The three finalists for the Tonnellerie de Mercurey Young Winemaker competition have been found and will go head-to-head for the national title at EIT in the Hawke's Bay on November 6.
First finalist was Ben McNab from Matahiwi in Wairarapa, winner of the Tonnellerie de Mercurey North Island Young Winemaker competition held on September 4 at the grand final venue.
This competition was open to emerging young winemakers under 30 years old from all around the North Island.
This year contestants came from Hawke's Bay, Auckland, Gisborne and Wairarapa.
"It was fantastic to have contestants from all around the North Island," says Nicky Grandorge, leadership & communities manager at NZ Winegrowers.
"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."
Kaitlin Bond from Indevin in Gisborne came second and Douw Grobler from Trinity Hill in Hawke's Bay was third.
It was a tough day as 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.
Ben won a prize package of $1000, an educational trip to Nelson and also an invaluable year of mentoring from regional sponsor Collective Intelligence.
Tonnellerie de Mercurey Central Otago Young Winemaker is Ben Tombs from Peregrine Wines.
The regional final was held on September 10 at VinPro in Cromwell.
Ben was back to defend his title from last year so was thrilled to be again raising the cup.
Last year, as he was on the Burgundy Exchange, he was unable to compete in the national final, so is extra thrilled to be heading up to Hawke's Bay in November this year to represent Central Otago.
Rachel Bradley from Burn Cottage was second and Jordan Moores from Felton Road came third.
The talented Young Winemakers were tested on many aspects involved with wine production including a fork lift challenge, laboratory tests, blending, fault finding, world wine knowledge and marketing.
The contestants also delivered some very interesting speeches on topics such as biodynamics, the effect of Covid on the NZ wine industry and the use of social media in the wine industry.
"It was great to see how much preparation the contestants had done prior to the competition," said Nicky.
"They all wanted to stretch themselves yet at the same time really encouraged each other, demonstrating a very ambitious and supportive young wine community in Central Otago. It's fantastic!"
The last finalist is Peter Russell from Matua, winner of the Tonnellerie de Mercurey Marlborough Young Winemaker competition held at NMIT in Blenheim on September 16.
Peter has competed in the competition the last couple of years, continuing to stretch himself so he could finally take out the title.
He is thrilled and now really looking forward to the national final being held in Hawke's Bay in November.
"We love to see this drive and passion in the contestants who are the future leaders of the wine industry," says Nicky.
"It's great that these young winemakers come back each year to pitch themselves against their peers and start making a name for themselves."
Runner-up was Callum Haynes, also from Matua, and Emma Marris from Marisco was third.
Due to Covid level 2 restrictions the competition was run behind closed doors with no dinner this year.
For the very first time the speeches were therefore streamed live from the Bragato Research Institute via Zoom at lunchtime. Many people tuned in to watch and then tuned back in at the end of the day to see the winners being announced.
The judges were impressed by the calibre of all the contestants and were excited to see such passionate young winemakers emerging to continue growing the New Zealand wine industry in the future.
Apart from being crowned the 2020 Tonnellerie de Mercurey NZ Young Winemaker of the Year, the national winner will take home a 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.