10th December, 2013 by Gabriel Stone
10. Sam Harrop MW
Clients: Tagus Creek, Bodegas Fontana, Te Motu
Not many consultants can claim to have done so much to change the face of an entire region, but in his work for former client InterLoire – first with Cabernet Franc and now Sauvignon Blanc – New Zealander Sam Harrop has helped to implement a wholesale modernisation of Loire wines.
His ability to combine winemaking expertise with a strong eye for what makes markets tick is also evident in the commercial success of Portuguese brand Tagus Creek. Explaining his strengths, Harrop notes: “Many winemaking teams don’t get to the market enough, they are starved of trends and information from the market. The problem is, many marketeers and sales people don’t speak or understand the technical language of the winemaker, so there is a breakdown in communication between the two disciplines within the organisation.” Positioning himself between these two poles, Harrop explains: “As a winemaker with a good commercial understanding of and presence in the market place I can help the winemakers create wines that not only have a reason for being, but suit the markets they are destined for and with any luck over-deliver as well.”
Harrop is also one of the most informed, authoritative voices in the emotive “natural” wine debate. Two years ago saw the publication of Authentic Wine, co-written with wine writer Jamie Goode, in which the pair explore a number of key issues surrounding this movement.
For those who argue that the modern-day phenomenon of the international winemaking consultant is leading to a standardisation of wine styles, Harrop offers a robust defence of his profession. Indeed, far from narrowing the world’s wine palette, Harrop argues that if anything the impact of winemaking consultants, aided by advances in technology, has helped a broader spectrum of wines to express a more distinct sense of place. “Before technology and consultants there were a lot of wines – both commercial and premium – that were faulty and as such a certain level of homogenisation existed,” he explains. Thanks in no small part to the efforts made by wine consultants, he concludes: “my observation over the last 15 years in the commercial and mid-priced market segment is that wine diversity has never been so impressive.”
Look out for new wines from a recently added client Te Motu in Waiheke Island, not to mention Harrop’s own private project from this region, which is due to debut next year. Not content with wine, Harrop is also well known as a vocal champion of Sake.