The Interview Series #5
In this Interview Series #5, we chat with Senior Winemaker, Matt Large, who joined the Shaw + Smith team in September 2020. Alex Camatta, our Tasting Room Manager, speaks with Matt about his winemaking career and the upcoming 2021 vintage.
Matt, can you tell us a little about your winemaking career thus far and what inspired a career in the industry?
I didn’t come from a winemaking family, but my father was always interested in wine and I have distinct memories as a child of visiting cellar doors; my parents holding wine dinners for friends and family; and me absorbing their interest and excitement about wine and sharing it with others. In terms of my career, I’m passionate about viticulture as well as winemaking. In fact, I think it’s impossible to separate the two, and immediately before Shaw + Smith, I was running vineyards and making high-altitude Chardonnay and Pinot Noir at Shadowfax winery in the Macedon Ranges in Victoria. I have also spent a few years of my career over in Barolo, Italy. I was lucky enough to work vintage with Francesco Versio at Figli Luigi Oddero in 2017 and then stayed on as the Vintage Assistant Winemaker. Coming to Shaw + Smith and having the ability to work with such amazing vineyards and such a great team has been fantastic. Our new Piccadilly Vineyard project in the Hills is incredibly exciting stuff, as is the continued work down at the Tolpuddle Vineyard in Tasmania, so I’m keen to be a part of that and see the next chapter unfold.
What does the average day in the Shaw + Smith cellar look like for you?
The great thing about winemaking is that every day is different. The only thing that doesn’t change is our morning coffee and chat. Every day we meet around the coffee machine at 7:50am and talk about what’s ahead and make a plan for whatever needs to get done. Right now, we are getting the last couple of wines ready for bottling before vintage 2021, in particular, the M3 Chardonnay and Tolpuddle Pinot Noir. That means emptying all the barrels of their wine and blending them together in tank to rest before bottling. In a few weeks’ time, the days will look very different as the new vintage of fruit will be getting picked and coming into the winery, and the place will be full of grapes and ferments, and the barrels will be getting filled again. It’s a busy time, and I’ll definitely be needing that morning coffee then!
How are the early forecast for vintage 2021 shaping up, and what excites you most about your first vintage at Shaw + Smith?
Things are looking great for the 2021 vintage. We had really good winter and early spring rainfall here in the Hills which replenished soil moisture and perfectly set up the growing season to follow. Since then, things have been progressing nicely so everyone is gearing up for a great harvest. Down in Tassie it is much the same, and the Tolpuddle Vineyard is looking stellar as we head towards veraison and the critical last couple of months of ripening. What I’m excited about with this first vintage is seeing fruit in the winery from our different vineyards and varieties in the Hills - there is so much intricate variation within our sites in terms of soil, aspect and micro-climate and I can’t wait to see that through from the fruit stage first-hand.
Lastly, is there a particular wine you turn to after a long day in the cellar?
Things in the cellar can be pretty hectic at times, especially during vintage. It’s important to take the time to take stock and reflect on the day, the season and the work ahead. Personally, I think the Tolpuddle Chardonnay is a wine that really forces you to slow down and contemplate the beauty and complexity that can be found in wine. What’s more, its minerality and focused coil of acidity are incredibly refreshing and invigorating. The Tolpuddle Vineyard is a pretty special place and I feel pretty lucky to be able to come back to a glass of that after a long day in the cellar.
The Tolpuddle Vineyard in the Coal River Valley, Tasmania was purchased by Martin Shaw and Michael Hill Smith MW in 2011. The climate is cool and dry - ideal conditions to grow Chardonnay and Pinot Noir of exceptional quality. The fruit is carefully transported to the Shaw + Smith winery and made onsite in the Adelaide Hills. Tolpuddle Wines can be purchased here.