FRESNO, Ca.— For the first time, the United States has beaten France in overall wine sales, according to the Wine Institute. To meet this increased demand, schools like Fresno State University are creating future wine makers through their viticulture and enology programs.
What makes Fresno State special , according to school officials, is that it’s the only university in the country that can grow, and sell, its own wine.
“We are the San Joaquin Valley, the engine for the wine industry in the United States,” said James Kennedy, c hair and p rofessor of the Department of Viticulture and Enology.
Last year, U.S. wine exports rose 26% to a record of $1.14 billion in revenue , according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Much of that wine is coming from this area of Central California.
“Well over 50% of the volume of wine produced in the United States is produced within 100 miles of Fresno State University,” said Kennedy.
Lydia Wessner came from Texas to study at Fresno State to gain real experience.
“ [You get] very good hands - on experience for the students here that you can’t get anywhere else,” Wessner said.
The university says it produces over 100 barrels of wine each year. The wine usually sits in the barrel for up to 18 months before it’s ready to be bottled. Fresno State reports an average of over $500,000 in annual sales and profits around $50,000 a year. All of the money goes back to the school to fund the program.
But the school says it isn’t in it for the money—the selling is just another important part of the learning.
“We actually have to sell this wine, the students see that. The business doesn’t stop with wine production you have to get that wine sold to the consumer,” said Kennedy.
The act of marketing the wine and making it available for purchase allows students to be exposed to the all-important business and advertising side of the wine industry.
“This winery wouldn’t be possible without the help of the industry. We give back to the industry by doing research for them, and providing very well-trained students to get hired once they graduate,” said Joe Joralemon, marketing intern for Fresno State Winery.