About Me

Gavin Hubble - (BSc & Post Grad. Business Marketing) - I started working in the wine industry over 23 years ago in New Zealand. Working in; wine retail, sales, wine production, label & packaging design, marketing, wine buying, consulting and wine education. I am responsible for the Brand Health of 60+ wine brands distributed here in New Zealand. Wine Brands from New Zealand, Australia, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Chile and Argentina. I work closely with the Trade Industry - (Retail Stores & Restaurants) introducing, educating and positioning exciting and unique brands to wine enthusiasts all over the world.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Winemaker Series:

Welcome to another in the series of winemaker interviews.

Matt Thomson studied science at the University of Otago in the late 1980’s with the intention of becoming a Winemaker, graduating with a Master’s degree in Biochemistry and has been working in the Marlborough wine industry since late 1992.  


Matt was appointed consultant winemaker at Lake Chalice Wines back in 1997, Matt was so impressed with the quality and future potential of the wines he became a company shareholder and director in 1998. Matt also runs an extremely successful winemaking consultancy business - Kiwi Oeno. Wine is clearly not his only passion as Matt was a former national rep in cycling and still competes regularly at international level in endurance kayaking.
Matt is a very well respected winemaker and consultant with notable successes both locally and internationally over a variety of wine styles with particular strengths in Marlborough’s iconic Sauvignon Blanc. He has worked as a ‘flying winemaker’ consultant, in Italy and France since 1994, travelling to Europe three or more times a year to be involved with vintage and blending. Matt and his family have vineyard interests in Marlborough and in Italy completing the full picture of the wine industry from the vine to the table.
Matt spends a large portion of his time monitoring the changing flavour profile of the grapes in each vineyard; ensuring they are picked at their optimum - resulting in Lake Chalice being recognised for the outstanding quality of their wines. Matt is uncompromising on quality, with relatively little emphasis being placed on technological gadgets. This natural, hands-on approach helps craft wines with distinctive characters, which are clearly appreciated by increasingly sophisticated wine enthusiasts in an increasing number of world markets.

I have known Matt since he joined Lake Chalice, meeting during one of the Marlborough wine festivals - and in these years I have seen Matt and the team at Lake Chalice build a range of wines and a brand that is focused on quality and being true to each varietal expression.

What first attracted you to the wine industry and as a winemaker?
Wine (he says with a smile); I developed an interest at about 11 and was reading everything I could get my hands on and collecting by the time I was 16. I was an unusual kid I guess!

Where and when did you study winemaking?
I decided I wanted to become a part of the industry at 19 and tailored my degree to be used as a base for it. I did a BSc in Biochem/Chem and then went on to do an MSc in Biochem working with yeast.


What is your favourite grape variety(s) to work with and why?
I can’t really answer this with any conviction. I like working with Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo, Chardonnay, Garganega, Syrah, Sauvignon, Gruner, Riesling and the list could go on…!

Which grape variety would you most like to work with in the future and why?
I’d like to have a go with Garganega in New Zealand. I think as long as the yields are on the low-side, it might be quite exciting. I work with it a lot in Italy and understand just how good it can be in the hills of Soave.

With each new vintage what do you most look forward to?
The excitement and challenge of something different that each new harvest brings. Lately things have been so dynamic that it has been very exciting anticipating changes early.

To date what has been you most interesting/challenging vintage and why?
2008 in Marlborough was challenging because of the speed of the harvest and that everybody found there was more than anticipated. 1995 was without doubt a lot harder though!

Which person has influenced you the most as a winemaker and why?
This is a hard one too. Kim Crawford, who I worked with for a number of years is certainly one, as is Martin Shaw. Glenn Thomas and I go way back too and we work together now.

Which person ‘current’ or ‘past’ would you most like to have met or meet and why?
Elio Altare (Piedmont, Italy). He makes some wonderful wines. With luck I’ll be visiting his winery in early October. Of course there are many others.


If you were stranded on a desert island and you could take one bottle of wine with you - what would it be and why?
Probably a Barolo from one of the more traditional producers, from a good year and about 10 years old. They have a magical sweet floral perfume. I find people who like Pinot also like Nebbiolo and cool climate Syrah. It’s about the floral perfume and earthy characters that combine in to a magical experience.

If you could make wine anywhere else in the world - where would it be and why?
I like making wine in Italy and I do. In fact I have done for 20 years now!

What advice would you give a young person starting out as a winemaker?
Taste as much as you can with people who know more than you.
Think about the consumers; they’re drinking the wine, not just tasting it like we do as winemakers all too often.

If you weren’t a winemaker - what would you like to be and why?
God knows?! I’m surrounded by lawyers so maybe I would have gone down that path. I did develop a passion for science early though. I think I’m bloody lucky to have found winemaking so early!

In the future, what exciting changes can you see, or would like to see for your wines, wine styles, vineyard or winery?
Vine age. I also want to experiment more with Gruner and Chablis-like styles of Chardonnay. Cool climate Syrah. We can also do very high ultra-premium styles given the chance. We need to be able to invest in the styles more. To do that we need more capital and unfortunately NZ is short of that in the industry!

It will get interesting in the next five years as there is so little vineyard land left to plant in Marlborough and our markets are continuing to grow.

I’ve got some blend ideas too, but that’s another story...


Lake Chalice Wines are available in New Zealand and around the world from quality wine retailers and restaurants. Or visit their website: Lake Chalice Wines

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