People over a certain age might remember a TV series called The Flying Doctors. Set in Australia, doctors were dispatched out to medical dramas in the outback by helicopter. In the wine world, flying winemakers take advantage of seasonal variation between northern and southern hemispheres, by making two vintages per year, one in northern Europe in September, and another in the southern hemisphere in March/April.
Matt Thomson has been a flying winemaker since 1994, operating out of St. Clair winery in Marlborough, while making wine in up to six wineries across Europe. As he says, he hasn’t “seen Spring for 20 years!” His technical expertise and keen palate bring 21st century winemaking to traditional wineries across Italy and southern France. Coaxing the best from each variety in each area, he puts a modern stamp on it, resulting in wines that have much greater appeal in export markets.
“You’ve got to really love wine” he says, to do what he does, as so much of his time is spent on the road, or usually in the skies, between wineries. He can’t remember when he last had a proper holiday, but manages to snatch a few days here and there for a bit of kayaking. An appetite for meeting people, savouring good food and wine, and generally loving the world of winemaking, seem to be motivating enough.
His passion for life and wines can be tasted with the following wines.
Alpha Zeta Pinot Grigio 2011 is a dry, but not bone-dry white from Verona in northern Italy. Subtle aromas of ripe juicy pear give way to a fresh and appealing palate; delicate yet flavoursome and ever so easy to drink. Unusually, the grapes are not treated with sulphur before they arrive at the winery. €12.99 from Mortons, Ranelagh; Parting Glass, Enniskerry; Malt House, Trim; Bradleys, Cork; Drink Store, Dublin 7; wineshop.ie; Brechin Wines, Ranelagh; Fallon & Byrne, Next Door, Enfield & Harold’s Cross; Cheers @ The Silver Granite, Palmerstown; O’Donovans.
St. Clair Vicar’s Choice Sauvignon Blanc is a long-standing favourite of mine. The 2012 vintage has a really pleasant herbaceous and tropical nose; not too overpowering. Punchy and assertive on the palate, with delicious passionfruit and blackcurrant leaf character, and a delightful finish. €14.99 from O’Brien’s, Molloys, Next Door and independents
St. Clair Premium Riesling 2011 from Marlborough has fresh Golden Delicious apple character, enhanced with crushed lime and stony minerality. A lick of sweetness cries out for a light Thai chicken dish. €15.99 from Next Door & good independents.
The Paddler Grüner Veltliner 2012 is a very fresh, youthful New Zealand wine, with a pleasant, not too rich mouthfeel. Pear, grapefruit, minerality and hints of white pepper on the finish. €20 from Fallon & Byrne, Dublin.
Alpha Zeta C Corvina 2012 is particularly herbal, with a piquant whiff of basil and rosemary. There’s a gorgeous balance of juicy fruit, slight sourness and bitter herb, on a super lengthy finish. Wonderful value at €11.99 from rednosewine.ie, and good independents such as Donnybrook Fair, Martin’s, Fairview; Sweeneys, Glasnevin; Blackrock Cellar; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock.