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Here at Matua, we reckon people really make a place. Our Matua team is like family – and we’re pretty lucky to have lots of awesome people in it! We’ve got some real legends too. Here are two of them: co-founder Bill Spence and Chief Winemaker Chris Darling.
You could say Bill was made to start a winery – it’s in his blood. His grandfather made wine in Auckland as early as 1918 and Bill grew up working on his father’s winery and vineyard in West Auckland before and after school.
Bill and his older brother Ross shared a vision to revolutionise the New Zealand wine industry, so after the brothers studied viticulture and winemaking, they were itching to put modern winemaking techniques into practice.
Come 1966, they struck out on their own and bought some land with help from their grandmother and mother. By 1974, they produced their first vintage of Sauvignon Blanc and Matua was born.
With his gift of the gab, Bill took the lead on viticulture, marketing and exports while Ross focused on the winemaking. Bill’s infectious personality and enthusiasm drove Matua’s early sales. In 1990 he became founding Chairman of the NZ Wine Export Guild where he stayed for three years, spreading the word about Kiwi wine and Matua.
Both Bill and Ross loved giving new things a go – and they were good at it too. They even made a traditional Portuguese style Port, which won gold medals year after year. Their drive to create wine that people would really enjoy combined with their experimental dabbling made sure awards for Matua kept on coming.
A likeable rogue of the industry, these days Bill is still very much a part of Matua. When he’s not globetrotting as Matua’s Brand Ambassador, talking wine or taking the mickey, you’ll find Bill making his own prosciutto and wicked chili sauce or catching up on the Rugby.
He changes his mind a lot, but Pinot Noir is Bill’s favourite drop at the moment – especially from Central Otago. He loves its multi-dimensional character and the precision it requires in the vineyard.
Growing up in Australia, Chris’ interest in wine first stemmed from his father – an avid wine lover himself, who shared the stories and mystiques of the world of wine with his son. This initial interest soon turned into a passion, which led Chris to pursue a career in the industry with the aim of crafting wines which could be enjoyed the world over.
After completing an Oenology degree at Roseworthy College in Adelaide, Chris worked in vineyards across Western Australia before relocating to Marlborough in 2003. As luck would have it, his first day in New Zealand saw him taste a glass of Matua Sauvignon Blanc and he was hooked. The rest, as they say, is history.
Completing his first vintage as a winemaker with Matua that year, Chris recalls marvelling at the amount of flavour in each wine, and was intrigued by the contrast in styles being created. To this day, showcasing the unique terroir and flavours of New Zealand are what continue to drive Chris in his work, with a focus on producing quality wines that are true to their origin and crafted with minimal intervention.
From a varietal perspective, Chris enjoys exploring the complexities of Pinot Noir, but still relishes Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc – even more so when enjoyed in the sunshine, accompanied by an oyster or two!
Alongside Matua’s strong heritage, it’s the people Chris works alongside who inspire him. A family of colleagues who work collaboratively to create , innovate and take New Zealand wines to the world.