Viticulturalist and Winemaker

Viticulturalists specialise in the management of vineyards and the production of grapes under a wide variety of natural conditions. They provide guidance to wine farmers on manipulation of their vineyards to obtain the best results and provide knowledge in the management of both table and wine grapes.


Wine makers, or oenologists, are responsible for the whole wine making process, from crushing the grapes, fermentation of the must, refining and stabilising the wine to bottling and marketing.


Viticulturalists use plant science principles and processes, such as sunlight interception, to help with the preparation of the land as well as planting, trellising and pruning. They have to recognise and treat abnormalities in vineyards and determine when grapes are ready to be harvested. The correct handling, packing and transportation of table grapes is another field where the expertise of the viticulturalist can be used. A viticulturalist can also take on the role of producer, wine-maker, consultant, researcher and marketing agent.


Winemakers direct and coordinate all the activities of wine production in wineries. Winemakers contract with growers to provide grapes for processing or, if the winery is attached to a vineyard, they work closely with viticulturists, who cultivate the grapes, to determine when the grapes are ready for processing into wine. 

After harvesting and delivery at the winery, the grapes are weighed and certain quality control analyses such as the sugar and acid content are performed. The grapes are then crushed, processed and fermented to produce wine. Winemakers regularly monitor the development of the wines and perform further treatments such as maturation and clarification, to ensure that the wine develops properly and will not become spoiled. During the winemaking process wine makers use a variety of cellar machinery and equipment to perform the necessary tasks. They also use laboratory equipment such as hydrometers and pipettes to perform quality control analyses. They are also responsible for finishing the wine, which includes cooling, filtering and bottling.

Winemakers blend wines according to formulas or their knowledge and experience in winemaking. Although modern winemaking is based on scientifically founded technological processes, the sensory analysis or tasting of wine remains an essential tool in the selection of wines for specific blends. Only regular tasting of a wide variety of wines develops this ability and provides the necessary experience to use such wines in the creation of blends, which will be acceptable to the consumer. This ability can be regarded as an art. Thus, wine making is both a science and an art. 

Winemakers also introduce wines to potential consumers by regularly presenting wine tasting events locally and abroad. Consumers often like to meet the winemakers in person. The winemaker often has to work irregular hours.


Employment


  • Agricultural Research Council

  • estate wine farms

  • cooperative wine farms

  • private wine companies

  • KWV


This career offers entrepreneurial opportunities as the viticulturalist may act as a consultant or run their own vineyard.


Getting Started


  • try to obtain vacation work at a vineyard, picking grapes for example

  • try growing your own vines in your garden and read up about viticulture

  • arrange to visit different vineyards and speak to a viticulturalist or winemaker about this type of career


Programmes

University of Mpumalanga, University of Stellenbosch, Valley University of Science and Technology


Bursaries


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