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European Study Tour After Career Change

15 May 2007

A lifestyle change to enable him to enjoy weekends with his two young children saw Avenel resident Matthew Aitken abandon the heat of the kitchen for the natural environs of a vineyard.

After more than a decade as a chef, working at The Lakehouse in Daylesford and then in the restaurant at Mitchelton Winery in Nagambie which he leased with a business partner, Matthew, 35, opted to pursue another passion apart from good food; wine.

For him, good food and good wine were epicurean partners; but working as a chef meant shift and weekend work and as his children approached primary school, he wanted to do something different so he could spend more time with them.

As a wine collector since his 20s and always appreciating good wine as a complement to his culinary creativity, Matthew started working in vineyard operations at Plunketts Wines in the Strathbogie Ranges in 2005, planting and helping in the maintenance of vines. A year later, he enrolled in Certificate III in Food Processing (Viticulture) on a two-year traineeship at Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE (NMIT) studying oneline and on site at the workplace.

Now, much to his great surprise; albeit a very pleasing one, Matthew has just won an NMIT Industry Foundation study tour for 4-6 weeks European work experience worth $4,000.

'It's fantastic, as I had no idea I was going to win the tour and believed I was just a quiet achiever who went about my work quietly and did what I was required to do at NMIT,' Matthew said.

'I'm so excited as I've never been overseas and when I started working at 17, I just wanted to keep working and get better at what I was doing. My choice to keep working was about saving money to get married and have a home and family as opposed to travelling.'

Matthew said he was hoping to visit several different wine regions in Spain, France and Italy to see the way different wine varieties were made and how the different vineyards operated. In Europe, he added, things were changing and he hoped to be able to understand those aspects of the international wine industry.

Australia, he emphasised, grew wine very differently - 'we're more free and easy here whereas in those other countries, specific regions are controlled by law as to what they can grow.'

He said the study tour was 'a great opportunity to expand his knowledge so I'll learn directly first hand, not just out of a textbook. I will get to understand the origins of the wine from the regions and not just one particular wine, but many.'

He added it would also be valuable experience to network with winemakers in the international wine industry where he could ask questions and learn more about different vineyard operations and winemaking styles.

'I'll bring back knowledge of these regions and understand what makes particular wines so good.'

Matthew plans to leave for Europe in September/October.


Interview / Photo Opportunity

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NMIT (Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE) - Situated on seven campuses and six training centres throughout Melbourne's north, NMIT delivers vocational training, higher education and lifelong learning capabilities for a global workforce. NMIT forges partnerships with community, industry and government to produce practical, solution orientated graduates capable of making meaningful contributions to their chosen field of endeavour.