The defining moment in vigneron Matthew Hill Smith's life – one that would have profound influence on his winemaking career – came many harvests ago in France. During one of his many pilgrimages to the French vineyards, Hill Smith describes this pivotal experience:
-French vignerons tend their vineyards vine by vine. One morning there was a frost coming and I couldn't believe how many workers were out all night waiting to light fires to get the air moving and keep the frost at bay. They were literally sleeping with their vines," Hill Smith recalls.
'I realised then that to be a great wine producer you also have to be a great gardener. Today, mechanisation and mass production has taken the art and flavour away from the industry. Our wines are produced using many of the old ways of production that produce truly subtle flavours."
The Hill Smith name is synonymous with Australian winemaking, dating back to 1849 when Samuel Smith first planted vines at Yalumba in the Barossa Valley. Today, Marko's Vineyard in Woodside represents seven generations of continuous family winemaking.
During his 22 years as owner of Brisbane's most innovative and revered restaurant, Pier Nine, earning Gourmet Traveller's Three Hats for a phenomenal four years, Hill Smith quickly became a champion of the 'small wineries". Drawing on his mother's 'paddock to plate" ethos and her legendary prowess with food and hospitality, Matthew Hill Smith firmly established himself as a respected authority on Australian food and wine.
Born and bred in the wine industry, with Barossa blood pulsing strongly through his veins, Hill Smith has made it his mission to create the highest quality single-vineyard wines on the market.
Most recently, he released his own oakless Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc: two exciting and individual wines made using fruit grown in the high-altitude cool climate of his 23-year-old vines in the Adelaide Hills.
'It's all about the vineyard and how you manage it," he explains. 'Mine has a good mixture of the best international clones and vine age, and is one hundred per cent hand-picked and hand-pruned. As a result, the grapes are not bruised or damaged in the picking process and every grape experiences a long, slow, cool ripening period to create intense and high-quality flavours. I am proud to say I work on a farm – not in a factory."
Marko's wines are available throughout independent retailers, online at www.markosvineyard.com.au, as well as at an extensive list of top-tier restaurants and bars. As one of Australia's leading Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc producers, Matthew Hill Smith's expertise becomes supremely evident after the first sip of his lovingly produced vintages.