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What is an Oenologist?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 06 December 2016
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An oenologist is someone who specializes in the study of wine. Oenologists primarily focus on winemaking, although they can also be involved in the promotion of wines, judging of wines, and related areas of the wine industry and wine drinking culture. For a career in oenology, a number of traits are required, including a very well trained sense of taste and smell which are developed through years of training with wine experts.

Oenology and viticulture are closely related, but two different fields. Viticulture involves the cultivation and harvest of wine grapes. It requires specialized training because there are a number of concerns involved in the handling of grapes. Oenology focuses on making wine with the grapes after harvest, and on the many stages of winemaking. In addition to studying wine production, an oenologist is also interested in wine maturation, packaging, how wine travels, and related subjects.

Around the world, colleges and universities offer both viticulture and oenology. Many oenologists today have advanced degrees, although it is also possible to learn the trade in the old fashioned way, by apprenticing to a practicing winemaker. Some oenologists with degrees also apprentice so that they can learn specific winemaking techniques and preserve traditional heritage. An oenologist can train with several different vineyards to study the differences between winemaking techniques.

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One of the most common places to find an oenologist at work is at a winery. The oenologist supervises every step of the process, ranging from finding sources for grapes to confirming that bottlings have been successful. Because wineries usually have several vintages laid down at once, the oenologist must be capable of monitoring numerous wines and years simultaneously, and of tracking changes over time. Many are assisted with complex computer programs which they can use to keep track of their vintages.

It is also possible to find an oenologist at an institution of learning. Usually colleges and universities seek out people with winemaking experience to teach oenology and related subjects, and professors may also have training in chemistry, biology, and related fields so that they can provide their students with a well rounded education. They may also act as judges at wine competitions.

Other wine professionals include people like sommeliers and wine buyers. These people have received training in evaluating and working with wine for the purpose of helping consumers select wines. They can train in schools which provide professional education, and can be found in restaurants, markets, and other locations where the judgment of a wine expert may be needed.

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