While the weather raged outside, five young vintners were hard at work inside a Cromwell warehouse, vying for a place at the Young Winemaker of the Year national competition.

The Tonnellerie de Mercurey Central Otago Young Winemaker competition was held on Thursday and tested competitors on all things winemaking, from general knowledge and essay writing to laboratory skills.

Eliana Leal, 29, of Amisfield, in Lake Hayes, was crowned the winner.

Ms Leal has a background in biotechnology, but loves the wine industry because of the people.

‘‘They are so passionate about it.’’

The best feeling was to open a bottle of wine that she had a hand in making, she said.

Ms Leal said the young winemaker competition was a great way to challenge her skills.

She had been studying for the competition for several weeks, but said her on-the-job training helped her as well.

‘‘You always try to prepare. . .the best thing is just to enjoy it and just challenge yourself.’’

This year was her second time competing. Paiqi Oscar Cau, also from Amisfield, was runner-up and Callum Scarborough, from Felton Road, came third.

Mr Scarborough said the competition was a great test of his abilities and ‘‘really enjoyable’’.

‘‘It’s a brilliant opportunity to. . . test my skills in the my profession [and] learn the areas where I’m . . .needing to put in a little bit more work.’’ Mr Scarborough, who was originally from Australia, came from a winemaking family.

‘‘It’s just been sort of a chance to grow as a professional in the wine industry,’’ he said.

Much of his preparation had been in his day-to-day work, but he had put in extra study leading up to the event.

‘‘It’s a great test always, so it’s just nice to, yeah, get into it and enjoy myself.’’

New Zealand Winemaker of the Year national co-ordinator Nicky Grandorge said the competition aimed to replicated the role of a senior winemaker.

One task had the winemakers blending their own wine then marketing it to judges. The wines were served to guests at the presentation dinner that evening.

Ms Grandorge said the competition gave young and emerging winemakers the opportunity to make a name for themselves.

‘‘It’s a chance for them to share their ideas and views with senior members of the industry,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s also just really good networking. They know they’ve got a great community behind them.’’

The wine industry was eager to welcome more young people and the competition was a great way to support them, she said.

Ms Leal will compete against winemakers from Malborough and the North Island at the national finals in late October, held in Waipara.