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Posted: Thursday, 09 August 2018 23:05

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Blog: Studying Wine in Adelaide University -Chinese Style

August 09: Wine education is an important part of wine industry in any country and while India floundered 10 years ago with Sham Chougule unable to carry on with the project, Chinese with big appetite for wine education and thousands of students already studying in Australia in various universities including Adelaide, a Shanghai University has tied up with Adelaide for various programmes for collaboration, writes Subhash Arora who still feels it is better and cheaper in the long run for Indians seeking quality education to study at Adelaide University

I have been promoting Adelaide as one of the 3 universities- Adelaide, UC Davies and Bordeaux for students committed to wine industry as a career. In fact, In a Blog, I mentioned about one Umesh Saini who had visited my office in 2007 for guidance for a career in wine marketing in India. I had suggested to him to think big and if he could afford it, go and study in one of the 3 (preferably the first 2 as they teach in English) universities. He took my advice and went to Adelaide. The last I know, he had completed his education there and was happily working in Pernod Ricard.    

Although I have never visited the university but it came on my radar in 2007 when Indage Vintners (then Champagne Indage) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Adelaide for collaboration.  Shamrao Chougule, the visionary founder of the now defunct company even got 21 acres of land allotted for the University (probably at dirt cheap prices). Plans were to start the operations by 2010. I had been getting a lot of enquiries when I recommended the University to Umesh . The project never took off as Indage ran into financial troubles and became insolvent in around 2008-2009.

It was interesting to read today about Shanghai Jiao Tong University collaborating with the same University of Adelaide. The rising number of Chinese students heading to South Australia to study winemaking is expected to increase further following this partnership. The two universities will introduce a dual Master’s degree in winemaking and viticulture from 2019 to help China’s booming wine industry and fuel further its love affair with Australian made wine. China is the biggest market for Australian wines with around 40% of their exports finding Chinese shelves.

The Adelaide University is considered one of the world’s best teaching universities and is very close to the leading wine regions of Australia, including Barossa and McLaren Vale, according to the Report in The Leads .

The South Australian university already has strong links with China with Chinese students filling 115 of 294 places in its 2017 wine making courses, representing about 90 per cent of international students and almost 40% of total enrolments across its four-year Bachelor degree in Viticulture and Oenology as well as a postgraduate diploma and masters courses.

The new two-and-a-half year course will begin in 2019 and will involve the students spending the first 12 months in Shanghai, the second year in Adelaide and the final six months back in China working in a winery or vineyard while completing a research project supervised by staff from both the universities.

 The partnership will also afford an opportunity for Australian students who would like to study in China for future work in that country and will graduate with a Masters Degree from Shanghai Jiao Tong University as well as the University of Adelaide.

South Australia is responsible for about 50 % of Australia’s annual production and 75 % of its premium wine. The state is home to world-renowned brands including Penfolds Grange, Jacob’s Creek, Hardys and Wolf Blass.

As Saini told me in 2009, the curriculum included viticulture, winemaking and  marketing with a special emphasis on wine and costing about A$ 40,000 for 3 years- a hefty sum of money but still less than the unofficial capitation money being charged then by most of the medical colleges in India-before even starting the course.

He seems to be very happy doing the course, which is not as easy as it sounds, he says. There is about 80% drop- out rate, primarily because most students think there won’t be any technical subjects and with such courses going getting tougher as there is a lot of course material and most local students are unable to cope with it.

A shining example of the excellence of the Adelaide University is Kailash Gurnani, winemaker Director of York Winery in Nashik. While his brother Ravi held forth in India, he was in Australia from 2007-2010, doing Bachelor of Oenology at the University in 2010. He shifted from University of Perth after a year when he was told that Adelaide is much better and this is the best decision he made, he says.

Besides wonderful facilities, the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) & Waite Research Institute (WRI) are located at the same campus where all the winemaking studies take place. ‘We were therefore in an environment where we were taught to question, focus on research and bring about improvements based on research backed data,’ he adds.

Quality of wines has seen a quantum jump since his return and he gladly admits that the winemaking style & philosophy has been shaped by Adelaide. ‘Today the wines i make are highly rated as some of the best in India and the University of Adelaide has a huge role to play in that,’ he admits with pride.

It’s a pity that a project that would have brought in a lot of educated talent near Nashik if Chougule had been able to start the University it will now benefit the Chinese students of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, taking the Chinese notches ahead in their quest for becoming the biggest producers in the world while our decision makers tinker with huge taxes to run their governance business inefficiently.

Subhash Arora

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