Back on campus to appraise wines entered in this year’s Hawke’s Bay A & P Mercedes Benz Wine Awards, the associate judges found lots to talk about, particularly their exciting career paths.
After completing degrees in 2005, the two have gravitated to very different roles within the industry – Tracy to advising growers for New Zealand’s biggest wine corporate and Brandon to running his own national wine importing and distribution business.
A viticulture services manager for Pernod Ricard’s South Island vineyards, Tracy started at EIT a year ahead of Brandon but, studying for EIT’s four-year Bachelor of Viticulture and Bachelor of Wine Science Concurrent Degree, she finished at the same time.
After gaining his Bachelor of Viticulture, Brandon teamed up with Puneet Dhall – who he met at EIT when Puneet was studying for a Certificate in Grapegrowing and Winemaking – to establish Dhall & Nash Fine Wines.
The company has enjoyed significant growth every year since, says Brandon, who, like British-born Puneet, is an ex-pat. A Canadian, he moved to New Zealand after meeting his future kiwi wife, Andrea Lindsay, snowboarding in Whistler.
Employing a team of eight in sales and national distribution, Dhall & Nash imports wines – mainly from Europe, Australia, Chile and Argentina – and also represents ten New Zealand wineries. It exports wines too, and recently despatched a second shipment to China. Its label Bohemian is based on wines from its own vineyards in Central Otago, Marlborough and Hawke’s Bay.
“Being back at EIT feels like a homecoming,” Brandon says, looking around the institute’s winery where the awards judging took place. “It’s interesting to see that such an outstanding facility continues to expand.
“I made good contacts here, and was well supported during my studies and after.”
After leaving Hastings Girls’ High School, Tracy intended working in a bank for a year before going on to university to study for a degree in science. Twenty years on and still in the banking sector, she had a “mid-career life crisis” that prompted her to reactivate Plan A.
“I loved my time at EIT,” she says of her time as a mature student. “With small class sizes, it’s more like attending tutorials than lectures. There’s much more one-on-one access to lecturers than at university where you might be one of 300 or more students in the class.”
In addition to the Hawke’s Bay A & P Mercedes Benz Wine Awards, Tracy has judged at the Spiegelau International Wine Competition and the Royal Easter Show Wine Awards.
“I like judging,” she says. “I have a reasonably good palate and the senior judges are very into mentoring associate judges, so it’s a very positive and supportive environment.”
For Brandon, it was a first professional judging experience, and one he found meshed well with studies for his Master of Wine qualification.
“Tasting wines at show level has boosted my confidence. Judging can be intense, but I didn’t find it a problem and I’m looking forward now to sitting my exams when the next opportunity comes up in June next year.”