The Federal Government’s drugs advisory body last week suggested winemaking classes in high schools should be banned because they promote alcohol to minors.
Nuriootpa High School principal Neil White was quick to squash that theory.
“The Barossa Valley is one of the biggest wine regions not only in Australia but the world, so introducing that vocation in high school is an important aspect of creating employment pathways,” Mr White said.
“It’s not about drinking – it’s about the potential of a variety of employment opportunities. And it helps make connections between the school and the community.”
Executive director of the Drug Advisory body, Gino Vumbaca was quoted as saying alcohol was an intoxicator and an adult product for a reason, and asked whether schools would be happy if children started involving themselves in other adult-only industries?
But schools such as Nuriootpa, which are being responsive to industries in their regions with wine-related lessons, are being responsible educators.
Nuriootpa High School have classes from years 10 to 12, which look at the whole range of the wine industry, from planting, growing, pruning, harvesting, production and the science, which includes fermentation.
Even art classes design labels for the bottles, and other areas such as business plans for marketing purposes are taught.
“The wine industry is vital for the Barossa Valley, which makes teaching aspects of the industry here valuable,” Mr White added.
“It’s about having respect for the industry and consulting, as we do with local companies, and winegrowers, including Seppeltsfield, Wolf Blass and Penfolds, Clear Image for labels and packing company Vinpac.”
Vines were planted at the school prior to 1992, and since 1996 wine-related classes have been taught.
With over 75 students attended wine classes, subjects related to the industry are popular.
Tahlia Liebelt has been involved with wine classes at Nuri from years 10 to 12, and thinks it is an enjoyable and practical experience.
“Winemaking enables you to gain skills and it opens up pathways for jobs in viticulture, horticulture and agriculture,” she said. “There are numerous jobs in the wine industry, including working as a cellar hand or in vineyards, winemaking or a laboratory.
“I have learned various skills and I love the opportunities the wine industry presents you with. I was also involved in designing wine labels for our 2013 Barossa Scholar Shiraz and Chardonnay.”
Many of the students come from families involved in the industry, with the school classes complimenting many of the various aspects of vineyards and wineries.
Dylan Neilson is one student whose parents own a vineyard, and is hoping to put into practice some of the valuable wine education he is receiving at the school.
“The reason I took the classes is because I an interested in working in the industry and want to learn new things,” he said.
“One of the best things about the course is it helped me to understand how wine is made, and the operations side of wine-making.
“I’m quite impressed with the course, and I think it’s rubbish they want to stop teaching it in schools – after all, it is the Barossa Valley. It’s where the grapes are.