A Winederful Chat with Matthew in the Ulithorne Vineyards
The wines from Ulithorne in McLaren Vale South Australia have been recommended by the Liquor Barons Panel many times in the On the Vine Editions. I had met winemaker Matthew Copping once before when he was visiting Perth a few years ago so I was keen to meet him in the vineyards in McLaren Vale and find out more about him, the brand and the wines. It was a windy but clear day so we had wonderful views of McLaren Vale from the northern facing elevated vineyards. I was fortunate to be able to take a few photos of the wines among the vines from which they are sourced especially featuring Matthew who is very modest about the work he does and would have preferred to have been behind the camera instead of in the picture.
Over the years Ulithorne has received many accolades and recommendations including James Halliday 2017 Wine Companion, Huon Hooke, Jancis Robinson MW stating “1 of my 6 favourite Australian producers” and Decanter Magazine commenting, “these are cult wines.” I like their smart and bright labels with what looks like a cross of arms. It is a small team of Matthew, Ryan Kinghorn the General Manager and two shareholders.
The start of Matthew’s wine interest
Matthew grew up in Penola in the Coonawarra wine region where his dad managed vineyards and outside of school he would often help. After school Matthew went off to Flinders University to study science. Then after the first year decided to take a year off and headed back home where the captain of his cricket team was a winemaker who offered him the chance to not just work in the vineyards but also something new for Matthew, work in the lab. Following vintage, he applied to study winemaking at Adelaide University and spent the next 3.5 years there while doing vintage stints at different wineries. He eventually completed his degree through Charles Sturt externally as he preferred being in a winery as opposed to the classroom. Time spent at Hollicks was followed by 6 years at Penley Estate before he spent two years in Europe.
Returning home, he knew he wanted to work around McLaren Vale and applied for a job at Haselgrove. He was there for 8 years before spending some time at Langhorne Creek before joining Ulithorne in 2016.
Blewitt Springs Vineyard in McLaren Vale
There are 6.8 hectares of vines planted here in the deep sandy slopes in Blewitt Springs. The vineyard was bought in 2013 but the Grenache was planted back in 1950 and the Shiraz from 1955-1960.
Matthew had known about Ulithorne before joining and had always liked the wines. His aim is to create new products and focus on creating wines from the Ulithorne vineyards in Blewitt Springs, as he says, “bringing them home and maintaining the standard set by Rose” who was the former owner and winemaker. Matthew does not want to change everything, just evolve what they are doing and communicate the brand to more consumers.
He adds, “I am focusing on making the small batch and hands-on wines from our own vineyards.” By small batch, Matthew means small parcels. Their wine, CHI for example is made from 3-4 different batches of Shiraz as well as 2 batches of Grenache which are then blended to a specific style. Most of the wines in the Ulithorne range are blended which Matthew says is the fun part, putting all the different parcels of fruit together. The team likes the lighter fruit style attributed to their wines from the sandy soil in the Blewitt Springs vineyards.
In addition from the fruit in Blewitt Springs, Matthew sources additional fruit from selected growers in Blewitt Springs and near the foothills. From this block and the additional fruit they source, they make about 140 tonnes which is about 10,000-12,000 dozen bottles annually.
The full range of Ulithorne Wines are:
- CHI (Shiraz 58% Grenache 42%)
- FAMILIA (100% Shiraz)
- FRUX FRUGIS (100% Shiraz)
- NOVO DUO (Grenache 65%, Shiraz 35%)
- ANTIQUA (Grenache Shiraz Mourvèdre)
- AVITUS (Shiraz 93% Cabernet 7%)
- SPECIALIS (Tempranillo Grenache Graciano)
- DONA VILLAGE RANGE (3 different wines; Shiraz, Grenache Shiraz Mourvèdre and Marsanne Viognier)
- UNICUS (Shiraz)
- EPOCH (Grenache rosé)
Life as a Winemaker
When asked what Matthew loves about his job, he replies, “I like being hands on, getting my hands dirty, working in a winery and I also like the peace and quiet in the vineyard particularly in vintage. You can spend hours and hours a day walking up and down the vineyard tasting grapes and then go back to the winery where it is all happening. It is still very creative. I make small batches. I don’t have to follow a recipe as I am not trying to make the same wine everywhere for a commercial label.”
Matthew loves experimenting and this year they made a Nero for the first time ever. Also this year he decided to do a natural co-ferment the Grenache and Shiraz together for the Nova Duo. Keep a look out for the small parcels of Ulithorne wines!
“The creative side is the great part and watching wine evolve over years and develop in barrel and in the bottle, it is different from other products. It is interesting.” Matthews love of wine and experimenting explains why he enjoys trying different varieties and styles of wines and it is this that keeps him going and focused in such a competitive industry.
Free time for a busy winemaker
When Matthew is not working in the vineyards or travelling, he is a family man and enjoys time at the beach, on the boat and swimming.
Stockists for Ulithorne Wines
Ulithorne Wines are found both in the on and off premise Australia wide. About 50% is exported which includes China and Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong. Ulithorne would like to expand more into the export market in the future.
Swanny Cellars is a big supporter of Ulithorne Wines. A selection of wines from Ulithorne will be on tasting Friday 23rd from 4-7pm. Drop in, taste and ask the team about the wines.
Text written by Ruth Turnbull, Swanny Cellar’s Roaming Reporter.
About the Roaming Reporter:
Ruth Turnbull is the Roaming Reporter for Swanbourne Cellars. Having studied the WSET Advanced Certificate and WSET Diploma in Wines and Spirits, Ruth has worked in the wine trade in both London and Perth for over 15 years. While living in WA, Ruth was a regular Panel member on the Liquor Barons Panel and managed the digital marketing for Swanbourne Cellars. Now based in Adelaide, Ruth focuses on meeting the winemakers and the people behind the brand in order to highlight and share their story on the Swanbourne Cellars blog and social media channels