10 March 2015
Matt Strugnell of Ridgeview talks vine careers:
Matt Strugnell was one of the first Plumpton wine graduates, and is now the vineyard manager at Ridgeview.
After secondary school, Matt’s obsession for the weather fuelled his ambition to be a weather man. That was not to be; instead he followed his father's footsteps and studied construction for three years, then worked in a printed circuit board company for eight years as a machine operator. He then decided to go to Australia and visit a friend, and spent a year backpacking, where he found himself working in vineyards in Clare Valley and Murray River. When he returned to England he enrolled at Plumpton College to study wine, where he was taught by Chris Foss and Kevin Sutherland, who was vineyard manager at the time. Matt worked hard, put in extra time working in the vineyards during the summer and became Kevin's right hand man. When he successfully completed his Higher National Diploma, he was taken on by Ridgeview as their vineyard manager.
When asked to describe a typical day at work, Matt's response was that this was dependant on the time of year, and he gave us a rundown of a typical day in the growing season. This would see him up at 7.30 in the morning, checking his emails and work schedule, and a typical week could be split between spraying for one day, trimming vines for two days and visiting contract growers. Matt described his 'middle man' role between the contract growers and the winery, where he reports to the winemaking team on how much fruit to expect, and when it will arrive.
Asked what he find best about his job, Matt's response was the end product and the demonstration of its quality through good reviews or winning awards, or even seeing it on the supermarket shelves. The things he hates most is the risk of spring frost and the six-week embargo on planning anything with his family that it brings. The most surprising thing was plant and machinery driving. He once dug a road trench for a phone cable, on the premise that if you can drive a tractor you can drive a digger!
By Antonio Mariani 1st year FdSc Wine production