Maynard A. Amerine

by

Axel E. Borg

Maynard Amerine

Photographs of the Maynard A. Amerine Viticulture & Enology Room

On September 14th, 1991 the room in Shields Library housing the grape growing and wine making collection was named in honor of Dr. Maynard Andrew Amerine, Professor Emeritus of Viticulture and Enology at the University of California, Davis.

Dr. Amerine was an acknowledged authority on both the cultural and technical aspects of grape growing and wine making. Over the last half century, he made the most singularly significant contributions of any one individual to the California wine industry. His accomplishments have been a major factor in California wines gaining their present status in the world community. Born in San Jose, California, on October 30, 1911, Dr. Amerine was raised in the San Joaquin Valley near Modesto. He completed his Bachelor of Science degree at the University of California, Berkeley in 1932. Prior to completion of his Ph.D. in 1935, Dr. Amerine was hired by Dr. Albert J. Winkler to work in the newly formed Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis, created to give assistance to the California wine industry, which was just recovering from the restrictions of prohibition. He was appointed full professor in 1952 and was chair of the department from 1957 to 1962.

Dr. Amerine was initially engaged to explore the question of which grape varieties were best suited to the wide range of climatic conditions in California. The results of this work were published in the journal Hilgardia in 1944. Over time, the determination of grape growing regions and the adoption of recommended varieties resulted in a significant improvement in the quality of grapes grown for wine production and a corresponding improvement in the quality of California wine. Another major work, Wines: Their Sensory Evaluation, co-authored in 1976 with mathematician Edward B. Roessler, initiated the objective study of taste analysis. Dr. Amerine, a prolific scholar, had an extensive publication record which continued until just before his death, over 25 years after his retirement.

Dr. Amerine is recognized as an outstanding teacher and he has left a legacy to the state of California and the world through the hundreds of students he has trained who have become wine makers and grape growers. In the early 1970’s Dr. Amerine’s course VEN 125, Wine Types and Sensory Evaluation was videotaped. In 2012 those tapes were digitized and are available for viewing through the Harvest Catalog.

One of Dr. Amerine's most important contributions to the Library has been his enduring interest in the viticulture and enology collection and his dedication to its excellence. In 1972, he donated to Peter J. Shields Library his personal collection of over 3,000 books and pamphlets, many of which are rare and significant works on grape growing and wine making.

In 1951, Dr. Amerine co-authored A Check List of Books and Pamphlets on Grapes and Wine and Related Subjects with Louise B. Wheeler, a librarian at Shields Library. His most recent book was also co-authored with a librarian at Shields Library, Axel E. Borg, A bibliography on grapes, wines, other alcoholic beverages, and temperance: works published in the United States before 1901 (1996). With his vast knowledge of the literature, he has also generously continued to assist librarians responsible for the subject areas of grapes and wine.

Dr. Amerine was a distinguished scientist and scholar, a remarkable teacher, a prolific author and an accomplished bibliographer. He died on March 11, 1998.