Nina Downer wins 2023 Central Otago Young Viticulturist of the Year

Congratulations to Nina Downer, Vineyard Supervisor at Felton Road, who became the Central Otago Young Viticulturist of the Year 2023. As defending champion, she was thrilled to take out the title again having studied hard over the last few weeks.

Congratulations also goes to Katrina O’Reilly from Chard Farm who came second and Maxine Jing from Burn Cottage who came third. The other contestants were Hannah Chamberlain, Callum Scarborough, Leach Purchase and Katherine Hirsh.

Nina Downer, Vineyard Supervisor at Felton Road - Central Otago Young Viticulturist of the Year 2023
Nina Downer, Vineyard Supervisor at Felton Road – Central Otago Young Viticulturist of the Year 2023

The competition was held on 12th July at Central Otago Polytechnic in Bannockburn where the seven contestants rotated around a wide range of viticultural questions and challenges including pruning, irrigation, trellising, budgeting and an interview.

Six of the seven contestants were women, highlighting that viticulture is an exciting career for both women and men. Stepping up this year as the Regional Chair and also sitting on the National Committee is Annabel Bulk from Felton Road who was the national winner in 2018. Several previous contestants are part of the organizational team.

“It’s wonderful to see previous contestants wanting to help others come through and share their passion for viticulture” says Nicky Grandorge, Leadership & Communities Manager at NZ Winegrowers. “It makes the Young Vit programme and community very special.”

At lunchtime, the contestants went head to head in the BioStart Hortisports race which attracted a large crowd from the local wine industry who also enjoyed a BBQ lunch kindly provided by Fruitfed Supplies. This was followed by a quick fire quiz.

Katrina O'Reilly, Nina Downer & Maxine Jing
Katrina O’Reilly, Nina Downer & Maxine Jing

The Awards Dinner was held at Carrick Winery & Restaurant where the contestants delivered their speeches.

Nina Downer, 24, will represent Central Otago in the National Final in Hawke’s Bay on 30 August. She will compete against finalists from Auckland, Hawke’s Bay, Marlborough and N.Canterbury.

There were some great prizes won across the board including a Fruitfed Supplies Educational Trip and AEG power tools for Nina. Katrina O’Reilly won $750 cash and an NZSVO Educational Experience and Maxine Jing won $500 cash. Nina also won the BioStart Hortisports and Katrina the Ecotrellis section prizes. The Ormond Professional Reputation Award went to Katherine Hirsh.

Nina will now be in with the chance of winning even greater prizes at the National Final. These include a Hyundai Kona for a year, an Ecotrellis travel grant, a Leadership Week, Electrocoup electronic secateurs and AEG power tools and cash.

The competition is made possible thanks to all the sponsors involved: BioStart, Ecotrellis, Hyundai, Agritrade, Constellation Brands, Empak, Fruitfed Supplies, Fendt, Klima, Ormond Nurseries, Roots, Shoots & Fruits, Villa Maria-Indevin, Waterforce, AEG, NZSVO and Winejobsonline.

Visit: for more about the Young Viticulturist Competition

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