Meet Our New Head Winemaker: Rob MacCulloch, Master of Wine

A Heartfelt Goodbye to Emma Rice

With the big news about our dear leader, Emma Rice stepping down as Head Winemaker at Hattingley Valley, we would like to say a huge thanks to Emma who has been with Hattingley Valley since the very beginning, and we can't thank her enough for what she has done for us and the wider industry too. She has not only become a hugely respected figure in the English wine scene but on a global scale too. Her hard work, tenacity, charm and competence are second to none and we know that she will only go on to greater and greater things, good luck Emma. We will ensure that we finish the 5 years of wines that we have in the cellar to your high standards, we promise. Below, Emma with the first-ever barrel bought for Hattingley. This barrel was used for the 2021 Kings Cuvée, which won't see the light of day for another five years. They do say good things come to those who wait...!

Emma Rice previous head winemaker at Hattingley Valley

Emma Rice 

A Big Hattingley Welcome to Rob MacCulloch MW

We would like to introduce you to our new Head Winemaker, Rob MacCulloch MW who recently returned to his home county of Hampshire to take up the position of Head Winemaker at Hattingley Valley Wines and has been working closely with Emma until her departure to ensure it is a seamless transition.

MW stands for Master of Wine, a highly acclaimed position in the wine trade with only 413 of them in the World; we are honoured to say that we now have one here at Hattingley Valley. With over two decades of experience in the wine industry, including a dozen winemaking harvests across five continents, Rob previously held the position of client winemaker for Hawke’s Bay Wine Company in New Zealand. He is one of a few full-time winemakers experienced in both wine production and wine commerce and boasts extensive skill with sparkling, white, rosé and red wines, in both cool and warm climates. From Margaret River in Australia to Mosel Valley in Germany, Rob has travelled the globe making wine and is well experienced in every element from vineyard to dispatch, with small family wineries through to volume-driven, export-focused operations.

In his new role at Hattingley Valley, he will be responsible for leading the team of winemakers and overseeing the creation of the Hampshire-based winery’s award-winning still and sparkling wines. 

Rob Macculloch MW Hattingley Valley Head winemaker, Finest English Sparkling Wine

Rob MacCulloch MW

Rob MacCulloch Welcome Q&A

Get to know our new Head Winemaker with a special welcome Q&A.

What are you most excited about starting as Head Wine Maker at Hattingley Valley?

I guess I’m most excited about starting to work with Hampshire-grown fruit from our own two vineyards, as the vines reach maturity. To be Hampshire born and bred, and work with Hampshire fruit that only has the potential to get better and better, is exciting!

What is your favourite wine and food pairing?

Well, the honest answer is “it depends” – there are just so many variables, right? Whom you’re drinking with, what you’re eating, where you are etc etc. But I would say that I’ve always loved Chardonnay, so matching our Blanc de Blancs with a firm white fish like a monkfish in a simple sauce like a sorrel sauce would be perfect. 

What’s your favourite way to spend a day off?

An early morning game of tennis with my wife (who has a much better return shot than I ever will), a lazy afternoon nap, and then dinner with close friends somewhere great is about as ideal a day off as I can imagine. Exercise, rest, and conversation – they’re the holy trilogy of a day off for me.

What was the best holiday you ever went on and why?

I spent a month in the Solomon Islands after doing a grape harvest in New Zealand and was just blown away by the country, the people, the history, and the Island scenery. There’s something about certain parts of the world that just gets under your skin, and I’d go back to the Solomon Islands in a heartbeat if I ever have the chance again. 

Where’s the next place on your travel bucket list and why?

I’ve never spent any extended time in Spain or Portugal, which is a big omission for two such important wine-producing countries. I’d love to do some wine exploration in that part of the world and get to know each country much better. 

What's your favourite season and why?

Definitely spring – I just love all the new growth, especially seeing the vines come alive again after winter dormancy, and it’s great feeling the dramatic change in the weather too. 

Who or what inspires you in your career?

I think what’s always been a big motivation is wanting to be involved in making something. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a lot of amazingly intelligent people who were good enough to share their knowledge and experience with me too – and that’s not only in wine but with friends and family whose curiosity and creativity gave me many examples to aspire to. They all inspired me collectively, I think.

What’s something an outsider wouldn’t know about your industry?

Ha! It takes a lot of beer to make great wine. And tea. I am British, of course!

What’s the career highlight you’re most proud of?

I did some viticulture research in an area of California called Lodi, which was really the first time I felt like I understood vine growing. It was one of those career highlights where there was a “before Lodi” and “after Lodi” feeling. And the people in that area who helped me during that research have remained lifelong friends, which I’m very grateful for.

What do you remember most about your first job?

Honestly, nothing good. I’m afraid to say I only lasted a week before finding something else.

What originally got you interested in your current field of work?

Before wine, I’d never worked with anything that was so multi-faceted, and that immediately caught my interest. Once I started to read about all the complexities in growing and making wine, I never wanted to do anything else – it took a while to make that happen, but making the stuff in the bottle was always the goal.

If you could live in a movie, which one would it be and why?

All The President’s Men, where they discovered things by working it out – it’s a lot like winemaking, I think. Nice cars in that movie too!  

What is your favourite podcast to listen to and why?

I really enjoyed “Flawless” by Jamie Goode. It makes a difficult subject easy to understand, as well as interesting too.

A Note from Simon Robinson

We can't wait to see where this new appointment takes Hattingley Valley and in the words of our founder, Simon Robinson:

"We are very excited having Rob join us - Emma is a tough act to follow but I am sure Rob will look after us as we move to the next level. It’s a very exciting time for the English industry and even better that Rob was able to return to his roots here in Hampshire using his fantastic experience in all parts of the wine trade both here and in New Zealand." 

Simon Robinson & Rob MacCulloch at Hattingley Valley Chalky Hill Vineyard

Simon Robinson & Rob at the vineyard 

For a limited time only, get The Hattingley Trio at a celebratory reduced price. Or check out our full range of English Sparkling Wine for a taste of Hattingley!

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