The Shout Magazine (New Zealand)

Young Viticulturist of the Year 2023: The regional winners

Hawke’s Bay winner Nick Putt

The 2023 Young Viticulturist of the Year competition currently is taking place around New Zealand, celebrating the future of viticulture in this country.

The contestants in each regional final are tested on various viticultural skills, including pruning, budgeting, biosecurity and public speaking.

The finalists from Auckland, Wairarapa, Hawke’s Bay, Marlborough, North Canterbury and Central Otago will then compete in the national final, set to take place in Hawke’s Bay at the end of August.

The overall winner will take home a Hyundai Kona for a year, an Ecotrellis travel grant, a Leadership Week, Electrocoup electronic secateurs and AEG power tools and money.

Here are the regional winners so far…


Tai Nelson

Tai Nelson, Vineyard Manager at Soljan’s Estate, took out the title of Auckland/Northern Young Viticulturist of the Year 2023 at The Hunting Lodge in West Auckland on June 8. Leon Henson from Vinetrak came in second and Tobia Ficini from Stonyridge was third. “It was great to see them giving it their all, wanting to stretch themselves as well as have some fun along the way,” said Adam Yukich, Auckland/Northern Young Vit Chair. “It’s what Young Vit is all about.”

Nick Putt

Hawke’s Bay

Nick Putt, Hawke’s Bay Vineyard Manager at Craggy Range, was named the Hawke’s Bay Young Viticulturist of the Year 2023 on June 15. The competition took place at Paritua Estate with eight contestants. Douw Grobler from Trinity Hill came in second and Daniel Brewster from AONZ was third.


Annika Salenjus

Annika Salenjus from Craggy Range became the Wairarapa Young Viticulturist of the Year 2023 following the competition at Escarpment Vineyards in Martinborough on June 29. Alex Coombs from Schubert was second and Emily Telford from Foley Family Wines, third. It was the first time all three had entered the competition. “It’s fantastic to see new young people coming into Wairarapa who are ambitious and willing to put themselves out there,” said Regional Chair, Rowan Hoskins. “They were all out of their comfort zone, but all gave it 100%.”

Zac Howell


Zac Howell from Indevin took the title of Marlborough Young Viticulturist of the Year 2023 on July 6 at Giesen’s Stump Creek Road Vineyard. Laura Hammond from Cloudy Bay came in second and Liv Bishop from Delegat was third. Zac, 28, will represent Marlborough in the National Final in Hawke’s Bay on 30 August.

NIna Downer

Central Otago

Nina Downer, Vineyard Supervisor at Felton Road, became the Central Otago Young Viticulturist of the Year 2023 on July 12. As defending champion, she was thrilled to take out the title again having studied hard over the last few weeks. Katrina O’Reilly from Chard Farm came second and Maxine Jing from Burn Cottage was third.

North Canterbury

Tristan Van Schalkwyk

Tristan Van Schalkwyk from The Bone Line in Waipara became the North Canterbury Young Viticulturist of the Year 2023. The South Island Regional competition is open to contestants from Nelson, Waitaki and N. Canterbury. There was no competition last year, so Tristan was back to defend the title, having also won it in 2021. Nick McArthur from Tiki Wines came second and Georgia Mehlhopt from Greystone came in third.

Future final dates:

Marlborough – July 6
Central Otago – July 12
SI Regional – July 20
National Final Compettiion and dinner – August 30-31.

For more information, click here.

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