Student wines pass quality test against the best at Marlborough Wine Show

Student wines pass quality test against the best at Marlborough Wine Show

Student winemaker Lee Hall had to overcome unique challenges to produce his award-winning Muscat for the 2020 Marlborough Wine Show.

Student winemaker Lee Hall had to overcome unique challenges to produce his award-winning Muscat for the 2020 Marlborough Wine Show.

Lee won the Ginkgo Trophy for the best student wine at the show as well as a silver award in the Emerging White Varietal category.

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing to get his wine to an award-winning standard.

The COVID-19 lockdown in New Zealand happened during the harvest season, which meant the grapes from NMIT’s vineyard had to be frozen until students could return to use them.

Creating wine from frozen grapes is less than ideal, but Lee and his fellow students made the most of the situation.

“When COVID-19 hit and we had to use frozen grapes, expectations were not high,” Lee says.

All students in the first year of the Bachelor of Viticulture and Winemaking at NMIT have the opportunity to create their own wine.

They have control over the entire process, including ingredients, pressing of the grapes, variety, fermentation, and

“The entire process was just fun to learn, understanding all the little intricacies, being aware that the smallest wrong calculation can ruin everything.”

Lee says he decided to produce a Muscat because he enjoys sweet wines and it was a “sensible decision” given the constraints he was working under.

“It had a few advantages in my opinion. It’s very aromatic and not needing to do bentonite fining meant no flavours or aromas were stripped, taking nothing away from it. Also, the Muscat variety is not very common in the Marlborough region and making one that was well-balanced and didn't suck may have gone a long way.”

At this year’s Marlborough Wine Show, the student wines were judged alongside commercial wines from the region’s leading vineyards, so for Lee to receive a silver award was a remarkable accomplishment.

NMIT Viticulture and Winemaking tutor Ngarita Warden says Lee’s award-winning Muscat was “perfectly balanced”.

“This is a vivacious fresh wine that would be great as an aperitif, with salads, fruits or purely by itself,” she says.

“The aromas from the nose continue on to the palate which has a long, lingering finish.”

Lee says he’s interested in pursuing a career in winemaking once he’s graduated from NMIT.

“Learning characteristics of wine, understanding faults, how a wine was made just from nose and palate analytics — it’s capturing my curiosity.

“Being a winemaker is the natural job expectation, but in reality, I’ll most likely end up doing both winemaking and viticulture.”

Lee says he did work experience at Indevin(external link) last year, as part of the Cellar Operations programme, and he’s signed on for the 2021 vintage at Seifried(external link) in Nelson.

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