Enology, also seen spelled as oeonology, is the study of wines and wine making, from the moment vines are planted to the best way to store wine bottles for long cellaring. A student of enology is known as an enologist, and enologists run the gamut from consulting professors to active winemakers. Someone who happens to be a fan of the end product of the wine making process could be said to be an enophile.
As a discipline, enology is quite ancient. Humans have been making wines for thousands of years, and people have been documenting the process right along with them. The extensive written and graphical record of the world's winemaking history exists thanks to the efforts of enologists, who also worked to improve the product as well. A high quality modern Syrah, for example, is worlds away from the watered wine drunk in Ancient Greece.
The field of enology is incredibly complex, since it covers a multitude of fields, starting with viticulture. Viticulture is a branch of horticulture which focuses specifically on grape cultivation. When the grapes are wine grapes, viticulture is sometimes also known as viniculture. The type of grapes, their growing environment, the weather, and many other factors have immense influence over the final product. Since wine grapes represent a serious investment, viniculture specialists can command a high price for their consulting services.
Once the grapes are harvested and the viniculture process is over, the grapes still must be taken through a variety of steps to make wine. An enologist is familiar with each step, from the crush to prolonged aging. Since each step in the wine making process has a number of variations and divergent outcomes, many enologists spend a great deal of time calculating the difference that a small change might make. All sorts of things influence wine from the type of barrel used to what time of day the grapes are picked, and finding the magic combination of grapes and handling can yield an award winning wine.
In addition to being concerned with the winemaking process, an enologist may be interested in wine culture in general. Wine, especially fine wine, is accompanied by a unique sociocultural world all of its own which includes judging contests, training for sommeliers, enologists who focus on finished wines, and various events, often culinary, focused on wine. Being steeped in the complexities of wine culture can be a very interesting experience for anthropologists as well as enologists.