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Annika Salenjus claims 2024 Wairarapa Young Viticulturist of the Year title

James Sutcliffe, Annika Salenjus and Leon Henson. Image courtesy New Zealand Wine.

Annika Salenjus from Craggy Range has been announced as the 2024 Wairarapa Young Viticulturist of the Year, taking out the title for the second year running.

The competition was held at Escarpment on 20 June, where James Sutcliffe, who also works at Craggy Range’s Te Muna Estate Vineyard in Martinborough, placed second, and Leon Henson from Batch Winery, Waiheke came third. This year the Wairarapa and Auckland competitions were combined and Leon Henson therefore qualifies for the title of 2024 Auckland Young Viticulturist of the Year and will head to the national final to represent his region.

Other contestants included Alex Coombs from Schubert Wines, Peter Graham from Paddy Borthwick, and Kittiya Nuandee from Wall Horticultural Services.

Contestants were tested on nutrition, trellising, pests and diseases, budgeting, machinery, wine knowledge, and undertaking an interview.

The BioStart Hortisports race saw the participants go head-to-head in various challenges including pruning, assembling irrigation, using a grease gun and mixing dilutions.

There were cash prizes for the top three winners, and Salenjus also won the BioStart Hortisports race, whilst and Coombs won the Ecotrellis trellising section. Henson was awarded the Ormond Professional Reputation Award whilst James took out the pest and disease section.

The competition will head back to Escarpment for the 2024 National Final on Wednesday 28 August, where winners from around the country will compete for the overall title of 2024 Young Viticulturist of the Year. The winner will be announced at the Altogether Unique 2024 industry celebration at Te Papa on 29 August. This year’s prize package for the national winner includes a brand-new Ford Ranger for a year, a $6,000 Ecotrellis Travel Grant and a Leadership Week. A BioStart Hortisports winner will also be announced along with other cash prizes.

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