Winemaker assured for latest title bid

A Nelson vineyard manager is squeezing in some final preparation for his third tilt at the Young Viticulturist of the Year title.

Dan Manuge, 27, the viticulturist at Sea Level Wines in Mariri, will take on four others from Marlborough, Hawkes Bay, Wairarapa and Central Otago in the national grand final in Blenheim later this month.

Last year he was leading after the first day of practical challenges in the two-day competition, but faltered in the speech and interview sections.

He said yesterday that his speech-making had improved - he scored top marks at the qualifying Marlborough event last week - and he would be hitting the books to prepare for the interview by a panel of experts.

He faces a diverse range of other challenges. The practical tasks at previous events have included driving a tractor, installing vineyard trellis, repairing irrigation valves and the "horty sporty" competition that puts participants through quirky, quickfire events such as painting a grape harvester and filling brandy snaps.

Manuge said he was ready for whatever was thrown at him: "I'm going for it."

The final will be held in conjunction with the Romeo Bragato wine awards from August 25 to 27. Competitors will deliver their speeches to 350 industry members at the awards dinner.

The Nelson Mail