How to kick-start a wine career

How to kick-start a wine career

The on-the-job work experience available in vineyards so close to the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT) is proving a winning attraction for students starting out on a career in the wine industry – and also for their potential future employers.

The unique physical proximity is matched by a close working relationship between NMIT and many of the owners, wine makers and viticulturists in vineyards in a region that produces 77 per cent of New Zealand’s wine.

Now in its second year, the degree course is making a name for itself as a first choice pathway for people wanting a career in the wine industry.

Viticulture and Winemaking programme co-ordinator, Sue Blackmore, says for students, it’s an opportunity to learn and live more cheaply than in other university areas and to be able to combine campus study with practical vineyard learning in the country’s largest wine growing region.

One of the requirements of the degree programme is for students to be involved in two harvests during their studies, and local wineries are supporting that hands-on approach.

1. Gain industry experience

Brian Bicknell, owner of Mahi Wines and its winemaker, has taken students from NMIT for at least ten years and says he has never been disappointed.

For the 2016 vintage he had Sander de Wildt who has been working through the year at the winery on a part-time basis around his studies. Sander, who trained as a chef, is originally from Holland who came with his wife to live in Marlborough.

“The first week or so is always such a learning experience and the training that Sander had received at NMIT made it so much easier”, Brian Bicknell says.

”Sander had been a great help through vintage and showed a good overall understanding of how the equipment around the winery worked and had a broad theoretical knowledge of the process.

Marlborough student Jennifer Lee, whose family has a vineyard, is another student benefiting from hands-on experience, working with Yealands Estate during vintage.

2. Study in Marlborough

Living the wine-making dream is former student Hiro Kishida who is now working at New Zealand Wineries in Marlborough.

He gave up the grind of Tokyo city life to come to NMIT to study and graduate with a Diploma in Viticulture and Winemaking. As assistant winemaker, he was able to mentor a current Japanese student, Yuichi Ando who has a job at Allan Scott wines when he completes his Diploma.

“When I started the NMIT course I knew nothing about wine-making, but now I know a lot”, says Hiro. It’s a very good course. It was very practical. Yuichi was able to be useful virtually from day one, thanks to the practical skills gained at NMIT”.

As well as having vineyards at its doorstep, NMIT offers world class viticulture and wine facilities at its Blenheim campus, including two laboratories, a technology transfer theatre, wine sensory room for conducting specialised tastings, micro-vinification unit and a research vineyard.

Study enquiries should be made to Sue Blackmore.

NMIT also offers short courses for the public and industry at different times throughout the year.

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