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Friday, 20 November 2020 05:55

Wine courses prepare for vintage 2021

Written by  Sophie Preece
EIT will launch its fees-free Certificate in Cellar Operations in January 2021. EIT will launch its fees-free Certificate in Cellar Operations in January 2021.

Covid-19 is creating “amazing opportunities” for wine and viticulture students, says the head of Hawke’s Bay’s viticulture and wine science school. Sue Blackmore, from Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT), says closed borders will make wine students far more valuable to companies during vintage, and vintage experience more valuable for students. “We have to enable these students to get out into industry as soon as possible… to hit the ground running.”


The school has been working with wine companies in Hawke’s Bay to ascertain needs for the 2021 vintage, and has responded with two additional fees-free programmes, including a basic cellar operations course, which will give students enough knowledge to kick off their first vintage, undertaken as part of the qualification. The school has also made plans to enable more students in its wine and viticulture programmes - including all but the first year of its degree course - to work a full vintage. The students will provide a premium resource to wineries short of experienced cellar staff, and the students will have invaluable opportunities to build contacts and experience, says Sue.

EIT will launch its fees-free Certificate in Cellar Operations (Level 3) in January, with the hands-on one-semester programme culminating in vintage at a Hawke’s Bay winery. “We are basically trying to help people get into the industry who want a taste of it without doing a degree,” says Sue. “Hawke’s Bay wine companies are very keen to be part of it.” The new programmes join the existing fees-free Graduate Diploma in Oenology, for those who already have a science-related qualification or industry experience, and Graduate Diploma in Viticulture (Level 7), both available online or on campus.

Covid-19 has seen enrolments boosted, as people out of work look to a career change, says Sue. “Before the courses were fully announced, we were getting enquiries.” She’s also seeing more interest from school leavers and careers advisors, who thought it was “amazing” to have a paid vintage amid the study. “It’s not only fees-free, but they will get paid and get instant hands-on experience.”

Meanwhile, Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT), has developed a new delivery of cellar hand training which includes condensed training options in January to ensure skilled students are on hand for vintage 2021.

From now on, the Level 3 and Level 4 Cellar Operations programmes will enable more trainees to study while they work within industry. Classes will pause for up to eight weeks of vintage, and students will be assisted in finding a paid practical vintage placement. Pam Wood, NMIT’s Curriculum Manager for Primary Industries, says that gives the students excellent hands-on experience and offers support to vineyards and wineries. NMIT also offer an online delivery of Bachelor of Viticulture and Winemaking, Level 7, which allows students nationwide to study from the wine region they work in, she says.

Wine Marlborough Advocacy Manager Vance Kerslake says the evolving courses are evidence of necessity breeding invention. “Wine schools like NMIT are working hand in hand with wine companies, for the good of the students and the industry - which can really do with their help.”

Lincoln University is also working to address the labour crisis affecting all New Zealand’s primary industries, including wine, says Practical Work Coordinator Barbara Nicholson.

Teaching times for third-year students can be rearranged so they can complete their academic requirements and their practical work by starting the semester a month early, she says. “This means that they can have an extra-long break and go and work on a vintage, then come back and complete their academic work.”

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