July 12, 2019

Learning Through the Grapevine

By Carolyn Ali, Creative Writer, UBC Communications — Brand and Marketing

UBC students get a taste of viticulture with field study in wine grape production

UBC students get a taste of viticulture with field study in wine grape production

It doesn’t look like a typical science classroom. But in the summer, a sunny vineyard is a welcome change for students from both UBC Okanagan and UBC Vancouver, who come together at various B.C. vineyards to learn about growing grapes for wine.

UBC associate professor Simone Diego Castellarin, who teaches the course Field Study of Wine Grape Production, says that the fourth-year course attracts a range of students — not just those who are interested in becoming viticulturists or winemakers.

UBC students with instructor in APBI 443 Field Study of Wine Grape Production course

“Students come from different programs,” he explains, listing science, biology, applied biology, forestry, and food, nutrition and health. “It’s a chance to apply some of the general principles they learn in class about plant biology and plant physiology to a field-based course.” It’s also one of only a few courses in Canada that focuses on wine grape production.

Students get a first-hand look at some of the issues facing the wine industry in B.C., which, according to Wines of British Columbia, contributes $2.8 billion annually to the B.C. economy. These include understanding how grapes respond to climate change and how that might offer new challenges and opportunities for grape cultivation in different regions.

Students looking at the grapes in APBI 443 Field Study of Wine Grape Production course
Student looking at the grapes
Wine grapes

“The topics we study in class really matter to the industry,” says Castellarin, who is also the Canada Research Chair in Viticulture and Plant Genomics.

For the past two years, the course has been held in the Okanagan. This summer, UBC Okanagan students will study with their Vancouver counterparts on the west coast at vineyards in Langley and on Vancouver Island.

Female student looking at wine grape
Students on a field trip to the vineyards