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Scholarship Gave Wine Career A Kickstart

October 11, 2018

Nev McPike, winemaker at Craggy Range and 2006 winner of the HB A & P Society’s Young Vintner scholarship. The 2018 winner will be announced on 16 October at the annual Hawke’s Bay Wine Awards.

When Nev McPike got a phone call in 2015, inviting him back to Hawke’s Bay from Australia to take up the position of winemaker at Craggy Range, he drew breath.

To come back to where his career in wine had started and to such a position “was too good to turn down”.

“To be a winemaker in a business of this calibre so early on in my career has far exceeded my expectations,” says the graduate of EIT’s Bachelor of Wine Science and 2006 winner of the Hawke’s Bay A&P Society’s Young Vintner scholarship.

It was this scholarship that Nev believes “opened the door and set me on my path”.

The scholarship is awarded by HB A & P Society and Craggy Range and announced at the annual Hawke’s Bay A & P Bayleys Wine Awards each October.

In addition to the $3500 paid by the Society towards his third and final year’s EIT programme fees, Nev also secured paid holiday work at Craggy Range for the 2007 vintage. Then once he graduated he joined the Craggy Range team as a full-time cellar hand where he worked a further four vintages.

In 2011, Nev left for Australia furthering his career as a winemaker in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales and then in McLaren Vale, South Australia.

He admits that it was getting hard to think of returning to New Zealand as he and his family were enjoying life in Australia. Then in 2015, came the phone call from Craggy Range and coming back was easy.

Ironically since his return, Nev has twice been the Craggy Range representative on the interviewing panel to select the scholarship winner.

“I’ve found it interesting that many of the candidates are people who are not on their first path of employment, just like I was.”

A mature student, aged 32 when he won the scholarship, Nev had previously gained a sports degree and got interested in wine while working part-time in bars and restaurants. He then worked in bar management and beer sales before making the decision to study for a career rather than “just having a job”.

“Winning the scholarship was amazing at the time. It showed me I was doing the right thing, I’d made the right decision. I was getting reward for all the hard work I was putting in. That I belonged in this industry.”

The winner of the 2018 Hawke’s Bay A & P Society’s Young Vintner scholarship will be announced at the Wine Awards on October 16.

This will be the 17th annual scholarship and HB A & P Society’s General Manager, Sally Jackson says the scholarship was all about promoting careers in the primary industry and specifically for this scholarship, within the viticulture industry.

“The Hawke’s Bay A & P Society has been championing the primary industry for over 150 years and is incredibly proud to witness the success of initiatives such as the scholarship and seeing students like Nev make a difference within the industry.”