A university in southern England has announced that it was to offer a postgraduate course in viticulture and oenology, capitalising on the country's booming sparkling-wine industry.
The University of Brighton is offering budding vintners the chance to study for an MSc from September, and hopes to compete with similar courses in France and the United States.
"This postgraduate program is the first created in the UK," said Chris Foss, head of the Wine Department at Plumpton College - the University of Brighton affiliate hosting the course.
At a cost of USD 9,900 each, 12 students will be immersed in every detail of the winemaking process for 15 months.
"They will study the vine, wine chemistry, microbiology, climate, different soils and the science of sparkling wine," Foss told AFP yesterday.
The students will benefit from a soon-to-be inaugurated 2-million research centre, part-funded by The Rathfinny Estate, a winery established by retired investment fund manager Mark Driver in 2010.
The ultimate objective is to attract “students from around the world to give it an international dimension”, said Foss.
Rathfinny Estate, one of the largest vineyards in Britain, is located in Alfriston, East Sussex.
The estate has helped fuel Britain''s rising interest in local sparkling wine, and “there is more demand than supply at the moment,” Paul Brennon, press officer at the Rathfinny Estate, told AFP.
“English sparkling wine from Sussex in 2010 beat some French champagnes in the International Wine Challenge Award and it is getting well-know across the globe,” he added.
Sparkling wines' share of local wine production has risen from 30 per cent to 60 over the last five years, according to the English Wine Producers group.
Britain is second only to France in the consumption of French champagnes and other sparkling wines, added the trade association.
Britain's cold climate means grapes ripen slowly, leaving them highly acidic and ideal for making sparkling wines.