The wine students at Plumpton College are fortunate to have Dr Akshay Baboo and Deepika Koushik as part of the international teaching team, bringing their knowledge and talent – both academic and practical – from around the world. They are also married. Akshay is the Programme Manager for the undergraduate degrees in wine production and teaches winemaking. Deepika is the Winemaker at Plumpton and teaches winery operation skills.
A career in wine production
“When I was seven, I saw a documentary on winemaking,” said Akshay. “My mother brought home grapes the next day and I decided to make them into wine – Mum wasn’t best pleased. I guess that’s when the bug bit me!” He added. “I think wine found me,” explained Deepika. “I taught microbiology and was extremely interested in fermentation sciences and after visits to wineries I decided to take up winemaking as a career. I wanted a career where I could learn something new every day and something that keeps me on my toes, and making wine is all about that!” Deepika added.
Studying winemaking and viticulture
“I have a degree in botany, chemistry and zoology from Bangalore University in India, a Masters in viticulture and oenology from École Nationale Supérieure d’Agronomie, Montpellier SupAgro, a Diplôme National from the University of Bordeaux, and a doctorate from the University of Turin,” explained Akshay. “I did my Masters in Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis, California. Before, that I did an MSc. In Applied Biotechnology at University of Westminster in London. I also studied chemistry, zoology and microbiology at Mount Carmel College, Bangalore, India,” added Deepika.
“I worked in Dehlinger Winery, California, where they specialise in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. I also worked for Château De La Tour in Clos de Vougeot in Burgundy, and before I joined Plumpton I worked with Rathfinny Wine Estate,” explained Deepika. “I started out working for a very large multinational in Bordeaux and Champagne,” added Akshay, “and after this I started a wine consultancy firm, based in Milan where I worked as a consultant winemaker at several small family run vineyards in Spain, Italy, France, and Germany. I then moved back to India and worked for Grover Zampa Vineyards as their assistant winemaker and AVP – Vineyards. The UK beckoned with the opportunity to teach, and to do research within a small but dedicated team of academics – and not to mention the fizz,” smiled Akshay.
What do you love about your jobs?
“I really enjoy the interesting discussions with students and the long ‘corridor chats’ as well as looking at various aspects of winemaking, and the variety in their paradigms of thought,” said Akshay. “I love it that my job involves doing something slightly new and different every day. Also the students – they have so many questions and new approaches to things, it challenges me to give them the best experience they can get,” added Deepika.
Challenges and opportunities in the UK
“I think there are a lot of opportunities for building a career in viticulture and winemaking in the UK. I think that the UK’s sparkling wines are the calling card to the wine world. I think the challenge, apart from the ever-fluctuating vintages, now, is how to get the wine all over the world and grow the region as a must have,” commented Deepika. “With climate change, the opportunities for the UK is huge, within the fizz market, and eventually in the still wine market as well, however, the single most important challenge for this industry, in my opinion, is reduced yields, which not only has an effect to the price of the wine, but is also capitally intensive for producers,” added Akshay.
Tips for a career in wine
“Be prepared to work long, and tiring days,” exclaimed Akhsay, “and be prepared to clean at the end of a long and tiring day. Be flexible. Have a willingness to learn a new skill – be it plumbing, or engineering, or chemistry,” he added. “Get experience anywhere and everywhere you can. The different areas of wine from viticulture to cellar work, to sales and managing inventory – all those skills will help out when you least expect it,” Deepika added.
“We met in Bangalore and were married in July of 2020. Working together is easy and we are able to bounce ideas off each other – but we are still learning to switch off at the end of the day,” said Akshay. “We definitely had to learn how to separate out professional and personal lives though,” Deepika agreed.
“Other than Plumpton Brut Classic! Trouble with Dreams 2010, Hindleap BdB 2010, and Suitcase Pinot Noir are my favourites,” commented Akshay. “I also particularly liked an Orange Bacchus made by Chapel Down,” added Deepika.
Any spare time?
“I like to paint and go for hikes. If I had more spare time I would love to go touring more wine regions!” Deepika commented. “I like to cook, read about wine, travel – and anything Formula 1,” Akshay added.