Starting a career in wine

02 Jul 2020

Elise Picot recently graduated with a Viticulture & Bachelor of Wine Science Concurrent Degree. She discusses why she made the decision to study winemaking and how her first vintage went.

Elise Picot is working at Church Road

What did you do before you started to study wine science?

My choice to study wine science at EIT was preceded by a degree in industrial design that I completed at Victoria University in Wellington. This degree gave me insight into the creative world and when I graduated in 2014 I packed my bags and headed to London for my first overseas adventure.

From London, I was able to travel throughout Europe - Italy, France, Spain, Norway, Germany - spending two years discovering new things and learning a lot about myself. When I returned to New Zealand two years later, I knew there was another change coming - what I didn’t realise at the time was how massive it would be. 


Why was EIT the right choice for you?

When I returned home, it started to dawn on me that I wanted to expand on my creative knowledge and add another dimension. Given that I had followed chemistry through to my last year of high school, my mum suggested wine science - the ideal way to combine science with creativity. It had never dawned on me that I could become a winemaker and the whole idea was pretty exhilarating.

I started researching institutions that offered such a qualification, with EIT being the closest to my parents (who live in Taupo). Given the ease of location, I organised a meeting with Cryn Russell and the journey began. Upon meeting her I was hooked - EIT was a beautiful site in a coastal town with so many wineries and vineyards, I couldn’t quite believe it. Come July, I had repacked my bags and moved to Napier.


What was the highlight of your time at EIT?

The highlight was most definitely the people I’ve met - the friends I’ve made since I moved to Hawke’s Bay are really more of a family. Almost all these wonderful people I have met through our joint love of food and wine. These things seem to bring people together and in finding wine, I seem to have found myself.

Not only is wine a beverage of creativity and science, it is a drink that brings us together - perhaps the only beverage that gets shared by the bottle at the dinner table.

My Mum’s suggestion to study wine is ultimately why I’m here - but EIT is what facilitated the journey and for that, I will always be grateful. 


And what was the biggest challenge?

In 2019, I worked my first vintage at Craggy Range whilst also studying four papers online - getting up early to study for four hours before going to work for 13 was pretty intense. It definitely taught me some solid work ethics and gave me a real appreciation for the small things - when you’re that busy you learn the importance of a supportive text message, or someone making you a cup of tea.

Given that this year we are going through a global lockdown during vintage, it seems that the challenges continue - but having completed my studies I’m incredibly thankful to continue working for Church Road and be involved in an industry that comes together through the rough times. 


Written by Eastern Institute of Technology. View their viticulture and wine science programmes here

Hawke's Bay
Back to top