Across the country young viticulturists aspire to win the title of New Zealand Young Viticulturist of the Year—but there can be only one.
This year Jess Wilson from Whitehaven Wines in Marlborough got closer to the coveted title when she won the Corteva Marlborough Young Viticulturist of the Year 2021—the first woman to do so.
Four out of the eight contestants in the Marlborough regional event were Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT) Bachelor of Viticulture and Winemaking students.
NMIT Primary Industries Curriculum Manager Pam Wood says the competition is tough but the students get a lot out of the experience.
“Being a regional finalist looks great on their CV and it automatically puts them ahead of the pack. They also receive ongoing mentoring from the local team—who are mainly former regional and national winners themselves—so it opens lots of opportunities for them,” she says.
Current student Cara Hayes won the NMIT Future Influencer award. Her prize is a choice of online management courses to supplement her business understanding of the wine industry.
Each of the eight young Marlborough contestants completed practical and theoretical challenges covering all aspects of vineyard management. There was also a general knowledge quiz, an interview and they had to deliver a speech to an industry strong audience at the awards dinner.
The winners from six regional events go on to represent their region at the Corteva Young Viticulturist of the Year national final in August where the contestants have to submit a research project, followed up with a presentation on competition day.
The NZ Young Viticulturist of the Year competition(external link) is now in its sixteenth year. When it began there were three regional events—now there are six. The competition attracts a high caliber of entrants from throughout the country and previous winners have gone on to be senior leaders within the New Zealand wine industry.
NMIT Bachelor of Viticulture and Winemaking(external link) students competing in the 2021 New Zealand Young Viticulturist of the Year (Marlborough event):
Cara Hayes has come a long way in the wine industry in two years. She explored a few different career paths before finding the wine industry and landing her current role as a viticulture technician at Constellation Brands’ Brooklands Vineyard in central Wairau Valley. Cara hopes to pursue her own winegrowing operation.
Finn Horsfield is studying and working full-time as a vineyard operator at Marisco’s Waihopai River vineyard. Finn’s dream is to become one of the leading viticulturists in New Zealand and to work and contribute to numerous sites around New Zealand and the world.
Sam Hayman’s passion and interest in viticulture developed while he was working on his family’s vineyard. He graduated with his bachelor’s degree in 2020, and is a graduate viticulturist at Giesen Group where he works on their premium organic Clayvin vineyard.
Zac Howell started his study at Lincoln University before transferring to NMIT. He developed an interest in wine from his previous work in hospitality. Zac is employed at Rothay Vineyards in Rapaura as a general hand/ machinery operator.