Matakana winemaker seeks Viticulturist of the Year title

Leon Henson says making good wine requires a high level of respect for the craft.

Matakana winemaker and grape grower  Leon Henson, 21, will this week take on top viticulturists from around the region in the Young Viticulturist of the Year competition, organised by New Zealand Winegrowers.

It’s the first time there has been an entrant from the Matakana wine region.

Leon, who works for Heron’s Flight vineyard, says he is unsure why he is the first to enter from Matakana, but suspects he may be the only viticulturist under 30 in the area.

Leon has entered the Auckland/Northland section of the competition, which will see him pitched against viticulturists from Soljan, Cable Bay, Obsidian, Te Motu and Man O War vineyards.

Contestants will undertake a battery of practical and theoretical tests, which will probe their knowledge on pruning, netting, machinery, pests and diseases, budgeting, nutrition, wine knowledge and trellising.

They will also be interviewed, take part in a quickfire quiz and give a speech at an awards dinner.

The winning entrant will take home $1500 and go on to the national competition, featuring all the regional winners, in Marlborough.

Leon joined Heron’s Flight straight from school four years ago and says winemaking has an appeal for him unmatched by any other industry.

“There is the whole aesthetic of vineyards. I get to work outside, which is awesome, and you meet a lot of cool people,” he says.

He adds that at some point he is keen to travel, and winemaking countries such as France, Italy and Spain are the ones he would most like to visit one day.

Leon says being a good winemaker requires a high level of respect for the craft, making sure you care about making a quality product and looking after your vines.

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