Gov. Jerry Brown said “yes” on Monday (July 21) to the so-called sip-and-spit legislation under which 18-, 19- and 20-year-old wine and beer production students can taste — but not consume — what they’re making and studying.
But not until Jan. 1 when the new law takes effect.
Under existing law, the state’s legal drinking age of 21 prevails. As a result, critics say, underage students are held back in developing the sensory skills that are critical in the winemaking, brewing and food industries.
"The faculty and students are thrilled that the governor signed AB 1989," said Professor Andrew Waterhouse of the Department of Viticulture and Enology. "Making good wine and beer requires attention to detail, and that means tasting the product from start to finish to make sure the fermentation and aging are going in the right direction."
The "tasting" legislation, Assembly Bill 1989, applies only to students at public colleges and universities that have associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree programs that are designed to train industry professionals in the production of wine or beer. "Tasting," the law declares, "means to draw an alcoholic beverage into the mouth, but does not include swallowing or otherwise consuming the alcoholic beverage."
Waterhouse expressed thanks to Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro for authoring the bill; the Democrat, who represents California’s north coast, including Mendocino County and part of Sonoma County, is in his last term in the Legislature.
Assembly Bill 1989 won Assembly approval on a 73-2 vote and Senate approval on a 36-0 vote.