SAN ANTONIO - As students begin finishing their fall semester finals, school officials from Palo Alto College are already pouring up the details on a new degree program launching in the spring semester.

  • Classes start this spring semester
  • Will teach the labor side of the industry
  • Texas is fifth largest wine producing territory in country

Beginning in January, students will be able to apply credits towards a first-of-its-kind, 60-credit-hour Associate of Applied Science in Viticulture and Enology in south central Texas.

Better known as grape-growing and wine-making, the new courses will focus on the labor side of the Texas wine industry as opposed to the entrepreneurial aspect, which is what students typically see.

"The industry is just growing so fast in Texas that we already don't have enough labor out there for those vineyards and wineries," said Yessica Labay, a viticulture and enology instructor.

According to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, there are roughly 500 wineries operating in the state.

Texas Fine Wine, a marketing initiative, reports Texas as the fifth largest wine producing territory in the country. Labay says the industry generates more than $13 billion in economic activity, which includes more than 100,000 jobs.

"We are trying to focus quite a bit on the Texas growing aspect of viticulture," she said.

Students will learn the scientific understanding of the wine-making process in the Texas climate. They'll also be exposed to winery equipment and operations at area vineyards.

"I definitely want to learn how to grow efficiently and effectively," said Sloan Martin, college sophomore.

Martin is one of 24 students enrolled for the spring semester.

"I was super excited because my extended family members are winemakers," she said.

Martin grew up near the wine region in Arkansas. She hopes by pursing this degree she'll make the winemakers in her family proud.

"I just thought it would be really interesting to continue that legacy and so that's how I got started with it," Martin said.

To learn more about the program, visit the college's website here.