Their medal-winning wine, a 2014 Syrah, was made from grapes donated by C J Pask and grown
by company viticulturist Danny van Selm. One of 43 Syrahs entered in the awards, it was judged
alongside commercial entries and was one of five golds in its class.
“We are looking at international shows now,” Tom Carpenter laughs of the group’s success.
Tom and classmates Maddie Crozier, Eleisha George and Stephen McGowan harvested the grapes on Good Friday last year after rain.
“Given all the heavy rain, we had to be pretty selective as the fruit had taken a bit of a battering,” Stephen recalls. “We had to get it off skins pretty quickly, but we knew the flavours were there.”
The students picked enough from the Gimblett Gravels vineyard to fill a four-year-old French oak barrel. Wine science and viticulture lecturer Tim Creagh loaned the four a trailer, arranged for the picking bin and opened up the winery on campus – “he spent most of his day off with us,” says Eleisha.
Six months in and feeling the maturing wine was coming along nicely but in need of a little extra oak, the group added barrel staves.
Tom says there was an ongoing interchange involving the four classmates. The process was so cordial, it inspired the wine’s name, Harmony.
“We did it by the book, with blending and fining trials,” says Stephen, “setting up bench trials for everything.”
If there were differences in opinion, the group amiably negotiated an outcome.
Mike Compton says this year was a first for a noncommercial wine to have won gold during his time as awards director, since 1998.
Maddie and Eleisha are in their second year of study for Bachelor of Wine Science and Bachelor of Viticulture concurrent degrees. International students, Tom and Stephen are final-year Diploma in Grapegrowing and Winemaking students.
Formerly from Hampshire, Tom says he was looking for a practical programme when he decided to move to New Zealand to study wine and the diploma delivers on that. Stephen, originally from Somerset, feels he made the right decision in leaving a corporate job in Hong Kong to study at EIT.
Both Englishmen are planning to forge new careers in New Zealand and are working part-time at local wineries.
From Hamilton, Eleisha was persuaded by her father, working in the wine industry, to study wine science and viticulture.
“He’s pretty proud now, telling all his reps about our success.”
Maddie didn’t know where to head herself when she left Hastings Girls’ High School. However, a teacher who knew she really loved science suggested she study wine.
“I really didn’t like wine when I started at EIT. I love it now, I really do,” she says, with a nod to the progressive tastings of the gold medal wine as it matured in barrel.
EIT wine and viticulture graduates and students shined during the Bragato conference, with New Zealand’s inaugural Young Winemaker of the Year also being announced. Lauren Swift who received the prestigious national title, graduated with EIT’s Bachelor of Wine Science and Diploma of Wine Marketing, and is now Winemaker at Hawke’s Bay’s Ash Ridge Winery. Abigail Maxwell of Babich Wines earned second place and is also an EIT Bachelor of Wine Science graduate.