First year viticulture student chosen as Young Vintner of the Year

Maddison Airey. Image EIT

Maddison Airey, a 23-year-old first year Bachelor of Viticulture and Wine Science (BVWSci) student from the Eastern Intitute of Technology (EIT), has won the Hawke’s Bay A&P Society & Craggy Range Young Vintners Scholarship for 2021.

Maddison received her award at the Hawke’s Bay A&P Bayleys Wine Awards dinner last night.

As part of the scholarship, Maddison was awarded NZ$2,000 in funding from the Hawke’s Bay A&P Society and a vintage position at Craggy Range Winery for the harvest season of 2022, and she will also be an associate judge for the Hawke’s Bay A&P Bayleys Wine Awards next year.

Maddison said she was excited about the scholarship and the opportunities it will offer.

“I’m just really grateful that they awarded it to me, but I was surprised.”

She added that she believed her enthusiasm played a role in the judges selecting her.

“I’m very outspoken, which I think is advantageous sometimes, and I think, in this case, it obviously was,” she said.

The judges were Sue Blackmore, the Head of EIT’s School of Viticulture and Wine Science; Sally Jackson, the General Manager of the Hawke’s Bay A&P Society; and Ben Tombs, Winemaker at Craggy Range.

“The calibre of applicants was very strong, but Maddison impressed as a very worthy candidate for the award and the opportunity to work with Craggy Range for a winery vintage,” Blackmore said.

Tombs said the judges interviewed three contestants from the applications received and chose the winner from there.

“Maddison really impressed because she is very enthusiastic, and has a lot of passion, but she also has done really well in her first semester with her grades as well. She was really motivated so is well deserving of the award,” he continued.

“The Young Vintner Scholarship in partnership with Craggy Range is a really special award of the Hawke’s Bay Bayleys Wine Awards. It allows us to recognise the immense talent coming through the industry and Maddison is a perfect example of this,” said Hawke’s Bay A&P Bayleys Wine Awards Event Manager Isabelle Crawshaw.

Growing up in Greenmeadows near Mission Estate Winery, Maddison’s love for wines was kick-started when she worked at the restaurant there.

However, it was not her initial chosen career when she finished her schooling at Napier Girls’ High in 2016. Instead she spent one year up at the University of Auckland, studying Health Science.

“I decided that wasn’t the pathway I was interested in, so I just travelled for three years. I went to America, all through Central America, and then I lived in Europe for a little while,” Airey said.

“I thought it was time for me to figure out what my next step was. Travelling definitely helped grow my passion for winemaking as I travelled through many winemaking regions.”

On her return, Maddison worked in the Craggy Range restaurant, but having heard about the new Bachelor of Viticulture and Wine Science being offered at EIT, she enrolled in the programme for February this year.

“I love how practical the course is. Not only have we experimented in the lab we have also learnt to drive tractors, pruned vines, made and bottled wine amongst other activities. Added to this has been the theory of wine production including chemical and microbial principles, all really interesting and relevant to today’s wine industry,” she said.

Maddison says she is looking forward to working on the Craggy Range harvest from March to May next year, as part of her scholarship.

“I will be in my second year, but the programme gives us time off for work experience. Working with Craggy Range is a really cool opportunity.”

As for the future, Maddison is looking abroad to further her winemaking education.

“But ultimately I do want to come back to Hawke’s Bay because I love it here, and there’s incredible brands to work for.


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