Only 10 years into his career, Matt Burton took a leap of faith and established his own label. He’s been reaping the rewards ever since.
It was a serendipitous family connection that saw Matt Burton seduced into the world of wine. Matt’s father, Geoff, is an Australian cinematographer and director – look him up, it’s an impressive CV. The film industry is small and Geoff knows James Davern, the producer of A Country Practice and one-time owner of Wandin Valley Estate in the Hunter Valley. That family connection led to Matt working at Wandin Valley (with veteran winemaker Geoff Broadfield) while he was still at school and the vinous fire was lit. A stint as cellar hand at Hogue Cellars in the Columbia Valley, Washington, US, in 2000 fuelled the flames and he enrolled at Charles Sturt University that year. His winemaking destiny was set.
Fast-forward 21 years, and Burton has successfully merged winemaking with farming grapes on the family’s small vineyard near Gundaroo. More importantly, Burton has an entrepreneurial streak with two small, warm and inviting cellar doors: one in old Pokolbin schoolhouse on MacDonald’s Road, aptly named Gundog Hunter Cellar; and Gourmet Pantry and Cork St Cellars in Gundaroo. Burton has his Gundog Estate label plus a standalone brand, Indomitus, to push the winemaking envelope. For extra fun, he collaborates with Dylan McMahon to make wine under the Burton McMahon label. Burton recognises that the consumer is paramount and runs a tight wine club with the support of a burgeoning mailing list. The Gundog Estate offerings go beyond wine, with local gourmet products such as olive oils, curry pastes, spice rubs, pasta, dressings and even muesli. But wait, there’s more: hand-made chocolate balls filled with Gundog Estate shiraz and muscat, and a bespoke Gundog Dry Gin and Hunting Ale.
"He takes his winemaking seriously, focusing on three varieties: the Hunter stalwarts, semillon and shiraz, along with riesling from the Canberra District."
This plethora of products might seem to cast Burton more as a marketer than a maker. But not so, for he takes his winemaking seriously, focusing on three varieties: the Hunter stalwarts, semillon and shiraz, along with riesling from the Canberra District (which is also the source of his cool climate shiraz). Apart from the small family vineyard, which has been grafted to riesling, Burton sources his grapes from a network of growers in Hall and Murrumbateman, nearby in the Hilltops and his home base in the Hunter Valley. Winemaking is at the leased De Bortoli facility, a 1,000-tonne winery too small for the De Bortoli enterprise but with ample space for Gundog’s 150-tonne crush.
Burton’s philosophy has been shaped by the wineries where he’s worked and the (generous) mentors with whom he has shared a glass or three. Matt is enamoured with the traditional Hunter ‘Burgundies’ of yesteryear, with a special place in his heart for the 1965 vintage and the great Lindeman’s wines of that year. A vintage at Domaine Kuehn in Ammerschwihr in 2002 cemented his love of riesling and his friendship with another CSU student, McMahon, who was working nearby in Riquewihr. Post-vintage the pair travelled around France lapping up the opportunity to expand their vinous horizons.
Vintage 2003 saw Burton at Coldstream Hills, where Andrew Fleming and Greg Jarratt helped build his winemaking and (equally importantly) his tasting experience – as did the occasional visit from James Halliday with his hands full of great bottles to share with the vintage crew. Next step was back to the Hunter to where it all began, Wandin Valley Estate. Burton stayed from 2003 to 2010, rising to chief winemaker and general manager.
In 2010, just a decade into his career, he took the leap and established Gundog Estate with few assets but an abundance of hope and enthusiasm. The rest has been well-earned success at all levels. Burton is a man of integrity and compassion and has shared his fiscal achievements by supporting Path 2 Change, a charity that creates programs for those experiencing or at risk of homelessness. He acknowledges our changing climate by partnering with Fifteen Trees to assist with the regeneration of the environment. Burton is still a young man, but one with a steady eye on the future. Watch this space. And, yes, there is a gun dog, a Cocker Spaniel named Karl Marx.
REGION | Hunter Valley & Canberra District, NSW
YEARS IN INDUSTRY | 21
ANNUAL CRUSH | 150 tonnes
STAND-OUT WINES | Gundog Estate Marksman’s Shiraz., Canberra District
Photography courtesy of Gundog Estate.