A year after it was launched, the series of Wineskills training courses at Plumpton College is close to reaching its 1,000th trainee and is well on target to deliver 178 courses to 1,344 trainees by March, 2012, as stated in the project proposal.

Wineskills, an initiative managed by the college, organises workshops, masterclasses and mentoring for the UK wine production industry and was launched in February, 2010.

Chris Foss, head of wine department, Plumpton College, says: “The Wineskills project is just about to launch a sustainability initiative and an on-line information database, which will be just as exciting as the present offering of workshops, masterclasses and mentoring.”

He adds: “The project has delivered 64 courses to 921 trainees since February, 2010. The workshops are highly practical, aiming to respond to the ‘upskilling’ needs of the industry. On the other hand, the monthly Masterclasses are largely theoretical, as they are offered by world experts in their field and deal with the latest developments.”

The one-day courses are specifically designed for those involved, or intending to be involved, in wine production in the UK.


Mentoring rewards

The courses have been delivered throughout the wine growing regions of the UK, focusing on those regions with greater concentration of commercial vineyards and wineries: East Anglia, 5 courses; Mercia, 8 courses; Southeast, 27 courses; Southwest, 13 courses; and Wessex, 11 courses.

How has having mentors involved in the programme benefited the learning experience?

Foss says: “The mentors have given very valuable recommendations to the wine producers that they have visited and industry reports for all, which are freely available on the Wineskills website.”

Delegates on the courses have come from all wine producing regions in the UK and are in commercial wine production. Some are new to the industry. Foss is not aware of any similar courses abroad.

Wineskills project has now secured further funding to expand to provide an information database (WineFile) and a sustainability scheme, with project manager and mentor, for the UK wine industry. It is an EU-funded project whose main objective is to upskill the UK Wine Industry.

Industry observers suggest that there are three advantages arising from wine growing – diversification of land use, local employment and revenue from wine sales and tourism to rural areas. In Foss’s opinion, is one of these the greater benefit to the wider community?

Foss concludes: “All three go hand in hand; it’s really exciting to be in the centre of a successful new wine industry in the UK.”