One more chance for viticulturist

Annabel Bulk, of Felton Road Wines, Bannockburn, is keen to compete in the Young Viticulturist of the Year title again next year. Photo: Yvonne O'Hara
Annabel Bulk, of Felton Road Wines, Bannockburn, is keen to compete in the Young Viticulturist of the Year title again next year. Photo: Yvonne O'Hara
Annabel Bulk, of Felton Road Wines, has one more chance to win the national Young Viticulturist of the Year title next year before she is too old to enter. She intends to give it her best shot.

Ms Bulk has worked on the Bannockburn vineyard for about six years, and entered the regional competition for the past five.

This year, the vineyard's assistant viticulturalist won the Central Otago competition and represented the region at the national final at Villa Maria, Marlborough on August 29, coming a close second to winner Tim Adams, from Obsidian, Waiheke Island.

''I am happy for Tim but I have one more year to enter, as the competition is restricted to under-30s,'' she said.

''I am very much dedicated to winning next year, that is my target.''

Now 29, she is originally from Dunedin and spent Christmas holidays in Central Otago.

As she loved being outdoors, she chose to study horticulture at Otago Polytechnic, but decided she wanted to learn more, so she studied viticulture and winemaking at the Unitec Institute of Technology campus in Marlborough.

In doing so she developed an interest in soil and plant science.

''I wanted to learn more about that, and through the course learned about biodynamics and organics in vineyards.''

From there it was a natural progression to spending a few weeks on work experience to finish her study at the Felton Road vineyard, which grows its wine using biodynamic principles.

''I was lucky to come here when [viticulturalist] Gareth King needed a few extra staff so I was able to stay and work.''

She progressed to her role as assistant viticulturalist about a year ago and is loving it.

She also looks after health and safety, and is interested to learn all she can about equipment maintenance.

''I am not a mechanic but try to learn more about it, as it fascinates me.''

During the lead up to the national competition she spent a lot of time honing her knowledge and skills, with the help and support of her employers, friends and family and the Central Otago Winegrowers Association.

She encouraged other people to enter the competition for its many benefits, including widening their knowledge and skills.

The event in the past five years had been a learning experience and she made many friends through it.

''It was a lot of fun and I am looking forward to next year.''

She would eventually like to own or have an equity partnership in a vineyard and grow high quality fruit.

''That is my ultimate dream.''

-By Yvonne O'Hara

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