Matt knew he wanted to be a winemaker from a very early age – 16 in fact. At this time he was already collecting and necessarily stashing cases of wine under his adolescent bed. Bordeaux, Burgundy, and anything of worldly repute that his pocket money could reasonably enable him to possess were searched for and gathered. Accompanying this avid collecting was Matt’s voracious thirst for knowledge: bedtime reading consisted of Parker’s Bordeaux volumes, and when the time for tertiary education dawned on him he fashioned his own degree to most usefully suit a career as an oenologist.
Farewelling the University of Otago with a Masters in Biochemistry, Matt began working in the Marlborough wine industry quite fortuitously in 1992. The founding of Kiwi-Oeno, his wine consultancy business, came upon witnessing, and being an active part of, Marlborough’s meteoric rise to international wine stardom. The need for professional oenological support and assistance was manifest has today evolved into a true consultancy collective, KO Wine Consultants, which provides services to wine-regions all around the globe.
Aside from the prodigious array of accolades Matt has received for his wines over the years, a professional high-point in his career was winning International White Winemaker of the Year at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in 2008. His expertise and successes in winemaking extend across a sweeping array of varieties with a particular strength in Sauvignon Blanc – this has been assisted by his work as a “flying” (and driving, training, and taxiing) winemaking consultant on behalf of UK importer and distributor Liberty Wines since 1994. This has involved traveling to Europe at least four times annually for the vintage, blending and bottling of wines.
This binary oenological existence allows Matt to bring the opposing hemispherical perspective to his winemaking – enabling him to sustain an open-mindedness whatever part of the world he is in.
Sophie grew up in a family where wine and hospitality ruled supreme. Her family’s business revolved around the pioneering days of winemaking in New Zealand and some zany ideas.
Also a University of Otago graduate, her calling was law, which entertained her writing and public speaking thirsts. Wine and food however never strayed from her heart and it was after living and working in Queenstown and dabbling in wine and restaurant reviews that an opportunity arose to go to Marlborough for the 2011 vintage, working with Kiwi-Oeno.
She is currently studying for the Master of Wine qualification, having completed the Wine and Spirits Education Trust Diploma in 2014. She assists Matt in the wine-making of Blank Canvas and manages all other facets from export to marketing. Running a wine business and raising a toddler doesn’t take up a lot of time so pursuing the MW seemed like a good idea!