Pushing boundaries as NZ’s top young winemaker

22 February 2023 | News

Lincoln University alumnus Alun Kilby, named New Zealand’s top young winemaker last September, is all about doing things differently.

In a recent edition of New Zealand Winegrower, the 2022 Tonnellerie de Mercurey New Zealand Young Winemaker of the Year said he was planning to age Negroni rather than wine in the oak barrel that is also his trophy.

"I am always out there to try new things and learn new things," Alun told the publication, having made fortified wine during his studies at Lincoln "because everyone else was making normal wine". He also grew up fermenting feijoas in Matakana, Marlborough.

Alun completed a Bachelor of Viticulture and Oenology in 2014 and worked at the Marisco winery as part of the practical work component of his study.

He now has a full-time position there as a Production Winemaker, a promotion he received early last year, having spent 2015-2018 honing his craft in Central Otago and overseas.

Alun said "taking out last year’s win was huge", especially since he had a notion that public speaking was not his strong suit, but came top for speeches in the nationals of the competition, expertly selling Marlborough as a must-visit post-pandemic tourist destination.

He's come a long way since his early experiences with winemaking, which involved producing fruit wines with his mum when he was a child.

Before his phenomenal success in the young winemaker competition, he told Winepress Magazine and the Marlborough Express he had worked in a vineyard during the summer as a high school student but it "wasn’t really for me".

"That same summer, I was working at a café that a winemaker owned, then started working in the winery every summer," he said. "I loved the aspect of that sort of work, getting hands on and working with the wine."

The experience inspired Alun to pursue the Bachelor of Viticulture and Oenology at Lincoln.

"I absolutely loved it, I loved the vibe, I loved the people. I realised, 'this is me'. I just loved this career path," he said.