Auburn represented at exclusive educational tour in Italy

Published: November 06, 2019
Updated: November 11, 2019
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For the first time, an Auburn University student and faculty member were invited to participate in an exclusive educational tour of Italy.

Senior Anne Bowab and Associate Professor David Martin traveled to the Brunello region of Tuscany this summer and attended the Banfi Scholastic Tour of Italy, a 10-day tour of wine and food sponsored by the Banfi Vintners Foundation.

Because the foundation’s sponsorship covers travel and tour expenses for faculty and students, it is selective in choosing which universities are invited to participate in the biennial event. The foundation is the philanthropic arm of Castello Banfi and its affiliate, Banfi Vintners, one of America’s leading wine importers.

Martin described the tour as “a full-immersion education program into the food and wines of Italy.”

“It is essential for students to immerse themselves in their wine education,” he explained. “Wine is so much more than just a beverage in a glass; it is a reflection of the land where it was grown, the people who grew the grapes and turned it into wine and the culture of a specific area. There is simply no way to truly educate a student about all of those factors except by visiting in person.”

Bowab, who graduated from Auburn in August, agreed that an immersion experience in wine regions, such as Piedmont and Tuscany, enhances a student’s education far beyond the classroom.

“What I experienced on this trip was unlike anything I could acquire without the help of Banfi,” she said. “Not just the wines and the trip to Italy, but the connections with other hospitality schools is something I will never forget.”

This year’s tour was conducted for 13 universities from around the world, Banfi’s largest class ever.

The tour, which is aimed at students majoring in hospitality and the culinary arts, included in-depth classes on wine, food and culture at Castello Banfi, the medieval castle on the vineyard estate. As guests, Martin and Bowab’s names are now on the Banfi Honor Roll displayed at the winery.

Besides winery tours, Bowab said they also visited a cooperage in Gamba to witness barrel making.

Since attendance to Banfi is by invitation only, it is unknown if and when Auburn will get to participate again. However, Auburn left its mark already.

“That plaque is up there with Auburn’s name on it forever, and that is something that I am extremely proud of,” Martin said.

He credited Banfi and Bill Whiting, Banfi’s director of wine education, for creating and hosting an educational opportunity unlike any other he has ever experienced.

“Bill is a living, breathing encyclopedia of wine, but especially Italian wine,” Martin said. “Some of my best memories are the time shared on the bus with Bill, talking about wine and wine education, and breaking bread with some fantastic faculty members from other hospitality programs across the country. These experiences have made me a better professor and educator, and given me information that I will be able to share with students for years to come.”

Bowab, a hospitality management graduate from Mobile, had previously attended three study travel opportunities available to Auburn students in the hospitality management program: the Epicurean Tour of South America, the Trinchero Wine Education Program in California and the Epicurean Tour of Northern California.

“Each of these experiences helped prepare me for life after Auburn,” she explained. “Being focused on wine, each of these trips helped me expand my network and knowledge of this extremely diverse industry.

“Before graduating from Auburn, I was exposed to wine regions on three different continents and learned much more than I can explain.”

The experiences paid off for Bowab who has been working in Napa Valley since June, serving as the wine education intern at Trinchero Family Estates.

She was familiar with the winery, having studied there twice. The four-day wine education program at Trinchero is an intensive wine immersion program designed to prepare participants for the Certified Specialist of Wine examination.

Bowab said her career goals are to receive the Certified Specialist of Wine, Certified Specialist of Spirits and Certified Wine Educator certifications with Trinchero and then prepare to take the certified sommelier exam within the next two years. She passed the first of four tests to becoming a Master Sommelier in February with some of her Auburn classmates.

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn's commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact. Auburn's mission to educate, discover and collaborate drives its expanding impact on the world.