With the picturesque Paarl mountains in the background, wine glasses clinked to toast South Africa's first postgraduate degree programme that focuses on the business side of the wine industry.
The initiative, which is a joint venture between UCT's Graduate School of Business (GSB) and the University of Adelaide in Australia, is set to dramatically change postgraduate study in the wine trade and will help build much-needed leadership and management capacity in South Africa's burgeoning wine industry.
Speaking at a lunch at the Grande Roche Hotel and wine farm in Paarl, GSB director Professor Frank Horwitz said the partnership had come about in response to a need expressed by the industry.
"The South African wine industry shows a distinct skills gap with technical know-how and business acumen on opposite sides of the spectrum. Historically, most postgraduate wine programmes in South Africa have focused on viticulture or wine-making.
"Those wanting to get business expertise would have to go outside of the industry to one of the business schools. We saw there was a need for a programme that blends the best of business training with an inside understanding of the particular challenges facing the wine industry," he added.
The programme's broad vision is to establish an international centre of academic excellence in wine business management that combines the best of Adelaide University's recognised expertise in wine technology and wine marketing with the GSB's proven success in accelerating management and executive development.
It will do so by incorporating three co-branded postgraduate qualifications - a certificate, diploma and master's degree in wine business. Students will be given insight into everything from the nature and purpose of financial management and cost accounting to the structure, mechanisms, regulatory agencies and complexities of the world wine market.
Incorporating an empowerment imperative, students will be drawn from a range of management segments and it will provide development opportunities for employment equity individuals. University of Adelaide deputy chancellor (and a renowned Australian winemaker) Brian Croser pointed out that the relationship between the institutions allowed for the development of synergies of expertise and knowledge.
"Both universities face similar challenges when dealing with the wine industry," he said. "The industry is a microcosm of what happens in society, with big changes in the wine industry reflecting the changes in society.
"Wine is also the perfect modern product because it mirrors the place where it was made and it is consumed throughout the world. The great thing about wine is that you can dream about places you want to go to through the wine they drink there."
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