A fortnight out from the 2016 Tonnellerie de Mercurey Young Hawke's Bay Winemaker of the Year competition and Alex Roper had "stepping up" on his mind.

In last year's competition he finished third and for his second appearance was intent on at least moving up a place.

But he did better than that - he moved up two places and took out the title which was announced at a sell-out celebratory dinner at Mission Estate on Friday night.

The 28-year-old was delighted, as were the hosts for the evening as he has been part of the Mission winemaking crew for the past six years. While he was able to relax yesterday and savour his win, in less than six weeks he will have it all to do again - but on a slightly bigger scale.


He will represent Hawke's Bay in the New Zealand Young Winemaker of the Year competition which will be staged as part of the annual Romeo Bragato National Conference in Marlborough.

"I haven't really thought about that yet - whatever happens at the national will happen - I'm just rapt to win this one."

As were the tables of his friends and work colleagues on the night.

"Yeah we kind of went into the small hours afterwards," he said.

He said the competition which was staged at the EIT had been demanding and challenging - even the slightly light-hearted side of it, which is dubbed the Vin Olympics.

The competitors were challenged to fill a jug a metre away with wine - by spitting it in, run a course carrying two jugs of wine, separate egg whites from yolks and take part in a rapid-fire identification of different varieties.

On the more serious side there were sessions involving fault-finding in wines and categorising the various production techniques for different varieties.

During the evening's events, each of the six competitors had to present a speech on the subject of "Water issues and the effects on the Hawke's Bay wine industry".

Mr Roper said his fellow competitors were all very polished and he reckoned it came down to the wire. Tom Hindmarsh from Dry River was runner-up, and like Mr Roper will also go through to the national final.

Hawke's Bay Winegrowers Association executive officer Melisa Beight said all six competitors did themselves proud and she and the judging team were equally proud of the way they all gave "100 per cent".

She said unlike last year when the women dominated the winning spots, this year the first three were all men.

"Alex excelled during the day," Ms Beight said.

"He stayed calm, cool and collected."

Mr Roper smiled and said it might have appeared that way.

"But I was a bag of nerves inside."