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Young viticulturists the pick of the bunch

Annika Salenjus from Craggy Range has been crowned Wairarapa’s Young Viticulturist of the Year 2023.

The competition to decide the winner was held last Thursday at the Escarpment Vineyards in Martinborough.

New Zealand Winegrowers leadership and communities manager Nicky Grandorge told the Times-Age the contestants had only recently arrived in New Zealand and are all in the early stages of their careers.

“Annika did very well in various sections; she had a good all-round knowledge about viticulture.

“It was a really positive day; even though they were out of their comfort zones, they kept smiling throughout the day,” Grandorge said.

The five young and eager viticulturists were judged on an interview, and challenges including trellising, budgeting, machinery, and biosecurity skills.

“It’s fantastic to see new young people coming into Wairarapa who are ambitious and willing to put themselves out there,” Regional Chair Rowan Hoskins said.

“We were all highly impressed with their drive and ambition to grow their viticultural careers.”

Alex Coombs from Schubert took out second place, and Emily Telford from Foley Family Vines secured third place.

Meanwhile, Peter Graham from Paddy Borthwick took home the Ormond Professional Reputation Award, blowing judges away with his bright attitude about the competition from the moment he signed up to compete.

No one went home empty-handed, with Phattaradanai Wannaphirun, also known as Neil, awarded the Ecotrellis trellising section.

Contestants were well fed throughout the day, with a midday BBQ, and an awards dinner held in Escarpment’s cellar to finish off the day.

The winners will not be competing in the national final in Hawke’s Bay at the end of August, Grandorge said, but “will head along and see it as a learning experience and to have a bit of mentoring”.

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