Wine career shifts for lawyer, chef

Wine career shifts for lawyer, chef

A lawyer and mother of twins and a Dutch chef who met his Marlborough wife-to-be on a Barcelona beach are re-inventing themselves in the expanding local wine industry, although in different career directions.

Barbara Mead and Sander de Wildt, who are in the second year of study for a Bachelor of Viticulture and Winemaking at Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT), are among Marlborough students to receive scholarships at a ceremony yesterday (Wednesday).

120 students at the Nelson and Blenheim campuses have received scholarships worth more than $250,000 in tuition fees.

The scholarship sponsor for Barbara and Sander, Wine Marlborough, says the pair typify those who are prepared to leave behind an established career to start a new one in the wine business.

Barbara Mead, 37, and Sander de Wildt, 35, each have similar stories to tell of how their long held love of wine has enticed them to begin studying at NMIT.

Barbara, a family law practitioner with a master’s degree, moved from Auckland to Blenheim in 2014 with husband James Ryan who was appointed an assistant principal at Marlborough Boys’ College. “We wanted a smaller, community-focussed place with hiking, mountain biking, a better place to bring up children.” (twins, a boy and girl, and a younger daughter).

Barbara wondered whether to return to family law practice but one day James mentioned the NMIT wine degree programme. “We’ve always been fascinated with wine and wine making (many of their holidays including their honeymoon were spent in wine regions around the world) and it just seemed the right thing to do.”

Barbara has embraced the learning wholeheartedly, gathering experience in everything from pruning to doing a vintage at Constellation Brands Drylands Winery to working at the No 1 Family Estate cellar door.

When she finishes her degree she says she’d like to be able to combine her skills as a lawyer and her wine industry knowledge in some way, “whatever that may be.”

Dutchman Sander de Wildt is aiming to become a winemaker with his own label that he can market in his homeland.

After meeting wife-to-be Huia Crosby in Spain, the couple worked in the UK before deciding to shift to New Zealand with their young boys, now aged 5 and 6. Sander worked as a chef at a Queenstown winery which fired his desire to move to a career in wine.

A move to Blenheim and then enrolling at NMIT made sense with Huia, a naturopath, being Marlborough born and raised.

Sander’s studies have included hands-on experience at Mahi Wines under owner and wine maker Brian Bicknell.

After completing his degree, Sander is keen to get involved in wine making. “I’d love to have my own label and take wine to Holland. I know the restaurant scene there well and think it would be a good story for a Dutch winemaker to bring wine from New Zealand.”

Sander says the $1500 sponsorship from Wine Marlborough is a welcome boost for tuition fees and helps with industry networking.

General manager Marcus Pickens says Wine Marlborough has sponsored students since 2004 and this year’s applicants were of an “incredibly high standard” and it’s the first time two scholarships have been awarded in the same year.

“Sander and Barbara were outstanding and each is heading in a different direction. It shows there are so many career opportunities in our industry, from work in the vineyards and the winery to management and marketing.”

With Marlborough’s grape production area expected to grow by a quarter by 2019/2020, Mr Pickens says there’s increasing demand for skilled people.

Barbara and Sander are among NMIT students awarded scholarships in programmes ranging from wine making and business to beauty and aquaculture.

Scholarships have also been sponsored by: Constellation Brands, Nelson Pine Industries, King Salmon, Kaiapa (Uncle) Jack Kohe, Pene Ruruku, Toss Woollaston, Blenheim Lions, Garden Marlborough, Marlborough Zonta and Uncle George Martin.

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