Sara Macdonald (née Addis) has worked at wineries around the world but studying at EIT taught her the fundamentals of the industry and gave her a well-respected qualification to match.
The 34-year-old studied Graduate Diplomas in both Viticulture and Oenology through EIT’s School of Viticulture and Wine Science on the Hawke’s Bay Campus in 2017 and 2018.
Originally from Britain, Sara moved to New Zealand about eight years ago for a harvest job in Marlborough, where she then met her partner, Lachie. Now, she is on maternity leave with her first child, daughter Matilda.
Sara says the programmes were exactly what she needed. “For me, it just suited me down to the ground. I felt like I had quite a good grounding in winemaking, so it was more just wanting to know the fundamentals and the science behind it all.”
The decision to study at EIT was not done without research.
“That’s why I chose EIT because I liked the fact that it would be two years; one year on viticulture and one year on winemaking and then I would have a really well-respected qualification.”
It was a decision that paid off for Sara as she went on to win the North Island Young Winemaker of the Year and come second in the National Final four years ago. She was also awarded the Bragato Postgraduate Scholarship.
She can’t recommend EIT highly enough.
“The fact that there’s so much engagement with the local industry was just amazing and everybody’s so passionate about what they teach.”
Despite studying a degree in French and Spanish at Durham University in England, Sara says she has always been attracted to winemaking, and specifically sparkling wine. However, it wasn’t until she landed a job, not long out of university, in a cellar door in Margaret River, Western Australia, that she realised the industry was for her.
“I just instantly knew the wine industry was for me on that first day. I can remember it like it was yesterday, just standing there with the winemakers going: ‘Oh yeah, I’ve found my calling’.”
And she has had some spectacular opportunities, having worked in Burgundy, Champagne in France, Brighton and Australia.
“I think I just love that it’s just so varied. You are constantly learning all the time – there’s no one way to do something with wine making, there’s so many different techniques you can try, and so many exciting, different grape varieties.”
“And obviously also I love wine, I find wine fascinating to drink, and talk about, and it’s something I’m very passionate about.”
In April she started working at Monowai Estates near Hastings and will return once she has finished maternity leave. As it is a small winery, she says her job is varied.
“It’s a really interesting role, and I’m learning lots in it, which I’m really enjoying or was before maternity leave.”
She aspires to one day have her own label. “My main priority at the moment is my daughter but more and more I think about starting my own label potentially and I would obviously love to make some sparkling wine.”
“I’m so, so happy that we moved up here and I studied at EIT because it’s just the start of an amazing new chapter in our lives and we probably will never leave.”
The Head of EIT’s School of Viticulture and Wine Science Sue Blackmore says Sara is a great example to anyone who wants to make a career change into the exciting NZ wine industry.
“Her original degree was not in a directly related field, but she was able to use those graduate skills to study Viticulture and Wine Science intensively with EIT to assist her to make a successful shift to a career in the wine industry,“ says Sue.
The EIT Graduate Diplomas (Viticulture Science and Wine Science) have been fully revamped and updated for 2022. Each qualification can be completed fulltime in one year on campus or online with residential schools. BOTH ARE FREE FOR 2022!