New Zealand and Italian exchange students Brenton O’Riley and Andrea Bresolin shared a passion for wine over coffee when they met for the first time at EIT.
The pair are this year’s winners of the Bragato Exchange Scholarship, established in 2003 and co-sponsored by EIT and the Rotary Club of Taradale.
The exchange programme is aimed at fostering an ongoing link between Italy’s Scuola Enoligica di Conegliano, where weekday boarder Andrea studies viticulture, and the Eastern Institute of Technology, where Brenton is into his third year of Bachelor of Viticulture and Bachelor of Wine Science concurrent degree studies.
The scholarship is named after Romeo Bragato, who originally studied in Conegliano in the north-east of Italy and is widely celebrated as the “Father of New Zealand Viticulture”.
Andrea is spending four weeks in New Zealand, visiting wine regions and wineries and joining viticulturists attending the Bragato Conference in Blenheim. He believes the experience will be among his most significant ever.
While the 19-year-old is far from his village of Pasiano, he’s enjoying his travels.
“People are very nice and I feel at home. I don’t think of Italy because of that. When I was selected for the scholarship, I read about New Zealand on internet sites and imagined I would be visiting a country rich in beautiful places and people.”
Seeing New Zealand’s wine industry at first-hand, he can better appreciate the differences in winemaking practices in the two countries.
“New Zealand’s wine styles are very much based on about 20 different varieties of grapes. I believe Italy has too many varieties.”
When he returns home, Andrea will undertake his first work experience in the wine industry. And once he finishes high school next year, he plans studying at university in Udine with a view to becoming a winemaker.
Brenton is to take up his scholarship at the end of January. The month in Italy will be the 24-year-old’s first overseas experience apart from travel to Australia.
“I’m rapt about the trip,” he says. “It’s going to be a bit of a learning curve getting around the language barrier but Andrea has told me that a lot of Italian people speak English, so hopefully it won’t be too hard.”
Brenton has recently been working on a research project for Mission Estate, comparing parasitism by mealybugs in organic and conventional grape growing systems. So when he is away, he will be most interested to see how Italians go about their canopy management.
Although he grew up on a dairy farm in the Manawatu, Brenton has always had a passion for vines. Before pursuing studies in winemaking and viticulture, however, he took his parent’s advice to first learn a trade, qualifying as a builder. Having bought his own house in Hastings, those skills are coming in handy.
After graduating, Brenton wants to stay on in Hawke’s Bay and hopes to get a job in viticulture.