UNA course teaches geography of alcoholic beverages

by Student Writer Chelsea Yarber

We all know college students are likely going to drink this summer, and the Geography Department offers the chance to learn something in the process.

Advanced Cultural Geography is all about the geography of beer, wine and spirits. The course is offered to both undergraduate and graduate students during the summer and fall semesters.

Students who previously took the course gave positive reviews.

“Beer, Wine, and Spirits has a very geographical connection,” said instructor Michael Pretes. “Wine is probably the topic that is studied most by geographers. To understand wine, you have to understand soil types, climate variations and aspects, like is your vineyard facing north or south? All of these factors play a part in physical geography components.”

The course explores the geographic factors that attributed to the development and regional variation of beer, wine and spirits, according to the syllabus.

Students are introduced to the science, production and study of grapes. The course also examines hop and grain cultivation, economic, political and environmental aspects of beer, wine, and spirits in major world regions, according to the course description.

“One of the things I can say about this class is that it took a topic that is taboo in the southeast and offered an educational way of presenting this topic,” said graduate student Robby Thompson. “It gave a hands-on experience of French and Italian wines, American wines and American beer. If you’re looking for a job, this may be a part of a job interview. This course teaches you how to interact in a social atmosphere where you have to be comfortable around alcoholic beverages.”

It also explores the role of these beverages in contemporary society, legal and health issues, and their roles in global cultural systems.

The course also addresses tasting, serving and pairing alcoholic beverages with food, according to the syllabus.

“If you go out to eat at a restaurant and order a glass of wine, in a class like this, you know more about how to make up your mind when ordering,” Pretes said. “You begin to appreciate not just the drinking of Bud Light and understand that there is more out there to choose from.”

Barrett Parnell, senior and geography major at UNA, is the bar manager at Sperry’s Restaurant in Florence. He said he decided to enroll in this class to learn more about the historical aspects of beverages.

He said he changed his major because he took this course.

“Learning about wine and spirits helped take something that is just my everyday job and now transform it into a passion,” Parnell said.