Young viticulturist takes Bay to Marlborough in bid for top prize

By Alice Lock

Ben Richards is competing in the 2017 Bayer Young Viticulturist of the Year National Final, down at Villa Maria in Marlborough at the end of the month. Photo/ supplied.
Ben Richards is competing in the 2017 Bayer Young Viticulturist of the Year National Final, down at Villa Maria in Marlborough at the end of the month. Photo/ supplied.

One local lad has powered into study mode as he prepares for the Bayer Young Viticulturist of the Year national final at the end of the month.

Ben Richards, after a day of driving tractors, picking out diseases in the vines, formulating irrigation equations and budgeting, was selected to represent Hawke's Bay in the 2017 final, held at Villa Maria in Marlborough.

At 14, Mr Richards was told to get into the wine or beer industry and after studying wine science and viticulture at EIT and working at Indevin "fell in love with it".

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"I had never really thought about getting into viticulture until I realised it comprised everything I enjoy, science, travel and the outdoors."

Mr Richards said the regional competition was tough and he knew the national final would be similar but with a few more "curve balls" thrown in.

"I have been talking to some past winners and they have given me advice on what to study and what they experienced in previous years. We also got our scores from the regionals so it gives you a good idea of what to work on."

The finals will bring in all aspects of viticulture with sections on everything from pests and diseases to soil nutrition, pruning and trellising.

The competition is in its 12th year and a Hawke's Bay representative has won five times, including the previous three years.

Mr Richards said he had been told multiple times to "bring it back to the Bay" but wasn't letting the pressure get to him.

"It is what it is and you just have to do your best and hope the judges are on your side."

Because he was still studying he hoped that it would give him an advantage as the information was still fresh in his mind.

Also being brought up on a farm gave him a physical edge as he was used to a lot of physical work.

Mr Richards said the adrenaline from the regionals will definitely be doubled at the end of the month.

"It is a prestigious competition and a lot of people watch it so I think it will give me good exposure and it is such an amazing opportunity to be a part of it."

The final will be held on August 29 at Villa Maria in Marlborough and the six finalists will compete for a prize package worth $30,000. The winner will be announced at the Bragato dinner on August 31.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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