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University wine receives international recognition

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The Royal Agricultural University (RAU) is preparing to launch its very own white wine, Cotswold Hills Dry White 2016, which has already won an international, prestigious and industry-recognised wine award. The Cotswold Hills white wine received a Bronze Award in the International Wine & Spirit Competition 2017, which receives entries from over 80 countries worldwide.

Master of Wine Susan McCraith, who has chaired the UK Wine Competition in the past and is a former RAU lecturer, has been instrumental in managing the wine project. Susan commented: “I’m so pleased with our wine and the fact that it has won a prestigious award in our first vintage. It is dry, youthful, and zesty at this stage, with peachy fruit and a hint of blossom and tropical notes. Lovely balance of acidity. It will be perfect for summer. I’m proud of what the team has achieved. Tom Overbury and Tony Norris have worked hard to bring this project to fruition.”

The wine is 12% alcohol and is available from the RAU shop – both on campus and online at shop.rac.ac.uk there are a limited number of bottles available.

The University took over the tenancy of a 2.6 hectare vineyard near Down Ampney, Cirencester in spring 2016 from Farmcare Trading Ltd. The large plot encompasses 40 rows of vines, most of which are the Ortega grape variety with two rows each of Seyval Blanc, Bacchus, and Chardonnay.

In October 2016, the ripe grapes were handpicked by RAU students, and transported to the winery near Shepton Mallet, where they were crushed and vinified by RAU alumnus Steve Brooksbank. Over the winter, the wine was clarified, fined, and filtered, before being bottled.

The new vineyard gives students on the BSc (Hons) Food Production and Supply Management course the opportunity to gain first-hand experience of the wine production process, from grape to bottle. They were given a presentation on vineyard management, grape varieties, and wine production by Susan McCraith, before helping with the grape harvest.

Students involved in the RAU Enterprise Programme were involved with developing the marketing strategy for the bottled wine, including the design of the label, which incorporates the RAU’s main building in a traditional design that reflects the values of the student body.

Going forwards, the vineyard will provide a great resource for students on the food and business degrees, and those involved with the RAU Enterprise Scheme, to investigate aspects of the production, quality, finances, marketing, and general management of wine production. In addition, students studying environmental, agricultural, and land management degrees will be able to utilise the vineyard and its surroundings to support their studies.

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