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Ohio State Wine Club focuses on the art, science of alcohol

Courtesy of OSU Wine Club

Members of one student group on campus know all about alcohol, but it’s not necessarily because they’re hitting the bars.
Wine Club is an Ohio State student organization that was started by two students who couldn’t find a campus group that focused on the art and science behind wine, beer and distilled spirits.
“I’m a food science major, and actually since high school I’ve been planning to go to grad school for viticulture and enology, which is wine making,” said Jenna Gargrave, a fourth-year in food science and technology. “I actually, freshman year, looked for clubs that were related to that, and I found there’s a brewing club, but it ended up dissipating and didn’t continue.”
Gargrave and Shawnee Fisher, a fourth-year in communication, were put in touch by a food science and technology professor they shared, and they ended up deciding to start Wine Club and become its co-presidents during Winter Quarter of last year.
“We thought there’s definitely a need for (a club about the science of alcohol) in the university, because there’s not really many courses,” Gargrave said. “We definitely thought there’s a void.”
OSU offers a handful of classes on alcohol including Brewing Science, Alcohol and Society, and Wine and Beer in Western Culture.
The club holds events for members to learn about wine, beer and distilled spirits equally.
“It’s kind of a unique club, because it’s not set so much on meetings, and it’s all directly hands-on related to the science or the culture of learning about wine, beer or distilled spirits,” Gargrave said.
However, Gargrave said the idea behind the club was a hard sell to some.
“We had to speak with (university officials) and really convince them that we want to do this (as) an educational thing, and I think it helps that the fact that I want to go on to higher education in the science of it,” Gargrave said. “The fact that we really believe it’s a science and an art helps out.”
Other students agree the club could be an educational tool for interested students.
“I’m a hospitality management major, and right now I’m taking a class that’s all about beverage management,” said Elyse Swanson, a fourth-year. “I spent an entire class period today learning about wines just from France, so that alone, I know that there’s so much to learn. I think that you could spend most of your time in the club not even tasting wine, just learning about it.”
Because the club does focus on alcohol, members must be 21 or older to join, and most of their events are held at off-campus locations. Wine Club members also have to raise more of their own funds for the organization because they cannot purchase alcohol for their events with money they receive from the university.
“We have to raise a little bit more of our money than maybe what a normal club would,” said Hunter Davis, a fourth-year in pharmaceutical sciences and the treasurer of Wine Club. “We have so far started every semester with a fundraiser, which they have been really successful.”
The approximately 35 members pay a $5 membership fee when they join, which gives them a discount on the rates they pay when the group attends tastings or brewery tours throughout the year.
Recently, a sommelier met with the club and taught them how to taste and identify wines using charts they filled out during the tasting. A sommelier is a trained wine professional that specializes in wine and food pairing and other aspects of wine culture.
Gargrave said events like that are what keeps the Wine Club’s members engaged.
“We really wanted to make it interactive,” Gargrave said. “Because there’s so many different new micro-breweries, distilleries and wineries popping up all over Ohio.”

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