29 Aug 2023

The University of Adelaide will offer future winemakers the opportunity to study and learn the science behind the craft through a scholarship fund set up to honour the legacy of its lauded South Australian alumni winemaker Taras Ochota.

Tara was regarded as being in a class of his own and has been described by others in his field as “a once in a generation winemaker”.

The Taras Ochota Scholarship Fund has been established in his honour to provide financial support to aspiring winemakers studying viticulture and oenology or related programs at the University of Adelaide.

Nick Ryan, who became a close and life-long friend of Ochota’s after they met on their first day of high school in 1984, said: “His death was a huge loss, and not just to his family and friends: the world lost a beautiful human being - but his memory will be with us now for many years to come through the scholarship fund and the legacy of his outstanding and celebrated skills as a winemaker.”

Taras Ochota was regarded as being in a class of his own as a winemaker and helped to change the way wines were made in Australia. He carried the vast well of knowledge he’d learned during his studies at the University, on his travels and through on-the-ground work with mentors in the industry to set up his own small winery, Ochota Barrels, with his wife, Amber, in the Adelaide Hills.

Their driving passion was to create beautiful and elegant wines that required “minimal intervention”. Ochota, in pursuit of that, was generous in passing on his extensive knowledge and was described by those he either worked with or mentored as a person who loved to share his expertise with others. 

That sentiment was echoed by Ryan, who described the Ochota legacy as all-encompassing – adding that his willingness to experiment, take the roads less travelled and think outside the barrel completely changed the face of winemaking in South Australia.

“In years to come when people write about the history of Australian wine, when it comes to my generation, Taras is who they will look to. At a time when Australian wine had come to be known internationally as prestigious, big, bombastic and overblown, Taras’ wines were elegant, beautifully poised and immediately drinkable. He made the wine world reconsider Australian wine at an important time,” he said.

“Taras was able to be exploratory and push the envelope because he could back it up with the science . . . and he learned that right here in SA and at the University of Adelaide.”

In order to raise the much-needed funds for the Taras Ochota Scholarship, a fundraising event will take place on Sunday 24 September to be held in the legendary Mary’s Underground in Sydney. Hosted by freelance wine and drinks writer, journalist and presenter Mike Bennie, the event will feature tastings from some of Australia’s best winemakers,  and silent and live auctions. All funds raised on the night will go towards the Taras Ochota Scholarship, supporting aspiring winemakers to achieve their degree at the University of Adelaide and ensuring that Taras’ legacy as a winemaker continues to be shared with future generations.