Young Winemaker Q&A

12 Oct 2020

On Friday 6 November, three of the country’s finest young winemakers will compete for the title of Tonnellerie de Mercurey Young Winemaker of the Year having already won their regional finals.

In the lead up to the National Final, we ask Ben, Ben and Peter what they love about the industry.

Ben McNab
Ben McNab

Ben McNab

Assistant Winemaker at Matahiwi Estate, Wairarapa

 
Where did you study and what got you into winemaking?

I studied with EIT and my entry into winemaking is similar to many, I was working retail, selling wine to people who seemed totally mad, talking about wine like it was alive with things like body, weight and balance. I was confused but soon understood. I met winemakers and discovered their passion, driving my curiosity and leading me to work my first harvest.

Subconsciously my passion for fermentation and winemaking was embedded as a young sprocket. I was often allowed to brew ginger beer, the blossoming yeast and carbon dioxide seemed quite magical and every now and then a bottle would explode. How brilliant!

What would you say to someone considering a career in wine?

Try it, absolutely try it. There are so many avenues in the wine industry where you can explore your interests and figure out how you fit in.

What’s the most challenging aspect of the young winemaker competition?

Time pressure. Each of the modules is limited by time, which often steals my clarity of thought for a moment. It replicates a busy day in the winery, where thinking on your feet is crucial, with instinct and experience coming into play.

 

Ben Tombs
Ben Tombs

Ben Tombs

Assistant Winemaker at Peregrine Wines, Central Otago

 
Where did you study and what got you into winemaking?

Fresh out of high school in Marlborough and unsure on what to do, I signed up for vintage at Wither Hills Winery in 2011. Absolutely loved the adrenaline of night shift and the mysteries of how basically everything worked.

I was fortunate they kept me on for a couple of years after, then I made my way up to Hawke’s Bay to build the theory behind some practical knowledge with a degree at Eastern Institute of Technology.

What would you say to someone considering a career in wine?

Make sure to reach out and have a chat with someone in the industry first. Everyone is willing to help! There’s a massive range of diversified paths to take, so it’s important to find the right one that suits you, then dive in! I think getting a taste for some practical work first is great before committing to study.

What’s the most challenging aspect of the young winemaker competition?

The competition is designed to challenge you, so every aspect is challenging, being well rounded is key. It’s a great way to highlight your weak points so you can build on them for the future.

 

Peter Russell
Peter Russell

Peter Russell

Production Winemaker at Matua, Marlborough

 
Where did you study and what got you into winemaking?

I studied at Lincoln University and was drawn into winemaking after doing well in chemistry and horticulture at school, and haven’t looked back since!

What would you say to someone considering a career in wine?

I would say it will be the best decision for a job you can make, it’s a dynamic industry that’s constantly evolving which lets you use all of your skills and develop more and as a bonus, you meet some pretty awesome people along the way too.

Matua is a small team and we are given an opportunity to be involved in all areas of the winemaking which is pretty amazing as we have some awesome vineyards and parcels of fruit we get to make wine with.

What’s the most challenging aspect of the young winemaker competition?

It’s a day where you are constantly challenged and you are competing against the best young people around you so you have to be at the top of your game all day before relaxing by having a drink and a laugh with everyone else.

 

 

This article was first published in New Zealand Winegrower magazine

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