Matt grew up in a small town called Eudunda, with a population of 640, about 30 minutes from Barossa Valley. It wasn’t a winemaking region – sheep, wheat and livestock were the primary industries and his family mostly drank fortified table wine. His parents eventually moved to the Barossa at age 6, where his house overlooked the Yalumba vineyards.
Though not a Clare Valley native, his roots and connection to the region run deep. Matt’s wife is a local and her godfather supplies fruit to some of Matt’s Rieslings. Though Matt actually lives in the Barossa, his heart and soul are in the vineyards of Clare Valley.
Matt’s first experience working in the world of wine began picking grapes during vintage for pocket money during high school, though he didn’t seriously consider a career in winemaking until later on. He constantly heard his mates, who worked as cellar hands talk about how hard the job was. “I thought they were crazy - the heavy physical labour, often in cold and wet conditions and unpredictable hours. But their passion was contagious.” Eventually, Matt’s curiosity got the better of him and he took the first step to what would become a lifelong passion.
It all began after a wine tasting – it was his first introduction to wine and he couldn’t resist the lifestyle. “I got a vintage job in January 2000 at Dorrien Estate, studied part-time at Wagga Wagga University and in 2008 I started full-time winemaking.”
Matt heads up Mockingbird Hill, which has been in the Cellarmasters' family for over 20 years. Mockingbird Hill has made wines that capture the heart and soul of Clare Valley.
It features different ranges like the “Slate Lane” and “MCR Block”. Slate Lane showcases wines with an intensity of fruit and subtle mineral characters from unique slate laden soils. The MCR Block is so named due to its proximity to McRae Wood Road. Characterised by the shallow grey and red loam over slate rock and surrounded by beautiful old blue gums, this MCR block produces intense of characterful wines that are unquestionably the essence Clare Valley.
The Mockingbird Hill wines are award-winning acclaimed drops including the 2016 Slate Lane Shiraz named the Cellarmasters Wine of The Year in 2018 as well as winning gold and silver medals and the 2017 Mataro awarded 95 points by James Halliday.
Matt’s Mockingbird Hill Cab Malbec 2012 won a trophy at the Clare Valley Wine show. It was a humbling experience for Matt – there have been winemakers who’ve been there for 20 years and have never won, so when a relatively unknown winemaker wins it can be transformative. Matt is modest, yet proud about the victory. “Going under the radar was fine by me - the results speak for themselves.”
The schedule of a winemaker can be unpredictable and the decision of when to pick and bottle rests with Matt. At the moment, he’s working on a range of Rieslings, classifying the different parcels of fruit to decide which juice will be turned into which wine. Then the process starts all over again. "There's usually not much rest in between vintages and I start bottling next year's wine right after."
“Red blends, especially with Malbec seem to be growing in popularity. There are a lot of people chasing international Malbec, especially from Argentina.” But according to Matt, there are some incredible local vineyards right here in Australia. He believes Malbec will be making its way into Cab Sav, Mataro and Shiraz blends in the near future.
For Matt, winemaking is not about changing what he starts with - it’s about enhancing what nature has given him in the vineyards. Watching the grapes closely and making the executive decision of when to pick the grapes comes from a combination of experience, intuition and a little bit of luck. Picking at the right moment can make the difference between a good wine and an incredible wine.
Of course, having a good team at the winery is the most important part for Matt. “Even if you make the right decisions as the winemaker – if the team doesn’t do the right thing results can be disastrous.” Every wine team member has a job to do and Matt couldn’t do it without them.
Favourite Wine Moment
“When I opened a forty-year-old bottle of Saltram’s Peter Lehmann Shiraz. It’s amazing how wine can age and become softer.”
- Matt Reimann
- Mockingbird Hill
- Clare Valley