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April 23, 2014

Students to learn about Hungarian wine industry

By Jessica Reynolds
The Daily Star

---- — When you’re selecting a wine to go with your dinner tonight, the country of Hungary will probably never cross your mind. But it should, according to a State University College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill staff member who will host six Hungarian visitors today and is familiar with the nation and its wine.

Diane Dobry, SUNY Cobleskill’s director of communications and marketing, has been teaching an online international course on the topic this semester with Jason Evans, assistant professor of agricultural business, and Ferenc Baglyas, professor of viticulture at Kecskemet College in Kecskemet, Hungary. On Wednesday, Baglyas and five other professors and administrators from the Hungarian college will visit SUNY Cobleskill for a reception, meet-and-greet and tour of the campus.

Dobry said her students and the Hungarian students from Baglyas’ class have been interacting online and via Skype for the course, called Global Wine Marketing. Students have learned about wine marketing, importing and exporting practices, New York State wines and Hungarian wines, which, Dobry said, are highly underrated in the United States.

“Hungarian wine is becoming more well-known and can be bought online, but it’s still fairly difficult to get in Upstate New York,” Dobry said. “It’s very smooth, much smoother than U.S. wine and it’s easy to drink, not bitter.”

The country does not produce a large amount of wine, Dobry said, but what is produced is sweet, honey-like and highly regarded in Europe. One of the most famous Hungarian wines is a blend of red wines known as Bull’s Blood, Dobry said, and Tokaji Aszu is one of the world’s best dessert wines. Many Hungarian wines are flavorful, fruity and sometimes peppery, Dobry said. 

There are 20 SUNY Cobleskill students in the Global Wine Marketing class, Evans said. The class has provided a “great opportunity” to expose students to international agricultural business, he said.

Dobry said she became familiar with Hungarian wine when she was working as a part-time importer while doing doctorate work at Columbia University. For hundreds of years, Hungarian wine was considered on par with French wine, but with the rise of communism in Hungary, marketing for the country’s lush wine was squashed. For this reason, many Americans don’t know the country even produces wine, she said.

This is one of the reasons Dobry wanted to offer a course on the topic. After living and teaching English in Hungary for a year, Dobry was able to make important connections with Hungarian professors, including Baglyas, who has become a personal friend. She approached Baglyas about rounding up a group of his students and a group of Cobleskill students to establish an online international course about wine. In June, Dobry visited Baglyas in Hungary to set up the course curriculum. The two have already written the first chapter of “Thirsty for Hungary,” a book on Hungarian wine.

“Hungarian coursework is similar to ours at SUNY Cobleskill,” Dobry said. “We both focus on education, horticulture, technology and agriculture. And the climate is very similar to Upstate New York. We have been learning about their wine and production and they have been learning about our wine and production and importing practices.”

Some SUNY Cobleskill students from the online class will have a chance to meet Baglyas in person today at a reception on campus at 12:30 p.m. The six Hungarian individuals will tour the campus, meet the college president, attend the reception and dine at the on-campus restaurant Rolling Hills Bistro, Dobry said. On Thursday, they will meet with the Early Childhood Education to try and establish more partnerships for future online international classes.

On May 12, Dobry will accompany 11 SUNY Cobleskill students on a 10-day trip to Hungary and its 22 wine regions, she said. Students will learn more about the country’s rich agriculture and see the beautiful countryside. 

Susan Jagendorf-Sobierajski, SUNY Cobleskill’s executive director of international education, said online international classes like Global Wine Marketing are part of the college’s vast internationalization efforts on campus. 

“New interesting courses are giving students a broader experience,” said Jagendorf-Sobierajski, “and the chance to build cross cultural connections, even if they can’t travel themselves.”