As the first female oenologist in Thailand and, at 24, the youngest, Visootha "Nikki" Lohitnavy is a rising star in the wine world. Nikki graduated in 2008 with a Bachelor’s degree in Oenology and honours in Viticulture at the University of Adelaide. During her studies, she was already earmarked for great things, winning the prestigious Foster's Wine Estates Prize for Excellence in Winemaking in 2007.
Now the director of Gran Monte Vineyard and Winery, a family business started by her father in 1999, Nikki is in the perfect position to grow the family business and capitalise on the Thailand’s newly held position as a serious contender in the world's wine industry.
Watching her father run the business and nurture and care for the grapes in their vineyard has inspired Nikki to forge her own career in wine. “I started to love wine and the processes of winemaking as young as 14. I then decided that winemaking was my path.”
“I chose Adelaide because research and development of viticulture and winemaking is far more advanced in Australia.”
When it came to choosing a university, Nikki weighed up studying in both California and Adelaide. “I chose Adelaide,” said Nikki, “because research and development of viticulture and winemaking is far more advanced in Australia than in any other country in the world.”
Her C.V. is peppered with the names of world-famous wineries. With work experience at Brown Brothers and Wolf Blass in South Australia, Chateau Angelus and La Fleur de Bouard in France, Anwilka of Stellenbosch in South Africa and Quinta de Roriz in Portugal, where Nikki is a consulting winemaker. Nikki’s global experience is a reflection of her ambition to perfect her craft.
Nikki couldn’t be happier that she chose to study in Australia. “It is a truly amazing country: the landscape, the people, the food and wine culture (with great pies and cheese!) and the sports. I had mostly Australian friends when I was there, who influenced me to get part-time jobs while I was studying. I learnt how to earn, how to budget my money, pay rent, organise my time between university and work but still have time to have fun. All that experience really made me who I am today!”
As far as the future is concerned, Nikki won’t be resting on her laurels anytime soon. Together with her family, she plans to expand the GranMonte business through the acquisition of vineyards around the world. “The wine world is small but global. You see the same faces over and over and the travel opportunities are endless. There is always another adventure on the horizon.”