Back to top

Student Focus

New Cider Course for Viticulture and Enology Students

By Marin Cherry

Students from the class VIEN Cider Production: Apples and Fermented Juice visit new cider apple research plantings near Cornell. Photo by Kathy Arnink.

The growing hard cider industry supports apple growers, tourism, and employment across New York State. Keeping up with these demands, Cornell now offers Viticulture and Enology students new courses that focus on cider production. 

First offered during spring 2017, the new course Cider Production: Apples and Fermented Juice (VIEN 2340 in the Cornell catalog) and its partner lab Cider Production Laboratory (VIEN 4340) allow students to broaden their experience beyond other courses in wine making, brewing, and distillation. VIEN 2340 provides a well-rounded foundation of apple and fermented juice production, and majors can delve more deeply into the topic by taking the VIEN 4340 laboratory class.

Course instructors Kathleen Arnink, lecturer in food science, and Gregory Peck designed the curriculum to expose students to different styles of cider production across the United States. Peck, who recently became assistant professor in horticulture in 2016, brings his extensive experience with apple production for cider and leadership of a regional project while at Virginia Tech to these courses at Cornell.

Graduate student Adam Karl demonstrates an apple mill and press in the Peck Lab. Photo by Kathy Arnink.

 “Cornell has had a long track record of offering extension programming for cider production,” said Peck. “By adding [VIEN 2340/4340], we’re further contributing to the impact Cornell has on both the regional and national cider industry.”

Tasting cider is an integral part of these new classes, just as tasting is a feature of the Introduction to Wines and Vines (VIEN 1104) and the The Science and Technology of Beer (VIEN2310) lecture courses. According to Arnink, students learn about cider in a more formal and scientific setting. In-class group cider evaluations allow students to compare cider perceptions from around the world. For example, this year students compared ciders from Southwestern England, Normandy, Asturias, the Pacific Northwest US, as well as the Finger Lakes.

Students also learn how production options and decision-making differs between wine and cider production. “This helps students see that applying their viticulture and enology knowledge to a different beverage type allows them to make good decisions for cider, too,” Arnink said.  

According to Peck, the course was created in part by a growing demand from Cornell students to learn more about the local cider industry. 

Students visit Angry Orchard this spring in the Hudson Valley, NY. Photo by Greg Peck.

“U.S. cider production has grown by nine-fold over the last decade. In New York alone, we have more cideries than any other state in the country,” Peck said. “Cider producers have been requesting that we start training students to work in the cider industry.”

Outside of the classroom and laboratory, students also participated in several field trips, including a trip to the Angry Orchard Innovation Center. The class’s Angry Orchard visit included a tour of the facilities and a tasting in their treehouse tasting room, perched on an old-growth pine tree.

While these courses fall outside wine, both Arnink and Peck see connections between fermented juices made from grapes and apples. The instructors hope to expand the course to allow students from all backgrounds and an interest in cider to participate.

“Like the wine industry, the cider industry is full of passionate, open and friendly people who love talking about fruit and fermentations,” Arnink said. “Cider has the potential to be an important agricultural, value-added product in New York State and elsewhere, and we’d like to help by educating future apple growers and cider makers.”

Marin Cherry is an undergraduate program coordinator for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Food Science.