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Immersion in international wine culture for Melbourne Polytechnic Viticulture students

05 May 2015

Producing a vintage in the heat of central Spain is not a standard part of Australian winemaking courses, but Melbourne Polytechnic lecturer Alastair Reed knew that taking his students out of their comfort zone would reap great rewards.

For three weeks in mid-September 2014, Alastair and eleven Melbourne Polytechnic Bachelor of Agriculture and Technology – Viticulture and Winemaking students from the Epping campus worked at a local winery in Rueda, central Spain, producing a full vintage of Verdejo (not to be confused with Verdelho, a different variety), Tempranillo and Grenache wine. They were guided on this journey by Maria de Una, recognized Spanish wine expert who runs the Melbourne-based travel company Best of Spain Wine. 

The experience gave not only gave Melbourne Polytechnic students the opportunity to complete a full Spanish vintage alongside some of Spain’s top winemakers. They also discovered different grapes varieties, walked in iconic vineyards and visited the best wineries of the most recognized wine regions of Spain.

This immersive approach, curated by Best of Spain, ensured the students gained a true understanding of one of the world’s most important wine producing countries. The students made three different wines: an aromatic white from Verdejo, a Grenache rosé from 130-year-old bushvine Grenache, and a joven-style Tempranillo.

“Wine is an international product. One of our former students, Jordan Kay, is now making wine in Portugal,” says Alastair. “So it’s valuable experience for our current students to deal with unexpected issues that arise when trying to deliver a vintage and get it to market.”

One of the more surprising hurdles of the Spanish trip was the afternoon siesta. “Work days are long in Spain but nothing gets done between 1:30pm and 5pm,” he says. “We had to find ways to work within the established cultural practices, which was quite challenging but something that you learn to enjoy pretty quickly!”

The Melbourne Polytechnic Bachelor of Agriculture and Technology – Viticulture and Winemaking is the only winemaking course that provides hands-on, ‘grape to glass’ training for the students, ensuring they have the skills they need to walk straight into jobs in the industry.

Most of their experience is gained working at the institute’s Northern Estates wineries in Epping and Ararat, where they produce red and white varieties including cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, shiraz, sauvignon blanc, riesling and chardonnay.

In addition to the Northern Estates house label, the students produce vintages for local winegrowers, giving them exposure to less well known grape varieties such as vermentino, malvasia istriana, nosiola, garganega and soave.

The trip to Spain was financed through a Pozible campaign, providing valuable sales and marketing experience for the students. Financial supporters of the trip will soon be enjoying their own personal bottles of Verdejo, Garnacha and Tempranillo, and the students will also be selling a rosé they produced in Spain.

For more information about Best of Spain Wine, please visit their website:

To read more about this trip, visit the story on the Spanish Australia website or the story in the Northern Star Weekly: 'Spanish Wine Diversity Uncorked by Epping Students'.

One of the students on the Spanish trip, Marc Schooneveldt, is now working at Innocent Bystander in the Yarra more about him here.

More news stories about our Bachelor of Agriculture and Technology (Viticulture and Winemaking): 'Discover the Science of Winemaking' (Melbourne Leader newspaper).


Media enquiries should be directed to Melbourne Polytechnic Communications Officer, Anita Coia, on 03 9269 1251 or ua.ud1477232280e.cin1477232280hcety1477232280lopen1477232280ruobl1477232280em@sn1477232280oitac1477232280inumm1477232280oC1477232280

Melbourne Polytechnic (formerly NMIT) operates across five campuses and seven specialist training centres throughout Melbourne’s north and south east and Ararat. The institute delivers high quality vocational education in industry-standard facilities.

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