FORTY years in and wine science education is still going strong at Charles Sturt University (CSU), Wagga.
Some 1000 or more aspiring winemakers have learned the craft at Wagga.
And the industry – known for it’s fickleness and price fluctuation – has experienced huge ups and downs.
But according to CSU’s School of Agricultural and Wine Sciences Professor Christopher Steel its a chronological milestone worth celebrating.
In fact, Professor Steel’s personal association with the institution spans an impressive 20 years.
“When I arrived in 1995 it was the boom time for the industry, the industry was thriving and we had huge numbers of students coming into the course,” he said.
“I have seen changes in every aspect of the organisation,” he said.
Despite struggles on the export market for Australian wine Professor Steel said the industry was still strong.
About 10 years ago he watched the industry start to “level out” as the growth from the boom times plateaued.
“Having said that we still turn out good graduates and the industry is doing well with 50 per cent of our wine sent overseas for the export market,” he said.
Wagga and Adelaide are the two major wine making training grounds in Australia.
Professor Steel said graduates from CSU, Wagga had made their mark internationally in the wine regions of Europe, America and Canada.
“This is a good place to get a start,” he said.
“We are on the edge of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area and the Griffith region and we are close to the Cowra, Tumbarumba and Rutherglen growing regions.”
“Most of our students are already working in the industry in some form or another and through online study they are able to upgrade their professional qualifications and skills,” he said.
"If we want to make our wine industry as competitive as we can then the greater the knowledge the winemaker or vineyard manager has, then the better the grapes they will grow and the better wine they will make.
One of the early lecturers and course coordinator Dr Tony Jordan said there was a pent up demand in the wine industry in 1975 for a degree course with good technical depth.
"Among the early student intakes were well established winemakers and brewers who already had tertiary qualifications and were keen to extend their training to an oenology and viticulture degree," Dr Jordan said.