“Our new vision is to be internationally recognised as an education provider,” says Gregory Dunn, curriculum manager at Plumpton College’s wine division. Dunn is talking to Drinks Retailing during our recent visit to the facility in the South Downs.
Plumpton’s wine division has long been a centre of the UK wine industry. But now, as English wine steps onto the international stage, the college is looking to expand its reach beyond the border.
Offering courses in International Wine Business and Viticulture & Oenology, Plumpton boasts 10 hectares of vineyards and a commercial winery, as well as research laboratories for both undergraduate and postgraduate students. It currently hosts around 130 higher education students.
As part of the college’s vision to spread the word about Plumpton’s opportunities for budding winemakers and marketers, Dunn says that the college is currently working to encourage international students, as well as young people in the UK who are considering a career in wine.
“We want to demonstrate what Plumpton has to offer to people who are coming to the UK to study wine,” he explains, noting the college’s proximity to both London and Old World wine regions – such as Champagne and Burgundy – as major benefits for students.
As the wine division continues to develop its educational offerings, Dunn emphasises the importance of research in achieving international status.
“Research is important to us. If we are going to have an international profile we need some kind of research pedigree,” he says, mentioning the key role Plumpton students play in conducting this research. And as the English wine category flourishes, Plumpton’s research on environmentally-friendly viticulture and biodiversity in vineyards could prove vital in ensuring the sustainable development of the industry.
DIVERSITY AND GENDER EMPOWERMENT
For Dunn, establishing an inclusive wine department is an essential step in encouraging a diverse student body.
But looking to the UK wine scene as a whole, student-led research at Plumpton is also working to address the need for a more diverse industry with more opportunities for women.
Second-year International Wine Business student, Charlotte Bradbury, is currently conducting research on gender inequality in the wine industry as part of an effort to empower women in wine.
“I think education and awareness is one of the most important things in creating a more diverse wine industry,” she says. So far, her ongoing research has seen her collate information from previous studies to identify issues that women in the industry are facing.
“I’m so happy that I’m getting the opportunity to do this project as I’ve found through my research that a lot of people aren’t aware of the ingrained gender inequality in the industry.
“That’s the reason I want to keep studying this topic,” she says, as she plans to conduct further interviews with women in wine so as to provide a deeper insight into their experiences in the industry.
Plumpton’s commercial winery currently produces around 40,000 bottles a year. Its sparkling white and rosé are currently stocked in Waitrose, with further listings in independent retailers throughout the south of England.
Winemaker Deepika Koushik also highlights the potential for Ortega and Bacchus in the UK, as Plumpton plans to push its still wines. She mentions these varietals as ones that are particularly suited to the UK climate.
As well as producing wine for commercial purposes, Plumpton uses its winery to experiment with different styles, providing its students with a chance to develop their winemaking skills.
And as the UK wine industry continues to evolve and explore uncharted territory, experimental styles – alongside the increasingly popular English sparkling – could be a hit among producers.
“The English wine industry is still small, but it’s exciting. There is plenty of opportunity for growth and experimentation,” finishes Dunn.