“I love Italian culture, traditional cuisine and… wine. That’s why I wanted to learn as much as possible about it. I had to wait a few months for the wine courses from the Institute of Lifelong Learning due to the coronavirus, but it was worth it. I got a lot of valuable information from the experts at their word, I saw the sect opening by a saber, I experienced tours of the vineyards with a lot of practical tips. Winery absorbed me and I hope that in the future it will be more than just my hobby,” says Ondřej Vodička.
Did you plan to participate in all four winemaking courses right from the start? What led you to this?
My interest in obtaining information and knowledge about wine and viticulture was not driven by a desire to learn more about a beverage that I regularly and passionately consume. I have been interested in Italian culture, language, traditional cuisine and gastronomy for a long time. I have been working my entire professional life as an operational technologist in a polygraphic production where books are produced. During covid, I finally got around to reading books again, specifically one book about Tuscany and Tuscan wine. I realized how strongly viticulture and winemaking are tied to the cultural roots of a certain nation. And so I decided that if I want to have a holistic knowledge of this country, I must also know something about wine, because Italy is the world’s largest wine producer. I spent a lot of time searching for information about Italian viticulture and wine production, but I often came across technical terminology that I did not know, describing technical procedures in viticulture and vinification. Guided wine tastings with didactic elements, or wineries open to the public, where I would learn something, were cancelled, or closed by the state those days. Sometime at the turn of 2020 and 2021, I got the idea to have a look at your university website to see if it is possible to participate in some courses for the general public. I found the Institute of Lifelong Learning (ILL) and four offered wine courses. Right in January, at a time of a very uncertain epidemiological situation, I contacted Zdeňka Šobová from ILL so as not to miss the first courses tentatively scheduled for February 2021. From the very beginning I was interested in getting as much information as possible, so I made preliminary arrangements to participate in all the courses. I was very happy when the epidemiological situation finally started to improve, fixed dates were set, and I was able to attend all the courses.
What did you like the most about the winemaking courses?
First of all, I would like to appreciate the organization of the courses, which was at a very high level. Both in the premises of the ILL and also during excursions outside the premises of the university. Ms. Šobová is a highly professional organizer, moreover, very willing and patient. As a layman hungry for all information, I was also very happy with the printed materials. Personally, I enjoyed the “Fundamentals of Winemaking” and the “Fundamentals of Viticulture” courses the most because of the amount of valuable information I learned and can refer back to thanks to the printed materials. The other two more practically orientated courses “Introduction to Gustation” and Basics of Sommeliership” were also very informative, ideal for people working in gastronomy, or with ambitions to become a sommelier or to take official tasting tests. I think that in terms of the volume of professional information, it was the maximum that the lecturing professors could squeeze in to the time frame of the courses. I would like to highlight the excellent selection of the lecturers. All three lecturers are famous capacities in their field, with broad theoretical and practical knowledge, which they can perfectly transfer even to inexperienced laymen. Specifically, Mr. Kamil Prokeš, who we spent most of the courses with, is a very erudite expert in the field of gustation and sommeliership. He introduces the information in a very calm and explanatory manner so that it is comprehensible even for absolute beginners, and in addition, he rewards his patient listeners with a demonstration of his mastery in the technique of opening sects – sabrage. Associate Professor Baroň is also a great capacity, especially in the field of wine expertise. He led the presentation in an energetic and entertaining way, involving the audience and with lots of interesting practical advice and examples. He really had a “kick for the goal”. I was very impressed by Mr. Sotolář, a real capacity and expert in the field of viticulture. An absolute “demon” of wine varieties and a walking ampelographic dictionary, who presented us the theoretical part of his course in a very engaging way and then “took us away” with practical knowledge and the number of grapes consumed right in the Lednice vineyard.
In your opinion, were the courses at Mendel University in Brno specific in any way compared to education elsewhere?
So far, I have only attended similar multi-day courses once. As part of my work duties or continuing professional education, I have tended to attend one-day courses, always focused on a specific issue in my field. Your courses may have differed in their sensitive selection of lecturers and their looser and more friendly presentation of the issues. My experience is that most other courses are led by people who do nothing else for a living but teaching. They are theoreticians with no practical experience. They go strictly by the “notes” they don’t digress, they don’t explain, they don’t provide opportunities for specific questions, because their interest is only to do a quick job for which they have been paid. From the point of view of their performance, then, it is a “one man show” and that only entertains the presenter, not the listener.
Will you use the knowledge from these courses in your work, either now or later? Or do you simply want to learn as much as possible about wine as your hobby?
I signed up for the courses mainly because I wanted to get as comprehensive set of valid information as possible from experts who know how to point out the key things. I no longer wanted to desperately “chew” the plethora of invalid and misleading information on the Internet. I wanted to take away the experience from the practical parts of the course and especially the theoretical minimum, which will serve both, the ordinary wine lover and the experienced one well. Perhaps the knowledge will serve as a basis for further studies if I decide to work, for example, in gastronomy. Today, everything is changing, and one never knows when seemingly insignificant information may come in handy as a part of a professional retraining. From the beginning, I took the courses as the best way to spend my vacation on. But at the same time, I secretly dreamed that this area would absorb me and convince me so much that I would start thinking about what path to take in my next professional life. If my work duties allow me, I would also like to apply for a bachelor’s degree in Viticulture at Mendel University Faculty of Horticulture, and maybe then work professionally in this noble field.
ILL has been organizing courses for over 15 years. Both, the general public and university graduates subscribe to them and thanks to these courses, they get up-to-date information about news and trends in their fields. In the beginning, there were barely 20 courses on offer, today ILL prepares more than 60 of them. Over the past 15 years, more than 10,000 interested participants have completed lifelong learning courses, and vast majority of them more than just one.
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