A competition which fosters young leaders in the viticulture industry and is in its tenth and largest year is open to viticulturists aged 30 or younger.

Competition co-ordinator Nicky Grandorge, who is a Wine and Spirit Education Trust-certified educator and won the 2007 Vintner's Cup, has 20 years of experience in the industry.

"I have a real passion for wine and the trade," Grandorge says.

"It has given me a great opportunity to travel, meet interesting and inspirational people, and taste lots of amazing wines."


Grandorge takes over from Emma Taylor, the 2007 Young Viticulturist of the Year winner, who went on to win Young Horticulturist of the Year.

"It's a great competition," says Taylor, who works for Villa Maria.

"After I won I got publicity and job offers. People start to know who you are. It's great for recognition in an industry that's been around a while, highlighting the younger people in viticulture."

She credits the competition with helping her gain a place on the NZ Wine Growers research committee.

Grandorge says participating in the competition is about more than just trying to take the top prize.

"It offers participants extra knowledge and confidence, as well as the opportunity to meet other young viticulturists from around the country. They can share ideas and network with each other, previous winners, and key leaders in the New Zealand viticulture sector."

Many past entrants have competed several times before going on to win.

The competition winner receives prizes which include $2000 cash, $5000 travel and travel and accommodation costs to compete in the Young Horticulturist of the Year final, but Taylor says it's the experience entrants get from competing that is the real prize.

The competition is a mix of practical and theoretical skills. Taylor says it tested knowledge in all aspects of viticulture, including mulching, pruning, operating a frost machine, changing straining wires on a post, health and safety, budgeting, public speaking, general knowledge and leadership interviews.

"I'd just say that it pulls you out of your comfort zone a bit. It's such a good experience. You make so many contacts nationwide through the competition so all the entrants get noticed.

"It's a great experience to do. It helps you find weaknesses and strengths in your knowledge which can help you specialise in your careers, or get better all round," Taylor says.

Past entrants and winners have gone on to huge success in the wine industry. Caine Thompson, the 2009 winner, is now managing director at Pyramid Valley Wines, and Stuart Dudley, who won in 2010, is now Marlborough viticulturist at Villa Maria Estate.

-The National Finals of the Young Viticulturist of the Year award are on August 27. More information is available at nzwine.com