When Nina Downer was a young girl growing up on a dairy farm in the Wairarapa, she always knew she wanted to work outside.

That certainty, and her passion for soil and plants, led her straight from high school to Lincoln University to study for a bachelor of viticulture and oenology, diving into the theory of winemaking.

Her focus paid off last month when the young Felton Road Wines worker was named 2022 Central Otago Corteva Young Viticulturist of the Year.

Miss Downer (23) said that as the practical component of her course, she worked at Dry River Wines in Martinborough, allowing her to learn her trade while staying close to home.

She loved the diversity of the job and being part of a small team, and following what she refers to as ‘‘the Covid harvest’’ of 2020, moved to Central Otago and joined the Felton Road team.

The competition was held at Otago Polytechnic’s Central Campus in Bannockburn, where eight competitors battled it out in the chilly vineyard.

A passion for the outdoors . . . Central Otago Young Viticulturalist of the Year Nina Downer can’t imagine a better workplace than the vineyards at Felton Road Wines

Nina won $1000 cash, an educational trip with Corteva and an AEG chainsaw.

She will head to the national final in Marlborough at the end of August to represent Central Otago.

‘‘I’m looking forward to it,’’ she said. ‘‘It’s going to be a challenge and a way to test myself and learn a lot of new things.’’

Maia Wylie from Two Paddocks came second and Dylan Crawford, also from Two Paddocks, took third place.

Wylie will also join the other runners up from around the country at the national final as part of an educational trip provided by the New Zealand Society for Viticulture and Oenology.