Douw Grobler from Trinity Hill was thrilled to be placed third in the Tonnellerie de Mercurey North Island Young Winemaker competition held on September 4 at EIT in Hawke's Bay.

Ben McNab from Matahiwi in Wairarapa was the winner with Kaitlin Bond from Indevin in Gisborne coming in second.

It's the third time Douw has been a finalist but he hopes it won't be the last.

"I'll be entering every year until I turn 30," the 27-year-old said.

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The competition is open to emerging young winemakers under 30 years old from all around the North Island. A maximum of eight contestants compete and the winner then goes on to represent the North Island in the national final.

This year contestants came from Hawke's Bay, Auckland, Gisborne and Wairarapa.

"It was fantastic to have contestants from all around the North Island," Nicky Grandorge, leadership & communities manager at NZ Winegrowers said.

"It meant all key winegrowing regions were represented and it was a great opportunity for the contestants to meet other young winemakers from outside their own region."

The young winemakers were tested on many aspects involved with wine production including a cellar challenge, laboratory tests, blending, fault finding, blind tasting, marketing and also giving a speech.

Douw, who emigrated to New Zealand from South Africa in 2009, said it was the third time he had entered the competition but the first time he had placed.

"I was so happy to get third."

Douw studied science at Massey but wasn't sure what he wanted to do. It was his mother who suggested he have a go at making wine.

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He went to EIT and did a concurrent degree and stated work at Trinity Hill in 2016.

"I love it. It's hands on — I like the physical aspect of it and applying the knowledge I gained while studying.

"The other thing I like about it is the unpredictability of it. Every vintage is different and I'm constantly learning."

He said the competition was another way to pick up new skills.

"It's eight hours of learning. There are lots of things to cover and because you are going from station to station rather than head to head with the other contestants it's really hard to gauge how you are doing. So the announcement at the end of the day is always a big surprise."

He encouraged any young winemaker to have a go at entering the competition.

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"It builds confidence and it's an introduction to other people in the industry."

He said Trinity Hill's 2020 season was phenomenal.

"It was a fantastic season with perfect weather. I always say to people to enjoy every year's vintage because it's the best we have at the moment," he laughed.

Sue Blackmore, head of staff for Viticulture and Wine at EIT, said it was always a pleasure to have the industry and winegrowers activities on the EIT campus.

"Any way that we can support and interact with industry is a priority for us. Our rep Elise Montgomery and the lab team headed by Lisa Roben did an amazing job setting up and assisting the young winemaker team to set up and run the competition."

The national final is being held in Hawke's Bay this year on November 6 when McNab will compete against the winners from Central Otago and Marlborough.

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Apart from being crowned the 2020 Tonnellerie de Mercurey NZ Young Winemaker of the Year, the national winner will take home an amazing prize package which includes a travel grant to visit the cooperage (tonnellerie) in Burgundy, be an associate judge in the New World Wine Awards and review wines in DrinksBiz magazine.

The competition is made possible by all the generous sponsors, who are appreciated more than ever in this challenging year.