Young winemaker credits Marlborough origins

Young Winemaker of the Year Lauren Swift, originally from Marlborough, is the winemaker at Ash Ridge Winery, Hawkes Bay
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Young Winemaker of the Year Lauren Swift, originally from Marlborough, is the winemaker at Ash Ridge Winery, Hawkes Bay

Winemaker Lauren Swift has credited a Marlborough winery for her win in the Young Winemaker of the Year award.

Swift grew up in the Awatere Valley and went to school in Seddon and at the Marlborough Girls' College, before moving to study wine at the Eastern Institute of Technology in Hawkes Bay.

She was awarded the inaugural Tonnellerie de Mercurey Young Winemaker of the Year Award at the Romeo Bragato wine industry event in Napier last week.

Swift credited Marlborough winery Clos Henri among those who had given her a start in the wine industry.

"I worked in the vineyard and learned a lot about how everything fits together which had never been explained to me before, " she said.

"Clos Henri gave me the encouragement and put me on the path to a career in the industry.

"Winning the award is because of people like Chrissy Wilson and winemaker Damien Yvon who helped me."

Swift completed a vintage at Clos Henri, and a stint at Oyster Bay before enrolling on the three year EIT winemaking degree course.

She mixed studies with work at a wine brokerage, and as a cellar hand, to get a wider knowledge of the industry.

"I made a lot of contacts so I knew as I was doing my degree what I was getting into.

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"I'm naturally inquisitive and was always asking questions so when I graduated I had a wide appreciation of the industry from wine making to retail and marketing."

Swift said her broad experience helped her get her first job after graduating when she was offered work at Ash Ridge Winery in Hawkes Bay.

Ash Ridge Winery owner Chris Wilcock took a lot of risks to employ her three years ago, she said.

"The work was initially for summer work and then all of a sudden I was the winemaker at Ash Ridge.

"I'm pleased to say the risks he took are paying off for us."

The three-day Young Winemaker of the Year competition was "extremely tough", Swift said.

"I'm really thrilled with the result.

"It's been such a great opportunity for me, and has already opened a number of doors and given me so much confidence.

"I look forward to doing this title proud in the year ahead."

Swift will leave this week for a six-week working holiday to the Rhone wine district in France.   

 - The Marlborough Express

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