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Hawke’s Bay Viticulturist Scores Hat Trick of National Award

Hawke’s Bay’s Viticulturist Makes a Hat Trick of National Award

Paul Robinson with his striking New Zealand Viticulturist of the Year trophy.

Winner of the prestigious New Zealand’s Young Viticulturist of the Year title, Paul Robinson is an outstanding success story for the Hawke’s Bay winegrowing industry.

After leaving school a decade ago, Paul moved from Taranaki in pursuit of a horticulture-based career. Studying at EIT and working part-time in a friend’s vineyard combined theory and practice, he says, which made him want to finish the Bachelor of Viticulture and Bachelor of Wine Science concurrent degree.

The 27-year-old is now the assistant vineyard manager of Villa Maria’s Joseph Soler and Te Awa blocks, west of Hastings.

Having won the national title on his fourth attempt, Paul is feeling “over the moon”. He outperformed more than 45 budding viticulturists who entered from wine regions nationwide~and he is the third successive EIT graduate to have claimed the national title.

Paul was one of five to make it through to the finals, held as part of the recent Bragato Conference in Blenheim. Two others, Brenton O’Riley and Jeffery Farrell, were also EIT degree graduates and Brenton placed third.

Paul says he worked hard for his win.

“It’s been a while coming,” he laughs. “The extra work I put into the event paid off. I refreshed in my mind the things I do on the vineyard with trellising, wire work and tractor maintenance as well as viticulture work. That definitely helped.”

A huge benefit of taking part in previous competitions was the confidence and knowledge he had gained in delivering a speech and preparing for the judges’ interview.

“With the past experience, I feel I performed better.”

Pointing out that EIT graduates have won the title for the last three years, he says that’s good news for the tertiary educator. “It shows the quality of the graduates as well as lecturers and the things EIT has in place.”

Paul’s prize package is a $5000 travel voucher, a week-long trip to visit established New Zealand industry leaders, $2000 in cash, wine glasses and a year-long lease of an SUV.

Representing the viticulture industry in November’s New Zealand Young Horticulturist of the Year competition, he appreciates the enormity of the challenge ahead. For the multi-faceted event, finalists have to come up with a market innovation and shape a presentation around that.

“It keeps your brain ticking over,” says Paul, who is delaying any decisions around travel until he knows the outcome of the competition.

“There are a lot of European wine regions I haven’t seen yet and in particular I’m keen to see Bordeaux. I’ve never been to Australia’s wine regions either and that is somewhere I’d like to go. They are, after all, our next door neighbours.”

After leaving school, Paul moved to Hawke’s Bay, he says, because he wanted to do something horticulture-based.

“I thought I’d give EIT a go and, at the same time I got a job on a friend’s vineyard. Villa Maria took him on as a cadet in the third year of his degree studies and from there he worked his way up the ranks.

“They’re a good company to work for,” says Paul, who regularly updates his knowledge and experience of safe, responsible and effective use of agrichemicals by attending Growsafe courses at EIT.

* Two EIT students made wines that won bronze in the Bragato Wine Awards. Bachelor of Viticulture and Bachelor of Wine Science concurrent degree student Jascha Oldham-Selak made JOS Vintages Syrah 2014 from grapes grown by Danny van Zelm while Bachelor of Wine Science student Manuele Peretti used Delegat’s grapes to make H.Ave Wines Chardonnay 2014.

The wines were judged alongside commercial wines entered in the competition.


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