Young Viticulturist of the Year named
Matthew Duggan of Blenheim is the Marlborough Young Viticulturist of the Year.
Twenty six-year-old Mr Duggan claimed the title last night, after a tense buzzer-round quiz and giving a speech at the awards dinner at Wither Hills Winery, just out of Blenheim.
This Treasury Wine Estates technical supervisor came third last year.
Yesterday, eight entrants competed in rounds which tested their practical and theoretical knowledge of viticulture. The programme also included light-hearted events like painting a vineyard landscape and assembling a kitset wheelbarrow.
Next month, Mr Duggan will compete against Central Otago and Hawke's Bay winners for the national Young Viticulturist of the Year title at the 2012 Romeo Bragato conference in Blenheim. The winner of that competition will go on to the Young Horticulturist of the Year in Auckland in November.
The Otago University microbiology BSc graduate discovered an interest in the wine industry when he took time out with his parents, Michael and Suzanne Duggan of Blenheim, to think about his career direction.
''I just took any job and ended up doing a vintage at Villa Maria,'' he said.
That experience in the Villa Maria wine laboratory encouraged Mr Duggan to complete a postgraduate diploma in viticulture and oenology at Lincoln University in Canterbury.
Today, he gathers and analyses data from 250 hectares of Treasury Wine Estates' Matua Valley Marlborough vineyards and supervises vineyard staff.
Treasury Wine Estates owns 12,500 hectares of vineyards in Australia, the United States and New Zealand and makes 52 wine brands. Competing in the 2011 competition highlighted areas he needed to work on, said Mr Duggan.
''I spent a few hours in the vineyard where guys who report to me taught me some skills, especially trellising,'' he said.
With only a month to prepare for the national final, Mr Duggan plans to take up offers of help from people including 2011 Marlborough title-holder, James Bowskill.
The Marlborough Express