48 students and 17 MWs from all over the world, three high calibre guest speakers, myriads of wines to taste during and after the daily lectures – just some figures to give a first numeric impression of the stage 1 study programme seminar in Rust, at the Neusiedlersee this January.
The Weinakademie Österreich (Wine Academy of Austria) offers the perfect premises for the seminar. As it has extended its tasting rooms recently, it was possible to divide the students into four groups of 12 to give them more detailed and more personal feedback during tastings and theory exercises. For the additional sessions in the afternoon the main room provided a perfect setting for the speakers such as Professor Manfred Grossmann from Geisenheim (topics: yeasts and SO2) and Con Simos from AWRI (Australian Wine Research Institute) who presented a sensational tasting of 20 wine faults. A true celebrity speaker was Jancis Robinson MW who discussed very personally and openly her role as a wine critic – it is always delightful and impressive to listen to her and the students have been deeply touched by her generosity to share such an inside look into her life and career.
Thanks to the organisation of Pepi Schuller MW, director of Weinakademie, the evenings were filled with winery visits, table tastings, traditional dinners at Heurigen (local wine bars) and a more formal occasion at Schloss Esterhazy. Over the last few years, one night off has become a tradition – for both students and the MWs attending. While the students are partying in the hotel, Pepi invited the MWs to an excellent regional Croatian restaurant. This year he even gave a short concert together with his Croatian traditional music group. Austrian wineries sent magnums for us to drink, rather than taste – a wonderful possibility to have a short break from the duties and share some moments together.
One more highlight of the Rust seminar is always the pruning day when the members of the Pannobile wineries in Burgenland are so brave to hand their pruning scissors to students after an introduction into gentle pruning, and let them make some practical experience in the vineyards. So far no serious damage of vines has been reported! Afterwards the whole group was invited to Palais Coburg, one of the most luxurious hotels of Vienna. Four wineries (Wieninger, Lackner-Tinnacher, Gobelsburg and Emmerich Knoll) shared the “Best Austrian Whites” with us, followed by more wines at a table tasting and visits to the legendary wine cellar of Palais Coburg.
What makes the special charm of the Rust seminar is to follow the emergence of a joyful community between students and MWs. Staying in the same comfortable hotel at the lake side, sharing meals together and having a glass of wine at the bar gives students the chance to ask questions and get personal advice which might not be discussed in the classes. This also gives them an idea of what a wonderful, valuable and generous group of people they will join when they will pass. More than one of them said goodbye while at the same time expressing the wish to return to Rust in the future – as an MW to share their own experience with the next generation.