An EIT | Te Pūkenga graduate has been named the 2023 Tonnellerie de Mercurey New Zealand Young Winemaker of the Year.
At 22 years old, Alena Kamper, who now works as a Cellar Hand at Sacred Hill Winery in Hawke’s Bay, is the youngest person to win the coveted title.
“I am over the moon. It still feels quite surreal,” Alena says.
“Especially with the calibre of the contestants this year, I think it could have been anyone’s game. So incredible to take it out. I feel very very honoured.”
The national final took place at The Bone Line in North Canterbury on Tuesday (October 31). The three finalists delivered their speeches at the Altogether Unique Wine Industry Celebration in Christchurch the following evening, when the overall winner was announced.
It comes just a year into Alena’s career, having completed the Bachelor of Viticulture & Wine Science Concurrent at EIT | Te Pūkenga at the end of last year, and graduated in August.
Alena was initially nervous to enter the competition but is glad she took the plunge. She first won the North Island Young Winemaker of the Year in September, qualifying her for the national final.
“I definitely felt like I was quite the underdog in the situation. So just so surreal when they called my name out. It’s been an incredible experience. I’ve learned so much.”
Alena won two section prizes; the Fruitfed Supplies best speech and the Indevin Wine Judging Section.
The speech topic was: “Why is your region unique and how does it complement other regions to make New Zealand wine altogether unique?” Each contestant had the same topic and had to speak on their specific region.
“That was definitely a highlight, especially when you get the chance to talk highly of your region. It just felt so easy to write and I truly believe that Hawke’s Bay is the best wine region of New Zealand, so it was awesome.”
Alena looks back at her time at EIT | Te Pūkenga with fondness, saying the programme was recommended to her by an old science teacher of hers at the school she attended, Sacred Heart College.
She says she loved the degree and was pleased that the lecturers gave one-on-one help to students.
“I think it’s just been the perfect launch platform. They give you just so many skills to be able to ask the questions and interpret all the things that you come across in the industry. It gave me great connections to start off with and it’s been awesome.”
As NZ Young Winemaker of the Year, Alena took home a prize package that includes $1000 cash, a visit to the Tonnellerie de Mercurey cooperage in Burgundy, France, and the opportunity to be an associate judge in the 2024 New World Wine Awards and review some of her favourite wines in DrinksBiz magazine.
The Head of the EIT | Te Pūkenga School of Viticulture and Wine Science, Sue Blackmore said they are so excited for Alena.
“An incredible achievement for someone less that a year out of study. We wish her all the best for what will be an amazing career in the Wine industry.”