Vino, vidi, vici: Hawke’s Bay wine student to conquer the vines of Italy

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Maddison Airey, a Bachelor of Viticulture and Wine Science student at EIT Te Pukenga, headed off to Italy this month as a Bragato Exchange student. Photo / Supplied

From the vines of Craggy Range in Havelock North to the sprawling hills of the Italian countryside, EIT Te Pūkenga student Maddison Airey will soon have experience working in not just one but two wine capitals of the world.

The 25-year-old Napier-raised wine wunderkind has been chosen to attend the EIT Bragato Exchange, where she will spend three weeks in Italy hosted by the academic team at Padua University, as well as a week travelling on her own.

“I’m so excited. It’s going to be fantastic,” she said before she jetted off.

“I truly believe it’ll be the perfect blend of my appreciation for different cultures and their traditions, as well as my boundless curiosity for exploring the world and immersing myself in these incredible new experiences.”


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Airey has been making a splash in the local winemaking world already, winning the prestigious Hawke’s Bay A&P Society and Craggy Range Young Vintners Scholarship for 2021 in her first year of studying.

Now in her final year of study, she said the opportunity was also a great way to experience the immersive wine culture in Italy as well as to add to her understanding of how New Zealand had become a flourishing region for wine production.

“It’s a remarkable opportunity to explore Italy, not only to embrace its cultural differences, but also to delve into the world of wine, which of course is the central focus of my academic pursuits.”

The programme is sponsored by PGG Wrightson, Taradale Rotary Club, Ōtātara Trust, and EIT Te Pukenga, and recognises the connection between the Italian town of Conegliano and New Zealand.


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It is named after Romeo Bragato, who was influential in identifying potential winegrowing regions in New Zealand and studied extensively in this area of Italy.

“[The exchange gives students] an opportunity to explore and learn about the wine and viticulture regions, industry practices and cultures of each country,” said Sue Blackmore, head of the School of Viticulture and Wine Science at EIT.

She said the programme was instigated in 2003 by the late wine industry stalwart Kevyn Moore, who EIT representatives assisted to organise the scholarships and student trips each year.

“After an enforced break by Covid-19 we are hoping to revitalise the Bragato Exchange to honour Kevyn Moore’s memory and restart the collaboration with Padua University.”

Padua University scholar Giovanni Bin will come to New Zealand in August as part of the exchange, where they will be able to experience all the Hawke’s Bay wine capital has to offer.

As for Maddison, she said she plans to do one more vintage with Craggy Range, where she has worked while studying, before taking her wine skills to the world.

“I’ll just basically go vintage hopping for the next few years. And then eventually settle back in Hawke’s Bay, because we are No.1, so it’s not a bad thing, is it?”

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