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EIT’s School of Viticulture & Wine kicks into higher gear

7 days ago

Chandre, Victor and Jane (fr. r.) are the new wine science lecturers and bring a lot of international experience.

Shaun La Franco had always been passionate about wine. Having gained a Graduate Diploma in Oenology at EIT, he then worked in different wineries throughout New Zealand and in France. Four years ago he returned to EIT as a lecturer and has recently taken over managing the winery.

He oversees all the operations happening there, wine making, research, bottling, looking after school groups or organising industry events. “EIT has just bought a lot of new equipment to make the winery look and operate like a commercial winery, just a smaller version of it,” explains Shaun.

His counterpart Tim Creagh, on the other hand, has worked at EIT as a Viticulture lecturer close to 20 years and has just taken over management of the vineyard. “It’s a great challenge,” he acknowledges.

The vineyard is organic which excludes the use of synthetic chemicals but involves a lot of manual weeding. “The consumers have started to demand not only organic produce but also sustainable farming methods. That’s why we decided to run EIT’s vineyard organically,” says Tim.

There are 20 varieties of grapes growing on campus. The first two rows have been named “fruit salad” with every second vine being different. “That’s how we can showcase to the students how different vines and grapes are,” explains Tim. 

New in the lecturing team, Chandre Honeth has made a fresh start at EIT. Chandre just moved from South Africa to Hawke’s Bay with her husband and feels at home already. She graduated with a Doctorate in Viticulture from the University of Stellenbosch where she carried out various research and assisted in teaching. “When I first came to EIT, I was surprised to see how beautiful the campus is. It looks like a park,” says Chandre.

Shaun (l.) oversees EIT’s winery. Tim (r.) is the new manager of the vineyard.

Her new colleague Jane Qin shifted from China to New Zealand in 2013. She completed a Master of Horticultural Science (majoring in Viticulture and Oenology) from Lincoln University. Jane has been lecturing wine science and working as a lab technician and a cellar hand in the South Island before moving to Hawke’s Bay to teach at EIT.

Wine science lecturer Victor Ye is an EIT newbie as well. Born and raised in China, he attended high school in Christchurch. He then gained a Master in Food Science from Otago University and is finishing a PHD in Wine Chemistry and Food Engineering at Lincoln where he was lecturing and performing research too.

Chandre, Jane and Victor are looking forward to kicking off the term. “The classes are small which will facilitate interaction and discussion with students,“ they say. “An advantage of studying at EIT is that students get to go out into the vineyards and wineries and gain real work experience.”