Proposed Law Would Allow Students Under 21 to Taste Alcohol

Students have to be enrolled in winemaking or beer-brewing courses

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    Under a new bill, wine making students under the age of 21 will be allowed to taste alcohol in class for educational purposes.

    A bill going through the California legislature would allow college students under the age of 21 to taste alcohol in class.

    Of course, there’s a catch.

    The students have to be enrolled in winemaking or beer-brewing courses and the taste can’t include swallowing. These provisions have garnered AB 1989 the title of the “sip and spit” bill in some circles.

    Introduced by Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro (D-Arcata), the bill passed through the state legislature with only two dissenting votes. It is now scheduled to be heard this month in the state Senate Committee on Governmental Organization.

    Assemblyman Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield), one of the legislators who voted against the bill, said he viewed AB 1989 as weakening restrictions made to curb underage drinking and couldn’t see a need for changing the existing law.

    The bill, however, has received strong support from the University of California at Davis, which is well-known for its strong winemaking program.

    Dr. Andrew Waterhouse, a professor in department of viticulture and enology at UC Davis, testified in the legislature in support of the bill.

    Waterhouse said the bill allows his students to taste wine while its getting made, a critical skill for those learning how to craft fine wines.

    “It’s an experience they can’t really get any other way,” Waterhouse said. “And it’s much better if they do it in an educational setting where they can ask a lot of questions.”

    Students at the university have also expressed their support for the bill. ASUSD, the undergraduate student government, passed a resolution in April to formally endorse the measure.

    Similar bills allowing wine or beer tasting for educational purposes have passed in twelve other states including Washington, Oregon and New York.