Sam Harrop MW is a leading consultant winemaker with a reputation for delivering results. He currently has winery clients in Portugal, France and England and is co-chair of the International Wine Challenge, one of the world's largest and most influential wine competitions.
Sam initially trained as a winemaker in New Zealand and gained valuable experience working at Villa Maria's wineries in Auckland and Hawkes Bay. This was followed by a period at Littorai Wines in California, a boutique winery producing complex terroir-focused wines. It was during this time that Sam's interest in natural winemaking was awakened. In 1997 he moved to the UK to take up a position as wine buyer for influential retailer Marks & Spencer. The seven years Sam spent here were crucial in shaping the latter path of his career. During this time he travelled throughout the world's key wine regions. It was also during this period that Sam embarked on his studies for the prestigious Master of Wine (MW) qualification, which is currently held by only 289 people worldwide.
In 2002 Sam co-founded a boutique winemaking operation - Domaine Matassa. Located in France's Roussillon region, Matassa produces distinctive red and white wines from low yielding old vines that are grown according to biodynamic principles. Matassa’s wines have been well received by critics, and are now distributed in some of the world's key wine markets.
In August 2004 Sam left Marks & Spencer to start his own consultancy business. He rapidly found a broad, appreciative market for his unique range of skills. As well as being an accomplished winemaker, Sam has an excellent grasp of the business of wine and in-depth knowledge of what it takes for wines to succeed in the crowded UK marketplace. He has quickly become a sought-after adviser to European wineries and distributors looking not only to improve wine quality, but also for advice in developing and marketing their brands to export markets.
Sam currently works with wineries in Portugal (Falua), the Loire Valley (Interloire), and Southern France (Bonfils). 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 is active in the Institute of Masters of Wine mentoring programme, and also has a key role as co-chairman of the International Wine Challenge, the largest wine competition in the world.
In November 2006 Sam was one of two international guests judging at the Air New Zealand Wine Awards, and he regularly judges at the Vin de Pays and Spanish Top 100 competitions held in London. As a key wine industry commentator, he regularly appears in both the trade and consumer press in the UK and abroad.
Recently Sam was voted 12th in the top 75 most influential people in UK wine, in a poll by top UK trade magazine Off-Licence News. He released a book in 2011, co-authored with best selling wine writer Jamie Goode, entitled ‘Authentic Wine’, exploring the wide range of issues surrounding naturalness in wine, including concepts of terroir, biodynamics, and sustainability. In 2012 he was awarded the Julian Brind Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Wine Industry, by the International Wine and Spirit Competition.
Unconventional and always personal, Sam's holistic approach to the wine business draws on his unique mixture of technical expertise, commercial insight, and commitment to preserving wine diversity.