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Studying for a New Future

25 Mar 2013

As a twelve-year-old, Chris Coulter, 37, of Briar Hill, knew he wanted to be a chef, and at 15, he embarked on an apprenticeship in commercial cookery, spending the next twenty years travelling around Australia to work in many leading restaurants.

But over a decade ago, he was drinking a good bottle of red with a friend when he discovered how much he enjoyed excellent wine.

He spent the next ten years learning about wine; albeit from books and magazines where he entertained a quiet dream to become a winemaker and viticulturist.

This year, he decided to take up the challenge of changing his lifestyle and invest his energy and drive in studying how to grow and make wine at Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE (NMIT.)

He enrolled in NMIT's three-year specialist bachelor degree in viticulture and winemaking, wanting to acquire the skills and knowledge to pursue his new passion.

'That night ten years ago when I drank with a friend was a bit of a spiritual experience for me,' Chris said. ' I just loved the wine and it sparked an interest in me to learn everything about how to make good wine.

'Previously, drinking wine was just a pleasure to enjoy without thinking about it but after that night, I wanted to know all about it.'

At 28, Chris started to put a cellar together and the next year, he tested his interest by obtaining a job at Coldstream Hills winery in the Yarra Valley to explore what the industry was all about.

'I did a three month vintage at the winery and thought then, maybe I could do this as a career,' he said. 'Wine became a passion as much as food was for me and I thought I could change careers and accept a new challenge.'

But another passion for triathlon competition interrupted his pursuit of his new goal, and it wasn't until this year that he opted to explore studies in winemaking and viticulture.

'I was so impressed with Helen Waite, the senior lecturer at NMIT and the fantastic facilities NMIT offered including a 10-hectare vineyard and a 100-tonne winery at its Epping campus.

'I'd always liked working with my hands and the degree, while it is highly academic, has a strong practical focus and I can learn with direct, hands-on practical experience.

'Learning is made a lot easier where you actually get to do things hands-on rather than just reading a textbook. A lot of questions are starting to have answers for me like why does a grapevine grow in a certain way and why a particular wine can taste so good.

'One of the best things about the course is meeting the other students whereby we can share our experience and swap ideas and learn from each other.'

He said he had also realised how little he knew about the production of wine and 'that's a positive. I know I've got a lot to learn.'

Chris added that a lot of life was 'a chance' and he accepted the challenge to study again and change his life.

'There's an uncertainty about the future, but there's also the excitement of the unknown. It's my long-term goal to grow and make my own wine on my own property in the future, but I'm enjoying studying and my lifestyle change. It's a creative outlet for one of my great interests.'

Meanwhile, Chris is still working as a chef at a function centre in Warrandyte at nights and on weekends while studying full-time.


Interview / Photo Opportunity

Media enquiries should be directed to the NMIT Communications Officer, James Gardener, on (03) 92691579, 0413 483 182 or

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.