Inexperience won't hinder young viticulturist
Kurt Robinson has not spoken to an audience since he was 15-years-old.
On Friday, the Young Viticulturist of the Year finalist will step onto the dais to talk about an unknown subject with little preparation.
All six finalists will be required to speak on a subject in the day-long competition, which includes practical and theory sections, and a lunchtime fun event.
The Spring Creek Vintners cellar hand and vineyard worker from Southland would not have it any other way.
The competition was another chance to extend his knowledge in the industry after qualifying with a Diploma of Viticulture and Winemaking from the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, Robinson said.
He recently enrolled in the Bachelor of Viticulture and Oenology degree course.
"I've got nothing to lose, it will be all about learning as much as I can."
Robinson, 26, is the least experienced of the six finalists, including past winners Matthew Duggan and Brenton O'Riley.
"It's a great chance to meet others in the industry and help my career out," he said.
Robinson came to Marlborough two years ago specifically to learn about winemaking.
Previously, he had used his forestry and explosives handling skills to help clear the Greenstone and Caples tramping tracks in Fiordland, before moving to Queensland to demolish bridges.
"I just felt like I should be studying something and I have always had a passion for wine and thought studying winemaking and viticulture in Marlborough would be a good choice."
He secured work with Spring Creek Vintners in the winery before moving to the viticulture side of the business.
"I'm pretty much a novice and pretty much do everything at the moment.
"I'm lucky Spring Creek Vintners took me on and now I really can't get enough of the job or the region."
Robinson said his lack of wine industry background should not be a hindrance in the competition.
"I'm the type of person who is also wanting to learn and pick up new things.
"I'm happy Wine Marlborough have let me enter with my lack of experience but I'm not expecting the competition to be easy.
"I will be learning as much as I can but I'm in there to win as well, who won't be."
Win or lose, Robinson wanted to stay in the wine industry long term.
"I want to keep learning, maybe work towards a managerial role, or ideally buy my own land and grow my own grapes."
The Bayer-sponsored 2015 Young Viticulturist of the Year winner will be announced at the awards dinner on Friday evening, following the end of the day's competition at the Marlborough Research Centre in Blenheim.
Other finalists include Brenton O'Riley (Giesen Wine), Matthew Duggan (Cloudy Bay), Nick Kininmonth (FruitFed), Tyler McComb (Craggy Range) and Anthony Walsh (Constellation Brands).
- The Marlborough Express