Old World Wines Come to Life for Charlotte Students

Helping students gain a deeper understanding of wine is always the goal for JWU Charlotte Associate Professor Sarah Malik, whose Old World Wines class blends historical context with modern industry trends. Thanks to her friendships and close ties to a locally-owned wine business, a collaboration was born: Once a month, Charlotte’s Foxcroft Wine Co. hosts a dinner with wine pairings — typically four courses and eight wines, many of them from unexpected places. And each time, two JWU students or alumni are invited to sip and learn, free of charge.

“Every time I raised my glass I was instantly brought back to the wine tastings we did in class.”

The two most recent attendees were Emilie Fulcher '22 and Jacqueline Gomez '22. Shawn Paul, Foxcroft’s wine operations director, wants to make it easier for students to expand their wine knowledge: “Wine still continues to be a challenge to break in to. It’s hard to get experience in the wine industry. Instructors prepare them, but it’s expensive to attend these kinds of dinners, especially on a college budget. There is no downside to getting better experience.”

Wine appreciation: Emilie Fulcher ’22 testing a wine’s viscosity.The Alto Adige Italian Wine Dinner that Fulcher and Gomez attended focused on regional wineries Alois Lageder and Elena Walch, both from from Italy’s northernmost wine region that borders Austria. The restaurant is open for only those who purchased tickets; each course is customized to the wines with foods not offered on the daily menus. General Manager Sharon Balas notes, “The chefs get to pair dishes with specific wines from all over the world. For your JWU student, they get to see how we do things. This experience expands their minds and gets them out of the labs. It’s the end result of what they are learning.”

Both seniors agree it was an exciting and special evening. 

“I thought of my wine class from the moment I walked through the door,” Gomez reflected. “I noticed a lot more of the finer details, from the way they stored their wine, to how it was poured, to the taste and smell — and even the color of the wines. Every time I raised my glass I was instantly brought back to the wine tastings we did in class and had so many tasting notes running through my head.”

Fulcher says it will be important for her to know how to find the perfect wine to complement a perfect wedding. “The wine tasting gave me the opportunity to put what I’ve learned in class to use in a professional capacity,” she explained. “The reason I chose sommelier as a minor was more for being able to help my future clients when I’m planning weddings. We had actually just studied Italy in class and tasted a few other wines from there the week before in class. I was making mental notes and comparing the wines we had tried in class to the ones we were trying at the dinner. For example, the Gewürztraminer we tried in class was a medium dry and had residual sugar that was noticeable. Whereas the one we tried during the tasting was bone dry, which is not something you would normally find for this type of wine.”

When you walk into Foxcroft Wine Co., it’s clear there is an effort to inspire with the artwork, the music and the relaxed feel. But Paul says they not only inspire, they pay it forward. “The hospitality and food and beverage industry are getting consistently better, we are progressing as a city and we take wine seriously,” he notes. “But we aren’t stuck-up. There is no place for that anymore. The kind of exposure we are giving JWU would have been dramatic for me when I was in school.”

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Trying the wines at Foxcroft Wine Co. in Charlotte.