A first-year wine student has taken a top accolade at the Marlborough Wine Show against all odds.
NMIT wine science student Johnny Valencia entered the prestigious competition with a chardonnay that went wrong in every way possible, except for the result.
And the former skipper thought he had only beaten other students for the award.
Valencia said the trouble began in the vineyard when birds ate half the grapes reserved for his wine.
"Everything that could go wrong, went wrong," he says.
"The other grapes were underripe, which brought the acidity up."
With the guidance of NMIT wine science tutor Ngarita Warden, he made up for the lack of chardonnay grapes with "a bit of chenin blanc and albarino".
Then, during fermentation, a fridge malfunction saw the temperature of his wine skyrocket to more than 50 degrees Celsius – killing the good bugs that bring down the acidity of the wine.
"The fridge malfunctioned and killed the bugs that were doing the work," Valencia said.
"It left the wine in a bit of a poor state, so I had to change the plan a bit."
Valencia managed to complete his wine and enter it in the competition – but wasn't confident he could reproduce the unique wine.
"I don't know whether the things that went wrong made it good."
Valencia was awarded the NMIT Gingko Trophy for the best student wine by Wine Marlborough general manager Marcus Pickens at a ceremony at NMIT on Thursday.
He says the science-heavy course had been great, and he was happy with the win.
"I really like wine and there's a lot of opportunity here in the industry.
"I thought the competition was between students, and when I was told I got bronze I thought I had come third out of the students."
Warden said she was proud of the students and the wines they'd made.
"Students start the first year not knowing much. The intro gives them solid knowledge and confidence," she said.
The course gave students the chance to experiment with yeast and temperatures, Warden said.
"They [students] feel a lot more confident going out into a commercial winery."
NMIT has been entering wines in the local wines show since 2019.
The wines are entered alongside professional wines and judges are not aware which wines are made by students.
Warden said each wine was judged on its merits.
Valencia said the win demonstrated the quality of students at NMIT.
"It's an important aspect of the show, looking at the future and upcoming talent in the region."
- Marlborough Weekly