Learning Experiences Outside the ClassroomFood & Beverage

Wine-making a passion project for St Peter’s Cambridge Year 10-12 students

The 2020 Blue Ruru Pinot Gris and Rose has landed at St Peter’s, Cambridge, and the results are magnificent.

In partnership with Volcanic Hills Winery in Rotorua, the bottling of this year’s vintage marks four years of passion and community involvement, to bring about a delightfully light Rose and refreshing Pinot Gris.

A Year 12 student uses the refractometer to measure the brix (sugar) content in the grapes

The journey started five years ago when a student, who was keen to study viticulture, asked Head of Agricultural & Horticultural Science (Ag/Hort Science) Mike Kilgour, “why haven’t we got grapes growing here?”

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Mike thought, “why, indeed?” and took the concept to Executive Principal Dale Burden and the senior leadership team. They supported the project and, with vines donated by the Thorp family from Sunrise Nurseries in Gisborne plus input and guidance from Charlie and Debbie Johnson, the idea was planted.

The fruits of all this labour: a proud achievement for staff and students.

Choosing the varieties to grow was key,as the Waikato is not traditionally a grape growing region. Settling on Cabernet Franc, Pinotage for the reds and Chardonnay and Pinot Gris for the whites, 40 of each variety were planted on site at St Peter’s school behind the school’s playing fields.

Students from across the curriculum and year groups have been involved in bringing this wine to reality, for example:

• Year 9 and 10 Ag/Hort Science students have pruned the vines;
• IB Chemistry have had the very important job of titration to determine the amount of pH and acid levels in the wine to determine the best time to pick;
• Science classes used a refractometer to measure the brix (sugar) content in the grapes
• Design students developed the name, label and style of the striking Blue Ruru bottle label. Ruru is the maori name for our native owl – the morepork, thus nodding to the St Peter’s Owl and the higher wisdom, learning and inner knowing it proudly represents.

Earlier this year, students and staff volunteered to harvest the 2020 crop. Collectively hand-picking 1.5 tonnes of grapes on a clear March morning, the bounty was delivered within 2 hours to Volcanic Hills Winery at the base of Mt Ngongotaha in Rotorua. There, winemaker Brent Park set about producing the blends over the next four months.

With the very limited quantities produced, those actually enjoying a glass will be few. Executive Principal Dale Burden told us: “Being able to deliver an authentic learning experience for our students, from the planting of the vines through to the harvest and production, is an opportunity we are excited to offer our students.”

Rosie Clarke

Rosie is the managing editor here at Multimedia Pty Ltd, working across School News New Zealand and School News Australia. She has spent 10+ years in B2B journalism, and has spent some time over the last couple of years teaching as a sessional academic. Feel free to contact her at any time with editorial or magazine content enquiries.
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