in 2020 compared with about 1,000 in 2001. California led the nation in 2020 with 1,991 wineries, the bureau reported.

CRU Winery in Madera hired four Fresno State graduates in the past 12 months and has even funded a two-year scholarship at the university, spokeswoman Rebecca Gilbert said.

“Through this scholarship we aim to help passionate and often-time underrepresented students pursue an education and career in wine,” she said in an email.

The company values enology programs and enologists, and just last summer CRU Winery added a full-time enologist to the winemaking team to support the company’s growth “and commitment to elevating the quality of our wines,” Gilbert said.

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email