Wine science

Last updated 05:00 23/03/2014
David Hayward.

Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology wine tutor David Hayward.

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New Zealand's wine industry is in better shape than the Australian one, says new wine tutor at Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, David Hayward.

David arrived at the Blenheim campus six weeks ago from Victoria, Australia, and is excited to be on this side of the Tasman.

Wages might be higher in Australia, but money isn't the only measure of happiness.

He and his partner Jane Sandilands had a taste of the good life in Marlborough a couple of years ago when they came here on holiday. The region ticked many of the right boxes: nice climate, natural beauty, abundant opportunities to indulge in the activities they love, like boating, walking, riding bikes.

It was still hard to leave their life in Victoria, though. For the past 14 years the couple have owned Haywards of Locksley, a 2-hectare vineyard with a micro-winery in the Strathbogie Ranges. Viticulturist Jane did the day-to-day, hands-on work while David worked fulltime as a lecturer in oenology (the study of wine and winemaking) at the University of Melbourne. There he taught undergraduate and postgraduate students how to be good winemakers.

But when NMIT advertised for a new wine tutor David applied.

This week he leads the way around the NMIT wine studies block in Blenheim and seems pleased with its facilities.

We peer inside a laboratory and he mentions its value for students studying plant pathology or measuring the sulphur dioxide and volatile acidity levels in wine.

The lab is also used by viticulture staff from Plant & Food Research and the Wine Research Centre, which has its base on campus. Students wanting to take their studies beyond certificate and diploma levels must do their degrees through Lincoln University but can continue using the NMIT facilities and equipment.

David's own studies go up to a masters degree in applied science but he likes the practical elements that NMIT has students concentrate on in Blenheim.

There are 12 grape varietals to look after in a compact campus vineyard and each year they are harvested and small batches of wine made and assessed. The NMIT winery has a range of miniature but up-to-date tools of the trade, giving students first-hand experience of operating a grape press, a pump, filling tanks and running a bottling machine.

This year fruit from four other vineyards will be provided for students to use, reflecting the support NMIT receives from Marlborough winemakers, David says. It is appreciated and he knows the graduates coming out of the college are making the industry stronger.

"Masses of people [arrive] at vintage. If they want to prepare the wine or make additions to it, put spray applications in the vineyard . . . it takes some underlying knowledge."

Wine with Marlborough labels sell at higher prices in Australian bottle stores than their home-grown rivals and David says the entire industry here seems healthier than over the ditch - the extreme weather conditions affecting Australian winegrowers in recent years have hit vineyards and winemakers hard, he says.

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Climate change is a global phenomenon, though, and David says NMIT students must learn about conserving water and reducing energy use (and costs). The latter can include relocating wine tanks so they are under cover instead of out in the sun, needing refrigeration to stay cool. Tanks in Marlborough are predominantly filled with the region's flagship wine, sauvignon blanc.

It is enjoyed by international wine tasters but other varietals have potential, too, David says. Pinot noir, is already popular and others like gewürztraminer and viognier grapes are waiting for more attention by the next generation of winemakers.

- The Marlborough Express

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