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FS470 – Wine Appreciation

By TOM CAMPBELL

It took Erik Miller 11 years to get into Purdue’s wildly popular wine appreciation class (FS470).

He tried to take it in 1999 – the first year it was offered – when he was a senior, but it was full. It has filled up quickly ever since.

Miller finally got into the class as a guest lecturer during the recently completed spring semester. He is owner/winemaker of Kokomo Winery.

Kim Emshwiller

Photo by Tom Campbell

For Tyler Morris, a senior from Greenwood, Ind., a pinot noir is good to the last drop in FS470, Purdue’s wine appreciation course, one of the most popular courses the university offers.

The name is not a location, just a toast to his hometown. Miller started the winery in 2004 in Healdsburg, Calif., in the middle of one of the wine capitals of the world, the Sonoma Valley.

“I truly enjoyed doing the guest lecture, and it was my first time back on campus in quite a while,” said Miller, who was impressed with the wine IQ of the students.

“I thought they were very attentive and seemed really interested in the material. I was very impressed with a couple of the students who ‘spoke to the wine’ and the descriptors that they gave of the wines. One of the girls picked up sage and orange peel on my Pinot, which is what I recognize beneath the fruit, or more in-depth flavors.”

Miller would like to see more classes like it.

“A course like FS470 helps the wine industry tremendously,” Miller said. “It encourages students to taste and talk about wine and ultimately makes wine more approachable. I think a lot more people would drink wine if they understood what their palate was telling them.”

If the course were a sports event or a rock concert, FS470 would be announced as a sellout every semester. Shortly after enrollment is opened, the 350 seats of the Class of ’50 Lecture Hall are filled up.

Instructor Christian Butzke has an explanation for why readers of The Exponent newspaper voted the course as Purdue’s best class in a survey this year.

Kim Emshwiller

Photo by Tom Campbell

Winemaker Erik Miller watches nervously as Lauren Feulner, a senior from Bloomington, Minn., critiques one of his Kokomo Winery wines as part of an FS470 class exercise.

“I think FS470 is Purdue’s most beloved class because wine is a subject that combines so many scientific disciplines that are true to the heart of yet another generation of Boilermakers: food science, chemical engineering, horticulture, biochemistry, marketing, agricultural economics, culinary science, nutrition, medicine and philosophy,” says Butzke, who took over the course in 2005 following the retirement of Richard Vine.

“Even aeronautical engineering,” Butzke adds jokingly. “On long space flights we will need a little freeze-dried wine, right?”

Butzke says the course “unites the students’ cravings for scientific endeavor, cultural adventure and worldly pleasures in a unique way that makes academic learning both enjoyable and inspiring.”

When enologist Richard Vine and Food Science department head Phil Nelson started the course, there were 12 wineries in Indiana. Now there are 47.

“The booming interest in wine and health across the country since the early 1990s has resulted in an ongoing blossoming of a serious wine industry in the entire Midwest,” Butzke said.

The establishment of small but effective land-grant university-based research, teaching and Extension programs in enology and viticulture, such as the Purdue Wine Grape Action Team (established by Purdue’s Department of Food Science and the Indiana Wine Grape Council to serve Indiana’s vintners and growers), have helped the local wineries “excel into a multiple-million-dollar agritourism destination in Indiana alone,” he said.

Butzke and viticulture professor Bruce Bordelon will combine forces this fall to teach a new course, FS/HORT 591, commercial grape and wine production, offering a select group of students an introduction to the principles and practices of winegrowing and winemaking.

Miller sees Purdue’s role in wine education as expanding.

“Coming from Kokomo, Indiana, I never thought of the possibility of being a ‘winemaker’ for a living,” he says. “I think that Purdue’s enology and viticulture departments are going to continue to grow and hopefully be the leader in the East.”

Contact Butzke at butzke@purdue.edu


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