Wine tasting and teenage winemakers

Please forgive me for turning this into a travel blog for a minute. My husband and I were lucky enough to spend a few days in NSW wine country last week. He recently changed jobs and booked this time away for us before he started the new job. Our two little ones went to the grandparents and we had three days of not having to look after anyone but ourselves. I never sleep in, so that’s what defines my holidays: no nocturnal bed crashers, no running a ‘cafe’ for demanding little customers, not having to referee fights, not having to get small children dressed, toileted, in and out of cars etc etc.

Here are a few photos – we could be in France or Italy, right? The views, the wine and the food were fantastic.

Audrey Wilkinson, Hunter Valley

Molines, Hunter Valley

Molines entry, Hunter Valley

At one winery, we got talking to the daughter of the maker. Her father had started making wine in the mid-70s and she grew up learning about wine, tasting small amounts at the dinner table. Of her own four children, her eldest daughter, 15, wants to go into the family business and be a winemaker. She is at the local high school, where they study viticulture and have their own vineyard. Apart from wine-making, hospitality is the biggest industry in the area, and the high school also offers a TAFE-accredited apprenticeship pathway. By the time a student finishes high school, they have already completed two years of a hospitality apprenticeship, working in one of the local restaurants. As explained to us, even if they decide that career is not for them, they are still so young and lose nothing from switching track.

I thought all this very innovative and practical, and a genuine help to teenagers as they transition to a career. The irony of teaching teenagers winemaking at school, where they presumably also taste their product (and spit, I’m guessing) was not lost on me, amidst all the messages teenagers receive about not drinking underage. I was thinking, perhaps these children of winemakers who know all about the blood, sweat and tears that go into making a bottle of wine are less likely to neck one with friends on a Friday night. Perhaps they sit around comparing tasting notes and discussing vintages! Or maybe not.

Do you know of any high schools offering innovative courses like this? Did your own high school prepare you well for the working world?



  1. What a great initiative. It’s excellent that thy are being skilled up for the local industry – hopefully it will limit the ‘brain drain!’ that happens so much in rural areas. Glad you had a refreshing break 🙂

    Hello from #teamIBOT!

  2. I did INSTEP and INSTEP Plus in WA>.. workforce 1 day a week and TAFE 1 day a week and left school with more qualifications than those going onto UNI..

    however I changed my career a thousand times before I knew what I wanted to do 🙂

    #teamIBOT was here to say hello!

  3. Sounds and looks heavenly! I went to the Yarra Valley a couple of years ago and we could see the charred bush from Black Saturday. The tour guide told us all the wineries in the area dug up some vines and gave them to the guys who lost everything. I started crying when she told us. How embarrassing.

    As for school courses, I grew up in Mt Druitt and was zoned to a part-agriculture school: Dunheved High. It was located in the St Marys area – very working class, lots of housing commission with a history of industry and farming. I’m not sure it was so much innovation as necessity but it was a similar setup to the wineries in that they gave kids a chance to learn something pertinent to their region – in this case, agriculture. The school had a live animal program for hands-on experience (it was so gross) and an academic program if you wanted to go down that path. In the early 80s, someone broke into the school and killed every single animal, including the horses and cattle. It was brutal.

  4. You had me at ‘wine’
    Lovely pics and a great initiative 🙂

  5. Yup, I can see how they would appreciate it all so much more. Our next door neighbour’s son worked casually at the local bottle shop all throughout his uni years and at 23 he has become the real wine connoisseur. Obviously studying it at TAFE is a totally different ball game but if you’re exposed to the (as you said) “blood, sweat and tears” and understand the background of it all, you would treat it differently (and hopefully in moderation and with respect).

  6. Oh, and nice work on having a little mini-break! 🙂 x

  7. Fabulous idea – i dont ‘know how many schools advocate this but wine making certainly has a very important role in our economy, and our social life 😉 Generally, schools run courses to suit the local community’s needs (like this one), and they run the training through vocational educaton courses where the kids get to study for the HSC and do a vocational course at the same time. It’s a smart way to get kids well on their way to a career before they leave the safety net of school, and for rural areas, there is the bonus of possibly keeping the kids local rather than having to migrate to the big smoke.

  8. Wow! I’ve heard of some cool school courses but this one takes the cake! Think I’ll sign my kids up! LOL!
    Thanks for sharing! x

  9. jess@diaryofasahms says:

    My kids school has a trade training centre that actually runs as a profitable construction business, though I’m not exactly sure how.
    I actually really like this idea. I wonder if treating the kids with maturity means they show more of it?

  10. A very interesting idea Rachel.
    I love the photos , just beautiful.



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