Top accolade for Kiwi winemaker

Last updated 05:00 13/11/2012

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A Kiwi has taken out a prestigious trans-Tasman winemaking honour - beating the Aussies for the first time in the award's 12-year history.

Villa Maria's 34-year-old Auckland winemaker Nick Picone won The Wine Society's Young Winemaker of the Year award at an event in Sydney last week.

The award is open to New Zealand and Australian winemakers aged 35 and under. Entrants submit three wines for blind judging and each finalist then takes their best two through to the last round.

Picone beat three Kiwis and 10 Australians with the Villa Maria Reserve Hawke's Bay Chardonnay 2010 and the Villa Maria Reserve Gimblett Gravels Hawke's Bay Syrah 2010.

He said it was a fantastic accolade. "When you look at the trophy and the names that are on there, they're some of the great names of the Australian wine industry, like Penfolds, Orlando and Seppelt."

Picone handles North Island wine production for Villa Maria, which recently celebrated 50 years of winemaking.

A Hawke's Bay local, he has been with Villa Maria for 15 years, starting as a cellar hand cleaning floors and tanks and working his way up to head winemaker.

"Wine is a magical product really, there's a hell of a lot of variables that go into making a great wine. You're working with a clean slate each year and with the challenges of each season."

The award reflected the efforts of his Villa Maria team, and was a coup for the New Zealand wine industry and for Hawke's Bay, he said.

"I was just keen for it to come to New Zealand really. I think it was overdue, and the fact it came to me was a bonus. Our wines really do stand up." Fairfax NZ

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