Balancing studies at NMIT and work at Huia is the perfect life for Luca Fant
When Luca Fant Googled ‘the best place on earth’ the search engine produced New Zealand. “And it actually is,” says the Italian winemaker, 12 years after flying in to verify the result. “I fell in love with it.”
Luca has been juggling fulltime work as Assistant Winemaker at Huia and full time study at NMIT in Blenheim, and graduated on 13 December 2018.
That’s satisfied his passion for organics, for wine, for learning and for “doing a thousand things at once”.
It’s a far cry from life in 2006, when he was a designer in a mechanical engineering business in Italy.
With days spent with computers and clients, it was a stifling existence at odds with his upbringing in Belluno, spent often outdoors, mucking in on his family’s organic farm.
“My dad and grandmother never used herbicide and pesticides. They were completely against them,” Luca says. “Our herbicide was a spade.”
He told his partner about the Google search and convinced her to take a year off. Within a month, they were working as Woofers (Workers on Organic Farms) in New Zealand, on a year-long working holiday that turned into a plan to emigrate.
Luca worked on farms in the North Island, then in Auckland, and in 2016 moved to Blenheim to undertake a Bachelor of Viticulture and Winemaking at NMIT.
Studying in “the capital of wine in New Zealand” enabled him to make contacts throughout the industry – “whether it’s a small winery, big winery, huge winery”, he says. “NMIT has been a huge stepping stone for me. I wouldn’t be here without it.”
In the course of his studies, Luca became disturbed by the amount of chemicals in the vineyard and the winery, so approached Huia – a boutique organic and biodynamic wine company – when it was time for work experience.
He started in the vines in December 2016 and was immediately enchanted. “I loved it. Going into a vineyard where you can lie down in the vines and not worry about what is on them.”
His grandmother made biodynamic preparations on their family farm, so he was familiar with the concepts, along with the importance of composts. “I found out that I knew a lot more than I thought I knew,” he says.
In February 2017, Luca moved to winery work at Huia and was hooked by the freneticism of the vintage. “I always like working 150km an hour. That’s how I live my life, with thousands of things on at a time. So I love vintage with its multitasking – three or four jobs at a time.”
He went back to Huia in his winter holidays, stayed on to help with blending, and was offered the position of assistant winemaker in the lead up to Vintage 2018.
“So now I am working full time and studying full time,” he says happily, in the lead up to his graduation. Being in a small family owned winery means he gets a taste of all the jobs, from the lab to the compost, and even handpicking the Botrytised Riesling last harvest.
His engineering background puts him in hot demand as well, with machinery and technology vital to a smooth winery operation. “Winemaking is a mixture of science, technology, fermentation and farming – my biggest passions,” he says. “And at Huia I can do it while respecting the environment.”
This article originally appeared in Winepress Magazine which is owned by Wine Marlborough Ltd and was adaptedd for sharing purposes.