Summer Study Abroad Course Teaches Students the Science of Winemaking

Summer study abroad course teaches the chemistry of winemaking in Florence, Italy.

“Learn the science behind a glass of wine” is not the typical course description you would find for a science class. But that’s just what students learn in the Chemistry and Biochemistry of Winemaking, a course taught in Florence, Italy as part of Manhattan College’s summer Study Abroad program.

Taught by Manhattan College chemistry professor Chiara Indiani, Ph.D., the course focuses on studying the chemical and biochemical reactions that occur in wine and winemaking. It is a one-month intensive, three-credit course that includes a lecture component, as well as trips to vineyards where students can experience the winemaking process first-hand.

The course began two summers ago, when Indiani, who originates from Florence herself, was given the opportunity to create a science course that could be held during the Florence Study Abroad summer program.

Students can apply their scientific knowledge with what’s around them, allowing them to enjoy Italy and their experience abroad.

“I thought about a course that could bring together the science and the culture of the country that we are going to visit and I came up with winemaking,” explains Indiani. “It’s really nice to combine my background and education in science with my personal background and my knowledge of Italy.”

This course offers in-depth lessons on each step of the winemaking process: viticulture, grape ripping, the pre-harvest operation, de-stemming and crushing, sulfur and dioxide in wines, maceration, corrections for must, the biochemistry of alcohol fermentation, enzymes in winemaking, wine chemical compounds and biochemical processes, cellar operations, aging and oak barrels, quality control, spoilage of wines and a basic analysis of must and wine. The course also includes several wine tasting opportunities, so students can better understand how different chemical reactions produce different tastes in the wine.

The four-week intensive course is open to both science and non-science majors. Indiani plans to hold this course every summer and hopes that students will continue showing their interest in this truly one-of-a-kind learning opportunity.

“It’s a beautiful experience for the students because they get to explore a new country and live in a new country for a month in central Florence, ” said Indiani. “Students can apply their scientific knowledge with what’s around them, allowing them to enjoy Italy and their experience abroad.”