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Delhi Wine Club
Allowing Wine Students to Sip and Spit

Posted: Tuesday, 15 July 2014 17:40

Blog: Allowing Wine Students to Sip and Spit

July 15: With drinking age in most of the Indian cities being over 25 years, it’s anyone’s guess how the hotel and hospitality schools teach students wine tasting, since they are all below the legal age. But in the otherwise conservative US, passionate persons work tirelessly to try and change laws, as was recently the case in California where the Senate has voted to allow students to taste wine, thanks to the efforts of University professors led by Prof. Andrew Waterhouse

Dr. Andrew Waterhouse is a professor of oenology at the University of California Davis Campus, world renowned for excellent wine education. He has done a lot of research in phenolics. He has also been a regular speaker at the biennial International Heart and Health Conference organized by Desert Foundation, Arizona. I have had the pleasure of meeting him at a couple of these conferences and have occasionally corresponded with him when in doubt. He has been very kind in giving advice despite his busy schedule.

He is so passionate about wine and his wine students that he led a campaign by the university professors that would enable, after being approved by the governor and passed as a law, the students of oenology, viticulture and brewing in California to taste wine even if they are under 21 years of age. The senate passed this resolution earlier this month, according to Decanter.

The provisos are that although the legal age in California is 21 years, the students over 18 will be allowed to sip wine in an education institution although they must spit it out after sipping (of course one wonders how the professors will constantly monitor it). Hence the Assembly Bill 1989 has been nicknamed the ‘sip and spit bill’.

As a part of the course the students are asked to make their own wine. 'Technically, if we gave a student some wine out of the fermenter to taste, it is breaking the law,’ said Waterhouse. ‘If the university is breaking the law, the student is breaking the law.’ He adds, ‘They'll learn to taste once they start working somewhere, but it's ridiculous. As teachers, it's our job to point out what students should be tasting.’

Sip and spit law could take effect from January 2015 and will affect winemaking, viticulture and brewing courses at UC Davis, and several other colleges in California teaching enology and viticulture. Twelve other US states, including Oregon, Washington and New York already have a ‘sip and spit’ exemption for students.

Despite being known for high quality wines made in California, Oregon, Washington and East Coast-in fact, every state in the US makes grape or some fruit wine, the US is very conservative and still reeling under the hangover of Prohibition from 1920-33, over 80 years after it was lifted when it was considered to have failed and given rise to numerous illegal activities. Being a Federal Republic, each State has its own laws and the Supreme Court. It takes time just as it does in India for the laws to be changed and it is the passion and conviction of people like Prof. Waterhouse that helps the States inch forward.

Unfortunately, the wine industry in India is at such a nascent stage that people haven’t got their feet on the ground yet. The procedures and provisions of the law are more archaic than the Income Tax laws that were eventually able to help the hapless government nab the notorious gangster Al Capone in its net.

We at delWine and the Indian Wine Academy make constant endeavours to enlighten the consumer and the government on the positive effects of wine culture vis-a vis the prevalent liquor culture through my various writings, awareness campaigns, educational discourses  and various public events on wine. But that is not enough. We must encourage each and every individual who is interested in wine–first to learn to sip and spit wine in order to taste wine correctly and then do whatever possible through social media and any other similar platforms available.

In the meantime, I would like to congratulate Prof. Waterhouse and his team of professors to have taken the positive and successful step.

This should be a motivation and a cause for enlightening the Indian Diaspora that if a group of university professors fight for a cause like this-we must accept at the face value that wine is a good beverage to imbibe, although delWine does not encourage teetotalers to start drinking wine unless they want to start drinking alcohol of their own accord.


Subhash Arora

Tags: California, Prof. Andrew Waterhouse, University of California Davis, Assembly Bill 1989


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