HE may be a rugby player, hunter, fisherman and diver but it’s not all about sport and recreation for this 28-year-old Kiwi.
Almost five years ago Matt Duggan somehow found the time to add viticulture to his list of passions.
He grew up in cold and wet Wellington – far removed from the wine industry – and said he’s not what people expect when they think ‘viticulturist’.
Although he successfully completed a Bachelor of Science (Microbiology) degree and a Graduate Diploma in Viticulture and Oenology, Duggan confessed his focus was on socialising way ahead of studying to begin with.
After two years he took a break from all that partying – oh, yes, and study – to assess what he wanted in life and how he planned to get there.
“While I was studying in Dunedin my parents and two of my three younger sisters moved from wet Wellington to sunny Marlborough for the lifestyle,” he said.
“So when I took time out from study I did my first vintage in the laboratory at Villa Maria in Blenheim.
“I thought this would be a perfect way to combine the lab skills I had from university with a short term job that offered long hours (and good money) and provided me with the necessary time to think about my career choices.”
One epiphany later and the rest, as they say in the wine industry, was history. After taking part in the 2006 vintage, which he recalls as a “short, sharp snapshot of the industry” he was hooked.
“Don’t get me wrong, I already had a liking for wine, but this experience took it to the next level and I wanted to be part of this awesome industry,” he said.
And now he’s completed seven vintages – one at Villa Maria, one at Saint Clair, two at Delegats, two at Matua and one at Cloudy Bay Vineyards, where he’s currently employed.
LEARNING THE ROPES
Not growing up in a viticultural setting meant Duggan had to tackle his new career from the ground up. He relied on people he met along the way and hit the books whenever he got the chance.
“I think the more opinions I get on a particular process or technique can only benefit me and my overall skill-set,” he said.
“I haven’t grown up in a viticultural or even agricultural or horticultural environment, so all my skills and knowledge of the industry are from what I’ve learnt.
“I think that sets me in good stead, the fact I can take on board advice from anyone willing to offer it without any bias or preconceived ideas.”
Along the way one of his biggest learning curves was competing for the Moore Stephens Markhams Young Viticulturist of the Year title.
Duggan came “agonisingly close” to winning the award after entering for the second time in 2013 but missed by one point to Matt Fox.
“Coming second in both attempts has proved frustrating – so far,” he said.
“But having said that, it’s the kind of challenge I really thrive on knowing that I’m improving with every outing.
“This was a very good experience for me as it allowed me to identify my strengths and weaknesses very easily.”
ASPIRATIONS AND ACHIEVEMENTS
Satisfaction and enjoyment was what Duggan hoped to achieve throughout his career and said the wine industry was a highly rewarding field in which to work.
“It’s a huge buzz to see all your hard work in the planning and execution of a growing season culminate in the bottle each year,” he added.
“As long as my career keeps a smile on my face and allows me to provide adequately for my family, what greater reward or achievement could I ask for?”
Besides competing against other young viticulturists for the Moore Stephens Markhams Young Viticulturist of the Year title, Duggan has had many regional successes and was crowned the Marlborough Young Viticulturist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.
The full article appears in the September 2014 issue of Grapegrower & Winemaker magazine. To subscribe, visit www.winebiz.com.au/gwm/subscribe