Posted 13 September 2013
Harper Adams really got me interested in education. I hated school and it was not until I came here that the staff got me interested and my path here today started
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Dr Mike Trought has spent decades helping to put New Zealand wine firmly on the international stage.
Having emigrated to New Zealand from Britain in 1978, Dr Trought participated in the Marlborough wine industry growing from its infancy in the early 1980s to its present position as the predominant wine growing region in New Zealand.
But the industry expert says he would not be where he is today if it had not been for his time at Harper Adams Agricultural College – now Harper Adams University.
And so 42 years after leaving the institution near Newport, he fulfilled a dream and returned to speak to students and staff about his successful career.
“I was at Harper Adams from 1969 to 1971 and I did a National Diploma in Agriculture. At that time there were just 200 students here – eight of which were women and 192 men,” added Dr Trought, who is now the Principal Scientist with Plant and Food Research at New Zealand’s Marlborough Wine Research Centre.
“Harper Adams really got me interested in education. I hated school and it was not until I came here that the staff got me interested and my path here today started.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my time here. It put my life and career on a direction that, at the time, I could not have predicted. I have a great affection for Harper Adams.
“On leaving Harper Adams I was encouraged by the staff here to go and do a degree at Aberystwyth University and then went on to do a PhD at Letcombe Laboratory in Oxfordshire.
“In 1978 I was offered a position in New Zealand. I got married six days before I went and have never come back.”
During his early years in New Zealand Dr Trought managed most of the early grape research in Marlborough before spending eight years as a Senior Lecturer in Viticulture at Lincoln University, New Zealand’s specialist land-based university, and four years as the Marlborough Regional Viticulturist at Villa Maria Wines.
During his seminar, entitled ‘Soils & Sunshine: the success of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc’, which took place on September 5, Dr Trought talked about how the use of precision viticulture technology can assist grape growers and wine producers manage variability within vineyards.
“Our programme basically looks at the sort of environmental factors that drive and control flavour and aroma in New Zealand wine, particularly Sauvignon Blanc,” he said.
“One of the things about the Wairau Plains in the North-East corner of New Zealand are the soils are predominantly alluvial so you get quite a lot of variability in soil texture running east to west.
“The variation in texture has a profound influence on the ripening, flavour and aroma profile of the grapes. So what we have been doing is trying to map the vineyards to understand how this variation effects the fruit composition and ultimately the wine style.
“When you are harvesting it you take the whole lot together and it blends into a unique character which is a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.
“Knowing the variation and the degree of variation helps us make harvesting decisions. Knowledge of fruit variability and how it changes with time provides us with information to make a better informed decision.
“We are trying to provide tools for the industry to make better informed decisions. How you use that information is up to you.”