How to become a master of wine


Zohar Kerem is a food chemist and a world-renowned researcher in wine quality and olive oil. He’s also the head of the Hebrew University’s new International Viticulture and Enology Master of Science (MSc) program — a comprehensive graduate-level program in studying wine.

When I met him recently, he was on a U.S. tour to raise awareness of, and attract students to, his wine program. When it comes to international students, Kerem likes to describe his program as an “advanced Birthright. You are not leaving home forever,” he said.

Unlike Birthright, you earn an MSc degree. Also, you must support yourself for 20 months in Israel and classes and labs run from early morning Thursdays to Friday afternoon, so the whole rest of the week is unstructured. “You’ll wind up becoming very intimately acquainted with Israel. Some take winery internships, which we help with. Some students take an ulpan. They can do so many different things with their time before they return home.”

The program is a rigorous 20 months (four consecutive semesters), 672-hour endeavor entailing theoretical studies on campus, and practical, hands-on learning in vineyards and wineries. There is also a professional workshop aboard in Italy or France at the end of the program and a practical
internship at a commercial winery in Israel or abroad.

Kerem said he and his colleagues had been trying to get the program off the ground for 20 years, before they finally got it launched in late 2016. The first cycle of the program began in 2017.

“When we finally got it off the ground, we delayed the start until the second semester — when the buds began to come out,” he said, “I think we are the only academic viticulture program in the world that goes with nature. We start the course of study in the vineyard, just as the vine’s growing cycle begins anew.”

At the end of the program, a graduate will not only have an accredited MSc degree, he or she will theoretically be able to enter the wine industry at any level. So far, all his graduates have gone on to jobs in the industry.

I would have loved such a program in grad school. Here is my recommendation this week: Covenant Israel, Blue C, Adom, 2016 ($40): This is a delicious, balanced, aromatic, fruity, easy drinking blend of syrah, cabernet sauvignon, and also a smidgen of viognier (not mentioned on the label). The white wine grapes seem to highlight the red fruit here. There are almost sweet tannins, red and blue fruit notes and some lovely baking spice hints in the backdrop. L’chaim!

Send your wine and spirits questions to Joshua E. London at [email protected].

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