Scholarships and awards provide pathways to global opportunities

Joseph Polc 123rf
Image source: Joseph Polc 123rf

A range of annual scholarships and awards acknowledge outstanding wines, people, producers and suppliers who contribute to Australia and New Zealand’s burgeoning wine industries. Stephanie Timotheou looks at the major opportunities, why they exist and how beneficial they are.

THERE are many quiet achievers in the wine and viticulture business.

That’s why there are a wide range of scholarships and awards received year after year as a way of recognising innovation and excellence within the industry.

Wine bodies, research institutes, universities and organisations offer scholarships to encourage people in the industry to travel, visit other regions and experience life as a winemaker or viticulturist outside their comfort zones.

Below is an overview of what the nation’s peak industry body Wine Australia offers, as well as opportunities provided by Charles Sturt University, one of the largest tertiary institutions in the country.




Wine Australia

Wine Australia has been involved in a number of scholarships since its inception in the ’80s.

The body’s regional director for Australia, Asia and emerging markets Aaron Brasher says it awards scholarships to top students across the UK, North America, Asia, Europe and Australia through the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET).

In addition to supporting the WSET and its eight scholarships, Wine Australia is involved in the Sommelier Immersion Program, the Trade Immersion Program and the Daniel Pontifex Memorial Trust in awarding the Pontifex Scholarship each year.

“The annual scholarship allows the recipient to work as a sommelier in a London restaurant, further his or her knowledge and gain a global view of the wine industry,” Brasher says.

“Wine Australia also awards the Pontifex Scholarship to a member of the UK trade to visit Australia and become great ambassadors for Australian wine when they return home.”

Wine Australia’s Sommelier Immersion Program (SIP) is about “influencing influencers” and making sure they have an intimate knowledge of Australian wine regions.

“Education is key to success and the more we can educate people about Australian wine, the more they are going to support it – whether it’s retail or simply educating consumers so they buy Australian wine with the knowledge they are getting the best in the class.”


Charles Sturt University

The National Wine & Grape Industry Centre (NWGIC) is one of Charles Sturt University’s (CSU) research centres and funds one full-time Higher Degree by Research (HDR) scholarship each year.

The aim of this scholarship is to provide financial support to HDR students in Masters by Research and Research Doctorates whose research proposal is aligned with the objectives of the university’s research centres.

“These HDR scholarships have been running for many years and are offered through the university’s six research centres which can receive up to 200 applications annually,” NWGIC administrative officer Robyn Harrington says.

“The biggest benefit of receiving a scholarship from CSU is the stipend is sufficient to give an individual full financial assistance while studying.”

Applications are taken from eligible students intending to undertake research which is closely linked to the centre’s objectives and research in the fields of wine science, grapevine pathology, grapevine physiology and wine consumer preference.

For a full list of scholarships CSU offers visit



The wine industry is particularly rewarding when it comes to wine shows but also plays host to major award nights recognising outstanding suppliers, winemakers and top drops.


For the industry:

Suppliers to the industry have the opportunity to be recognised at the annual Wine Industry Suppliers’ Association (WISA) Supplier of the Year Awards.

WISA chief executive Matthew Moate says there are limited opportunities for suppliers in the wine industry to be recognised for their excellence in supply, despite much of the innovation and improvement in wine quality and profitability attributed to them.

“These awards are important to the industry as competition helps drive innovation and a competitive industry is generally a profitable and efficient one,” he says.

Moate says the biggest benefit of winning such an award is recognition by peers in the industry, credibility and the ability to strengthen relationships with existing customers.

“It also allows a supplier to approach potential clients with greater confidence and expectation of success,” he adds.

Five awards are given at the event covering a range of categories including export, innovation and environment and sustainability.

“Great wines just don’t happen – there are many people, products, services and companies that make a contribution,” he says.


For the young guns:

The Wine Society’s Lydia Stjepanovic runs the Young Winemaker of the Year Awards which is open to both Australian and New Zealand winemakers.

Now in its 14th year, the awards have become nationally regarded as accolades recognising significant achievements of young winemakers.

The Wine Society says the future of the wine industry lies firmly in the hands of its young guns and needs to provide tangible opportunities to help these winemakers develop their profile within the industry.

The Wine Society Young Winemaker of the Year program comprises three distinct and highly prized awards.

These include the Wine Society Young Winemaker of the Year, the Young Winemaker of the Year Finalists’ Choice and the Young Winemaker of the Year Supporters’ Choice.

The equivalent for young viticulturists is the New Zealand Young Viticulturist of the Year Award.


For winemakers and viticulturists:

Each year Gourmet Traveller presents the awards for Winemaker of the Year and Viticulturist of the Year.

Chairman of judges Peter Forrestal says both awards have gained significant prestige over the years with past winners receiving recognition among their peers and extensive publicity within the industry.

“The key to the compelling lure of the awards is the stories our writers have told of the men and women whose dedication, attention to detail, technical know-how and artistic flair has enabled them to transform the humble Australian grape into some of the world’s most compelling wines,” he says.

“As we announce another batch of finalists it’s worth reflecting on what we perceive as their importance to the Australian wine industry.

“Their greatest wines have enriched our lives with memories of their finest bottles and their attention to detail in the vineyard and winery has enabled them to craft wines of rare quality which is what the judges look for.”


For top drops:

One of the most renowned wine shows in Australia is the Sydney International Wine Competition (SIWC).

The SIWC is an independent, self-funded and food-oriented wine competition that also offers a free, web-based wine information service to consumers.

“While we don’t sell wine, our website does offer deal-direct winery contact details for all award-winning wines so consumers can find where to purchase them,” competition director Warren Mason says.

Events such as the SIWC, which has been running since 1982, helps sell award-winning wines and raise a greater awareness of a particular brand.

Each year the competition accepts 2000 entries for judging.

Mason says the purpose of the competition is to offer information that assists consumers make smart purchasing decisions.

“We offer objective, individual commentary on each wine by at least six of our international judges to help consumers choose quality, food-friendly, award-winning wines at different price points, likely to meet personal preferences and enhance the enjoyment of their dining and lifestyle experiences,” Mason says.

“The biggest benefit of entering your wine into a competition like the SIWC is that it generates sales, recognition and respect.At the SIWC more than 300 awards are up for grabs each year.



In terms of both scholarships and awards, Brasher says being recipients of either provide multiple opportunities.

“There are plenty of opportunities out there – if you’re a young industry person who has ambition and drive, look at what is out there and apply and continue applying even if you’re unsuccessful in the first instance.”

To include your event, award or wine show on the Winebiz calendar email or phone the Winetitles office on 61 8 8369 9500.



Aaron Brasher, P: 61 2 9361 1227

Robyn Harrington, P: 61 2 6933 2940

Matthew Moate, P: 61 (0)409 783 221

Lydia Stjepanovic, P: 61 1300 729 657

Peter Forrestal, P: 61 8 9341 1107

Warren Mason, P: 61 2 4757 4400