In a double first for the EIT Wine Show, a Hawke’s Bay school group entered as fledgling winemakers and have gone on to claim the annual competition’s top trophy.
Sacred Heart College’s Leap Merlot 2008 was judged the best of 30 wines entered, scoring just a few points short of a silver medal.
“That’s a stunning achievement for novice winemakers”, says EIT wine science lecturer Tim Creagh, who guided the 10 Year 10 girls – now in Year 11 – through the winemaking process and then encouraged them to enter the result in the competition.
Held as part of the institute’s recent Food, Art, Wine event, the EIT Wine Show is restricted to commercial style wines made in the campus winery.
It attracts entries from students doing EIT’s Bachelor of Wine Science and Bachelor of Viticulture and sometimes, too, the programmes’ lecturers.
The Sacred Heart group comprised students in a Gifted and Talented in Education class led by teacher Terry Marshall.
“We were looking for novel things for them to do,” says Mr Marshall, “and came up with the idea for them to try their hand at making wine. We’ve had Hawke’s Bay science teachers do this in the past and felt the hands-on science would also extend these very able senior school students.”
Craggy Range Vineyards donated an 80kg parcel of merlot, and the girls destemmed and crushed the fruit at EIT’s winery.
The wine was matured in a 50 litre keg and bottled on campus by the students. The five dozen cases were presented to the school, and principal Steve Bryan says he remarked on the quality of the wine when tasting it with his wife.
“The next thing we were told was that it had won EIT’s top wine trophy!”
The parents of each of the girls involved in the winemaking venture received a bottle at a school presentation of their daughter’s work.
Mr Creagh also appreciated the girls’ achievement. Drawing on nine years’ experience as a lecturer at EIT, he says: “I knew the Sacred Heart students’ wine was one of the best to come out of the winery.”
Wineries and vineyards are very much part of the Hawke’s Bay scene, so winemaking was a natural progression and linked in with the school’s connection to EIT, says Mr Bryan – “it’s a provincial opportunity on our doorstep”.
Sacred Heart College will present the remaining bottles of wine to visitors and guests as a special acknowledgement, highlighting, of course, that they are receiving a bronze medal winner made by the schools’ own gifted students.