Courtney Sang

Assistant Winemaker & Vineyard Supervisor | Obsidian Wines | Waiheke Island, Auckland

 

Courtney grew up in Auckland, and initially studied engineering at university like both her father and older brother had. After working a few years in the engineering industry, Courtney had as she calls it a ‘quarter-life crisis. This 'crisis' prompted her to join the wine industry, and she hasn’t looked back since.

Courtney Sang
Courtney Sang

So, tell us about where you grew up, what you wanted to ‘be’ when you grew up, and generally what led you to your role today?

I grew up in Auckland, going to primary school, high school and University all in Auckland. I did manage to get to the USA for my final year of high school, when I did a year long exchange to a high school in Walla Walla, Washington.

I didn’t really know exactly what I wanted to be growing up but at university I studied engineering and I chose to specialise in Chemical and Materials Engineering because I loved chemistry and physics. But after working a few years in the engineering industry, I had a quarter-life crisis I decided to join the wine industry. I haven’t looked back and have loved being around vines and wines ever since.

I’ve also been trying to start up a wine analysis business on Waiheke Island to help winemakers here make the best wines that they can. It’s definitely had a few bumps along the way, but I hope that this year it will be a success.

 

How long have you been involved in the wine industry and what made you want to become part of it?

My introduction to the wine industry was with a postgraduate diploma in Wine Science from the University of Auckland which I started in 2017. It gave me a great foundation for winemaking and lead me to doing several overseas vintages, in France and USA.

Being part of the wine industry gives me a chance to produce a product that I am proud of and that I can share with friends and family.

It also allows me to travel the world to gain experience and share my passion of wine with other like-minded people in new cultures.

 

What do you love most about your role?

I have loved the challenge in the last year of being involved in everything related to producing wine. Working in a small winery and a small team means that you are involved in everything, from the vineyard to the winery, to bottling and selling. Getting the end-to-end experience makes drinking the wine at the end especially rewarding.

 

What is the most challenging aspect of your role?

The logistics of making wine on an island (Waiheke Island) has got to be one of the biggest challenges as we have reduced accessibility to suppliers, consumers, and staff.

 

To you, what makes the New Zealand wine industry special / unique?

The New Zealand wine industry is still young, and every year our viticulturists and winemakers are continuing to push boundaries, ask questions and conduct research. The New Zealand Winegrowers organisation has been a great resource for the industry which I think is special and important for the future of the New Zealand wine industry.

 

Do you think there are gender-specific challenges in the wine industry? Do women have a harder time becoming successful/being taken seriously, or is that a thing of the past?

I don’t think that there are boundaries for women in the wine industry, and women are definitely being taken seriously and achieving incredible things but there are still not enough of us. It can be intimidating and challenging for women to continue to push through in a male dominated industry.

 

What goals in the wine industry are you still wanting to achieve?

I want to strive to produce sustainable wine in a future that is challenging the norm.

 

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

Don’t be put off by the physical aspect of viticulture or winemaking! 

Go for it! It’s such a rewarding industry to be part of.

 

What is your favourite place in New Zealand to visit and why?

I love visiting Central Otago. Being surrounded by the majestic snow-capped mountains of the southern alps always brings me a sense of wonderment. That’s what I miss the most living on Waiheke Island.

 

And finally, what is your favourite wine variety?

I love working with and drinking Chardonnay and Syrah. They both have different challenges in the vineyard but worth it in the winery as there are so many different styles for both varieties.

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