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 three of them… our co-founder Bill Spence, Chief Winemaker Greg Rowdon and Chief Viticulturist Richard Shenfield.
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.
Greg’s relationship with Matua began in 1997, when during his final year of high school he wrote to the team asking for advice on how to become a winemaker. Our then Chief Winemaker offered some tips – and who knew that they would be so foretelling (and Greg such a bright spark) that he would later work his way up the ranks from Cellar Hand to Masters scholar and all the way to the top!
Greg first considered a career in wine as he had always enjoyed science and his mum suggested it could be a good fit - which he now suspects had something to do with her also liking the fruit of his labour... Not soon after, he tried his first glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and unlike other wines he’d come across he was marvelled by how it could be so packed with flavour. His curiosity for the industry was piqued.
After completing a Bachelor of Science at the University of Auckland, Greg was offered a postgraduate scholarship. With six months to go before commencing a Masters in Science degree majoring in Winemaking, Greg again got in touch with Matua and scored his first role there working in the cellar in 2002.
Continuing to work while studying, Greg conducted his research in conjunction with Matua, writing his thesis on the evolution of volatile aromatics during micro-oxygenation - potentially not the most glamorous of research topics - but it did land him both a government scholarship and promotion at Matua to Cellar Hand/Assistant Winemaker. From there Greg undertook vintages in France and Marlborough while advancing to Auckland Site Winemaker, Marlborough Senior Winemaker and then in 2016 Chief Winemaker.
Outside of the winery Greg watches a lot of Sesame Street as the proud father of two young boys. He enjoys getting out on a boat on the Marlborough Sounds, and indulging in long lunches with his mates – preferably outside with great wine and some sort of stinky washed-rind cheese. A Chardonnay fiend, he loves not only how much of a delight it is to drink, but also the great influence he can have when making it.
Having had such a long-standing relationship with Matua, Greg is passionate about upholding its pioneering legacy and ensuring that he and his team continue to nudge the boundaries of New Zealand winemaking.