Featherston man Scott Lanceley will be representing Wairarapa when he competes to be 2015's Young Viticulturist of the Year this month.
Mr Lanceley, who works at Craggy Range as a vineyard operations worker, is "excited but apprehensive" about the competition and is studying in preparation.
"It's a big step up but the experience will be worth it."
The 26-year-old came up just short from winning the Wairarapa sector of the competition that was held at Te Kairanga Estate last week, placing second to Mark Langlands.
Mr Langlands is unable to attend the finals as he will be in California working a vintage so Mr Lanceley will go in his place to represent the region.
Nationwide, 24 people entered rounds held in the wine-making regions of Hawke's Bay, Central Otago, Marlborough and Wairarapa.
The Young Viticulturist of the Year 2015 finals will be held in conjunction with the New Zealand Winegrowers Romeo Bragato conference in Hawkes Bay at the end of the month.
"I'm going to Bragato in place of Mark but the fact that it was so close made it easier, it could have been either one of us because it was so close. Either one of us deserved to go."
To prepare for the competition, Mr Lanceley has been talking with past winners and competitors about what to expect and doing "self-motivated study".
"You just have to do that sort of thing because it's such a step up," he said. "If you are looking at winning it, you have to know a lot about the industry, you can't get away with general knowledge alone."
He said he would also need to practise his public speaking as entrants had to deliver a speech to about 300 people.
The former Wairarapa College student, now married with two children, joined the wine industry after 10 years in hospitality.
He started off pruning grapevines under a contract employer, before landing a full-time job at Craggy Range as a tractor operator five years ago.
"It's so fulfilling, I love it. At the moment, the vines look boneless but come March and April and we'll be harvesting all this gorgeous fruit."
He describes himself as "a jack of all" as his job entails operating machinery and equipment, assessing the vines and collecting data, as well as maintenance and repairs on trellising.
"Working outside I love it. The wind gets to you a little bit but the rain's fine."
Mr Lanceley said his aim was to get into vineyard management and, hopefully, one day have his own vineyard.
"But not 400 hectares, just a few hectares," he said.
"It's the little slice of paradise - a little vineyard that you can bring your family up and manage in your spare time.
"I'm passionate about wine but I think there's enough talented winemakers out there and the industry needs more talented viticulturists."
Only four people from Wairarapa entered the regional competition this year and two of them will be too old next year as competitors must be 30 years or under.
"We need people to get interested in this region, otherwise the competition will die out and a lot of the people are getting older so we need to focus on the young up-and-comers to get involved."