An Aggie in France: Horticulture degree leads to graduate program in winemaking
By Misty B. Wilburn
COLLEGE STATION — Wine production has always been wrapped in an air of mystery and romance. From the rolling acres of grapes and vines, to the wineries where the grapes are refined, wine making brings to mind a passion few things can.
Robert Nida, a member of Texas A&M University class of 2008, became interested in wine when he was doing a work-abroad in Chile in March 2007. This led to his decision to pursue a graduate degree in winemaking.
Nida earned a bachelor of science degree in horticulture through the Department of Horticulture in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Last January, he applied for graduate school at Montpellier SupAgro in France. He is enrolled in a two-year program focused on viticulture and enology. Viticulture is the science, production and study of grapes. Enology is the study of wine and winemaking from the grape harvest to the bottle.
“I applied to Montpellier SupAgro because I was very interested in the program,” Nida said. “The description of the program was what caught my attention and made me apply.
“As I was reading the description of the program, I actually felt that the program was made for me,” he said.
The last semester of the program includes an internship either in Portugal, Spain, France, Italy or Germany.
“I would really like to do my internship in Spain because I already know some Spanish from when I was in Chile,” he said. “I think this will be a great way to improve my Spanish and learn many new things about wine.”
Originally from Highland Village, a suburb of Dallas, Nida is excited about moving to France, but is also a bit apprehensive.
“I have always loved to travel and immerse myself in other cultures,” he said. “I see this as just one big adventure. I am sad to leave my corp buddies and the friends I have made at my job this summer.”
Nida is currently working at Woodrose Winery in Stonewall. He worked there through his Christmas break and moved back to the area after graduation. Woodrose began growing grapes in 2001 and is currently owned by Mike Guilette.
While he was at Texas A&M, several people impacted Nida’s life, he said.
“Sharon Duray had the biggest impact on me during my time at Texas A&M,” Nida said. “She was the best advisor I could have ever had.”
“She helped out in any way she could and was always interested in what you were doing and if you needed any help,” Nida said.
Duray, an academic advisor in the horticulture sciences department, said, “He [Nida] is the type of student that did everything asked of him and more.”
“This prestigious school [Montpellier SupAgro] will teach Robert about wine production in France, as well as complete an internship in another country such as Spain, Italy, Portugal or Greece,” Duray said. “Robert’s spirit of adventure and love of learning will prepare him well for a great future in the wine industry.”
After graduation, Nida hopes to work for different wineries around the world. He would like to work all the way down to New Zealand, he said, and eventually return to Texas.
“I would like to return to Texas and either start my own place or find a place to work in the Fredericksburg area,” he said.