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Graduation Caps A Vintage Year

March 19, 2013

Sophie Harris in action over vintage at Craggy Range.

Fledging winemaker Sophie Harris is juggling vintages to graduate Bachelor of Wine Science from EIT on Friday. (March 22)

Having very recently got back from the Hunter Valley where she worked a succession of night shifts as the grapes came in at Margan winery, Sophie is now at Craggy Range performing all the usual vintage cellar hand jobs.

Once Hawke’s Bay’s harvest is in, she hopes to work a vintage in the Northern hemisphere – although she’s undecided about where that might be.

“I hope to travel around for the next couple of years to gain experience and see a bit of the world at the same time,” the 25-year-old says.  “I’m looking forward to meeting new people, seeing different processes and hearing different ideas.”

Sophie already has a significant travel experience under her belt having spent a month in Italy as the 2011 winner of the Bragato Student Exchange Scholarship.  The scholarship was established 10 years ago to honour Romeo Bragato, the celebrated “Father of New Zealand Viticulture”, and to foster an ongoing link between EIT and Bragato’s former school in the Veneto region of Italy, Scuola di Viticoltura di Conegliano.

For Sophie’s mother, Christine Harris, there will be a sense of déjà vu in seeing her daughter capped.  After studying for a Certificate in Grapegrowing and Winemaking at EIT, Christine was one of the first two to complete EIT’s then newly-established Bachelor of Viticulture degree.

Sophie’s career choice was not about following in her mother’s footsteps, however.  A keen dancer, she started a Bachelor of Performing Arts in Auckland after leaving school, but didn’t feel confident that it was for her.

Working vintages in Marlborough and Hawke’s Bay convinced her that making wine was what she really wanted to do.

From Napier, Sophie enjoyed her new area of study.

“I liked the small classes at EIT and the way the tutors really knew who you were and your strengths and weaknesses and helped guide you according to these.

“Having the winery on site and with knowledgeable staff to help you along the way to making your very own small batch wines was an incredible learning opportunity and taught me valuable lessons in problem solving.

“It was just a wonderful environment to learn and grow.”

Sophie loves both red and white wines, and chooses a style to suit her mood and the situation – “I’m just really excited about trying new wines.”

Travelling in different countries and working in diverse wine regions, she will have many opportunities to do just that.