Nationals next for winery champ

By Amy Shanks

After a hard battle which tested knowledge, technical and practical skills, Villa Maria's Paul Robinson was named Hawke's Bay regional Moore Stephens Markhams Young Viticulturist of the Year.

Yesterday, five local competitors and one representing Gisborne, showcased their potential on the vineyard and during a fast-paced, yet glamorous evening at the Mission Estate Winery in Taradale.


In front of an audience, entrants were required to complete a blind wine tasting, speak about a topical issue and answer a series of quick-fire questions. That was after a day in the vines racing against each other and the clock, across nine different categories.

Brenton O'Riley came out on top in the irrigation section; Mike Saunders shone during an interview and in the general vineyard plant category; Matthew Fox showed all-round skills in the horty sports; while Paul Robinson took out budgeting, as well as pruning and trellising challenges. But it was 22-year-old first time entrant Angela Beattie, who stole the show, gaining the best score in two sections: farmlands horticulture pest and disease, and AgTech machinery.

"Angela deserves a medal, she only decided to enter [on Thursday], she's still studying and was convinced by her EIT tutor to take part," event co-organiser Andrew McNeil said. "It's not often that a first time competitor wins one category, let alone two. It takes a lot of guts to get out there."

Ms Beattie showed the boys up after successfully navigating a digger around an obstacle course, before using it to pour wine from a bottle and into a glass; she also demonstrated her knowledge of pests and diseases affecting grapes.

Judges were not only examining a hands on approach to the industry, but looked for good sense, good rapport, good practices and good presentation.

Overall winner, Mr Robinson, walked away with a trophy, wine glasses, $1000 cash and will take part in the national competition in Blenheim on August 27.

Mr Saunders from Esk Valley Estate had a strong round winning the speech and general knowledge sections at last night's event, putting him in second place, with a $500 cash prize while Mr O'Riley from Delegat's came third and won $250.

Mr Fox from Gisborne also gained enough points to represent Poverty Bay in the final.

Hawke's Bay has had two previous national competition winners; Emma Taylor in 2007 and Caine Thompson in 2009.

Last year's regional winner was Johnny La Trobe, from Sacred Hill, who gained a new job offer off the back of his win.

"Employers see the fact that these young people are putting themselves out there to compete, and they keep an eye on them," Mr McNeil said.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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