With a 20-year career working in New Zealand, Australia, USA, Europe and the UK, Sam’s expertise in the international wine industry marks him as one of the world’s leading consultant winemakers.
Sam began his career in New Zealand where trained as a winemaker at Villa Maria's wineries in Auckland and the Hawke’s Bay. He gained further experience working at Littorai Wines in California and Rosemount Estate in the Hunter Valley, Australia.
In 1997 Sam moved to the UK to take up a position as winemaker for Marks & Spencer, one of the UK’s leading retailers. During his seven years at Marks & Spencer, he worked with producers in the world's key wine regions. The quality of the resulting wines led to significant improvements in sales and profitability for Marks & Spencer.
It was also during this period that Sam embarked on his studies for the prestigious Master of Wine (MW) – a qualification currently held by less than 300 people worldwide. He passed both the tasting and theory sections on his first attempt in June 2002, and received a distinction for his dissertation. Sam was also presented the Tim Derouet Award for outstanding performance, an accolade which, to date, has been presented to fewer than 30 students since its inception in 1976.
In 2002, Sam co-founded the biodynamic winery, Domaine Matassa in the Roussillon region of South-West France. Although he no longer takes an active role at the Domaine, he remains a shareholder.
In August 2004 Sam left Marks & Spencer to launch his own consultancy business, and he rapidly found a broad, appreciative market for his unique range of skills. As well as being an accomplished winemaker, Sam has in-depth knowledge of the business of wine and knows what it takes for wines to succeed in the crowded UK marketplace. He quickly became a sought-after adviser to European wineries and distributors who were seeking to improve wine quality, and develop and promote their brands to export markets.
In addition to his winemaking and consultancy work, Sam holds the esteemed position of co-chairman of the International Wine Challenge, the largest wine competition in the world, and has worked as an international judge in competitions in New Zealand, Australia, Spain, Italy and South Africa. Sam was instrumental in setting up the Sake Category at the International Wine Challenge in 2007, and was awarded the great honour of becoming a ‘Sake Samurai’ for his work on this project.
In March 2009, Sam and a team of three other industry consultants organised and hosted the first International Sparkling Wine Symposium at Denbies Wine Estate. In November 2010 he was a co-chairman of the inaugural Sparkling Wine Review, a unique benchmarking initiative for global Sparkling Wine Styles.
Today, Sam works with wineries in Portugal (Falua), Southern France (Bonfils), Spain (Bodegas Fontana) and New Zealand (Te Motu). He is also employed as a consultant for Lallemand, a Canadian-based producer of wine yeast and bacteria, where he advises on wine industry R&D needs as well as communication strategies.
Sam regularly appears in both the trade and consumer press in the UK and around the world as a key wine industry commentator, and in 2011, he co-authored the book ‘Authentic Wine’ with Jamie Goode, focussing on concepts of naturalness and sustainability in winemaking.
In 2012 the International Wine and Spirit Competition presented Sam with ‘The Julian Brind Memorial Trophy for Outstanding Achievement in the Wine Industry’.
In December 2013 The Drinks Business, one of the key trade publications in the UK, selected Sam as the 10th most influential wine consultant in the world.
Recently, Sam started his own wine label – a single vineyard project focusing exclusively on Chardonnay and Syrah in the Auckland region. His first vintage was the stunning 2013 vintage and the first parcel is set to be released in December 2014.
Sam’s unique blend of technical expertise, commercial insight and commitment to preserving wine diversity defines his holistic approach to the wine business, and confirms his position as one of the key figures in the contemporary wine industry.