Matua Valley changed the way today’s wine drinkers think of white wine, and the New Zealand wine industry has a great deal for which to thank two young, ambitious, pioneering brothers back in the 1970s.
About Matua Valley
Matua Valley is famous for being the first New Zealand winery to plant Sauvignon Blanc, back in 1969, and prides itself on this historic and industry-changing decision. In the mid-60s, the idea that Sauvignon Blanc, or indeed any high quality grape, could be planted, so far south, was almost risible... but the rest, is history.
Matua Valley has an iconic status in the New Zealand wine industry, for this very reason, intensified by the overt Maori label, and the winery and brand’s no nonsense approach to its wines. The meaning of the name of the symbol says it all, translating from Maori as ‘The Head of the Family’.
Today, Matua has succeeded in doing what many New Zealand brands have not – retaining its quality and premium positioning, at the higher end of the scale, with carefully selected distribution through wine outlets and shops, rather than supermarkets. From its regional range, through to the iconic Paretai, it represents the origin and heart of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc; the original thinking and innovative ideas of the company’s founders are fundamental in the start of the phenomenon that was created – New Zealand wines now represent an impressive 6% of total wine sales in the UK, from a standing start as recently as the late 80s.
What's The Background To Matua Valley?
Matua Valley was founded in 1974 by Bill and Ross Spence, although the idea to plant Sauvignon Blanc grapes had come 5 years earlier. Starting from a tin shed in west Auckland, the sons of an immigrant Croatian winemaking family set off on their pioneering challenge to plant a grape variety that people thought they were mad to plant. ‘You’ll never get grapes to grow here’ and ‘Sauvignon what?’, were frequent comments; but their audacious and irreverent ambitions drove them on a journey of discovery, which was to lead to the eventual rise of New Zealand, and in particular New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, to the stellar and international success story that it is today.
True innovators, and with a typically Kiwi passion, yet non-conformist approach, the brothers learnt from their father, who first planted the first grapes in west Auckland. With ambition, determination, and in the case of Bill, a degree in horticulture, the brothers set up shop to make and market their wines. Very quickly, they became known for their innovation, and passion for quality, and established a credible market for these, until-then-unheard of styles of wine from this far-flung country.
Initially the brothers, hell bent and committed to their new venture, held down full time jobs and worked on the vineyards and their wines in their spare time, from their leased tin shed. They had a vision, they made it happen, by planting ‘the very best fruit, in the very best vineyards’, and with no compromise.
Their pioneering spirit revolutionised both the New Zealand wine industry, and the tastes of the international wine buying public, and their passion continues today, with Bill still involved in the business. The company now has wineries extending through both Auckland and Marlborough.
Their prowess, vision, innovation and success has been rewarded on numerous occasions, and via multiple awards, but a key measure of their ongoing success was the accolade of ‘New Zealand Wine Producer of the Year’ by the world- wide recognised International Wine and Spirit Competition in 2012. From extremely humble beginnings, Matua has become one of the most respected wineries in the world.
The man at the helm, in terms of winemaking, is now award-winning Nikolai St George, a New Zealander, who grew up in the heart of the New Zealand wine country, studied for a wine degree, and is now keeping the magic going and driving it further forward, in terms of quality and style. With a stripped back approach, which allows the wines to speak for themselves, with minimal interference, or additions in terms of sulphur and treatments, Nikolai has recently been awarded the coveted title of New Zealand winemaker of the year, in the New Zealand Easter Show Wine Awards.
What Styles Of Wine Does Matua Valley Make?
The Matua Valley range of wines is categorised by 4 different tiers – First Frost, Regional Collection, Estate Collection and Single Vineyard range.
Regional Collection - The regional collection comprises a range of 6 red and white wines, which represent true and authentic regional and varietal character, following the founding ethos of the business – to plant the best grapes, in the best vineyards. Cool climate Marlborough is home to the Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir in the range, whilst there is also a ripe, tropically fruity Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc. The warmer climes of Gisborne produce both a fresh, citrus streaked Chardonnay, and a spicy, minerally Pinot Gris. A rich, plummy Merlot is produced in Hawkes Bay.
First Frost – Matua is one of an increasing number of New Zealand wine producers, who has spotted the opportunity for lower alcohol, lighter wines, from the popular Sauvignon Blanc grape. With 25% less alcohol and less calories, First Frost Sauvignon is a lighter, zesty style of white.
Estate Collection – 2 premium wines, including the now iconic, and highly acclaimed Matua Valley Paretai Sauvignon Blanc, an estate wine with powerful intensity, verve, depth and intrigue; and also a silky, minerally, red berry fruit Pinot Noir from Central Otago.
Single Vineyard Collection – these are unique, handcrafted wines, from individual vineyards, throughout the areas owned or controlled by Matua Valley, and are the ultimate expression of the style of wines, which they have focussed on making for the last 40 years. The range comprises 2 cool region whites, a citrussy, mineral Marlborough Chardonnay, and a lime streaked, vibrant Marlborough Riesling; the reds feature Hawkes Bay Matheson Vineyard Merlot, and the elegant, complex Central Otago Lowburn Pinot Noir.