Old Vine Project launches education programme to ‘keep vineyards in the ground’
South Africa’s Old Vine Project has launched an online learning platform designed to “keep more vineyards in the ground and keep more people employed”, according to head of development Nadia Hefer.
The ‘Introduction to Old Vines’ course consists of 10 modules and approximately 25 hours of study time. The online and self-paced course covers the fundamentals of each module, with a focus on how it relates to old vines.
The new Old Vine Academy, as it has been named, has been designed with on-trade and retail workers in mind. Hefer, who works as head of the development team for the academy and project consultant for the Old Vine Project, explained that the intention was to “direct this academy to people that work in the trade that are able to sell old vine wines”.
South African old vine wines must be 35 years and older in order to use the Certified Heritage Vineyard seal on their bottles.
“The hope is that we inspire people to share the stories about old vines. It’s a really special category to work with,” Hefer told the drinks business. “Our hope is that if more people are educated and have the knowledge of old vines, we can sell more wines for our producers, to pay it forward to people who work along the value chain.”
Modules will cover how to serve, store and sell old vine wines, intended to provide practical know-how for members of the wine on- and off-trade.
A focus on retail and on-trade marks a shift away from the origins of the Old Vine Project, which began by training vineyard workers to correctly tend to older vines.
“Education has always been a very important part of the Old Vine Project,” Hefer added. “We’ve done a lot of training with vineyard workers, especially focused on pruning skills, because that has a big impact on the longevity of the vineyard, and also the yield of the next vintage.”
Covid-19 put a pause on practical training, and the team at the Old Vine Project “started to investigate what other contributions we could make”, Hefer said.
The Old Vine Project has started with the launch of the on-trade course, but plans to further develop both a viticulture course and a winemaking programme, “so we can gather all of this information on one platform”, Hefer explained.
The education programme has been funded by Imvini Wethu, a group of German investors who created a wine brand during the pandemic to support the South African wine industry.
The academy puts a focus on South African old vines, with “about 20 different video interviews with winemakers, viticulturalists, people in trade, media personalities and sales people that contribute to the content”, but Hefer encouraged wine professionals outside of South Africa to engage with the platform. “You’ll definitely see a couple of familiar faces in the content,” she said.