With a food technology degree and winemaking diploma, after more than 25 years involved in making wine, Matt Mitchell says the process still fascinates him.
“Despite what you understand about the chemistry and biology, there’s still an element of alchemy that remains fascinating,” says Matt. “Grape juice in itself doesn’t have much in the way of flavour intensity or complexity, but as soon as you put yeast to work, it develops these amazing nuances of aroma and flavour, even within hours. It’s this magic aspect that makes winemaking so engrossing.”
He had toyed with fermentations even as a teen in Upper Hutt, and embarked on a degree in food technology at Massey University. Having had the realisation early on that winemaking was what he really wanted to do, he completed his honours degree and then a Graduate Diploma in Wine Technology (Winemaking) at Roseworthy College in South Australia.
He worked his first vintage at Vidal Estate late in the 1980s, and later applied his skill as winemaker at some of New Zealand’s most respected wine companies – Montana Wines, Seifried Estate, Corbans, Church Road, Ager Sectus and Yealands. After years in Hawke’s Bay, he moved to Marlborough in 2005 to be based at The Crossings, while still maintaining his national winemaking responsibilities.
When he heard an opening existed at Marisco Vineyards, he went to meet Brent Marris, and it proved a good fit. He was appointed to the role of Winemaker in 2012.
“The best thing about the wine industry is the people. It attracts people of certain ilk, with a special love of life. While they’re committed and dedicated to what they do, and capable of working very hard for extended periods, they do it in such a way that the job doesn’t become a chore - they have fun doing it.”
While Brent is still very much involved in the winemaking, Matt manages the day to day running of the winery site, supported by Production Winemaker Jeremy Brown. By 2015, his role has become less winemaking and more winery manager.
With a love of the outdoors, Matt makes the most of what Marlborough has to offer. When he’s not spending time with his wife Tracey or daughter Sophie, he loves to test his (lack of) skills and endurance on bicycles - either mountain biking, or lately cyclo-cross, a form of off-road cycle racing that includes both riding and carrying a bike over a variety of obstacles.