Nathaniel McConnell - Bluestone Vineyard

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Age: 27
Vineyard/Winery: Bluestone Vineyard
Position: Bluestone vineyard co-founder and Vineyard manager


What inspired you to become a winemaker? 


We decided to diversify into grape growing for quality sparkling wine production and planted a vineyard in 2015. This has definitely fast tracked my aspirations to become a winemaker but it had been in the back of my mind since 2008 when we first started to consider this particular business diversification. Since planting, I have just been trying to learn as much as I can from as many people in the industry as possible. Alongside this I have enrolled onto the MSc in Viticulture and Oenology at Plumpton. 


Please describe your winemaking journey so far…


I wasn't always destined for a career in winemaking or grape growing. Straight out of uni I worked as a research scientist. But here I am now and I'm in the very early days of my winemaking journey. I have only recently completed my first vintage at Hattingley Valley this year, which was incredible from a learning point of view and tremendous fun. Going forward I hope to take part in at least one vintage per year in different wine producing regions across the world.


Describe your personal highlight of your career so far. 


My "career" has been short but sweet thus far though my personal highlight would have to be the vintage at Hattingley. It was just amazing. The team there is so great and it made the work seem easy, though I can tell you the work is not easy and the hours are long. 


Can you think of a valuable piece of information/advice you wish you had been given prior to training? 


I'm sure I will be getting a lifetimes worth of advice in the years to come, or at least I hope to. I have been lucky enough to meet some great people in the industry that have been so helpful and I haven't been able to do the things I've done so far without the friends I have made along the way. Be friendly, enthusiastic, work hard and learn lots but most of all, enjoy wine!


Which of your current wines are you most excited about? 


Bluestone is a young vineyard but we do have our first small batch of classic cuvee due to be released in April-May 2018, which is extremely exciting for us.


What were the last two truly memorable English wines (that weren’t your own) that you tasted? 


It probably won't surprise you by now that both positions could quite easily be filled by any of the Hattingley wines. So a joint first for Hattingley Valley Blanc de Blanc 2011 and their King's cuvee. In second would have to be the Camel Valley Pinot Noir Brut.


Decanter recently published an article which highlighted a shortage of young recruits into the English Wine industry - what would you say in order to convince young people in the UK into considering a career in winemaking? 


This is a toughy. I mean who the heck knows what they want to do? If you do then congratulations. I think it's so important for young people to get as much hands on experience as possible no matter what path you think you may want to take. For the wine industry this may be difficult as opportunities are few and far between unless you're in the know or have gone to agricultural colleges like Plumpton for example. So actually does the responsibility rest in the hands of the wineries and vineyards to make the industry more accessible to younger people in the UK? 

To those even considering the idea of pursuing a career as a winemaker or grape grower I would implore you to get yourself out there and get your hands dirty. Contact vineyards and contact wineries and get yourself on their radar even if that means volunteering for a day or two, helping out at harvest, pruning and even general day to day jobs around the winery.