Dorset's Matt Ridgway on life and wine in the Southern Hemisphere

Producer Profile: How Dorset’s Matt Ridgway Ended Up Making Wine in Chile

Matt Ridgway (originally from Jamie’s hometown of Sherborne in Dorset) & his wife Ana Cattan run La Despensa, a refreshingly unconventional, boutique winery (in the truest sense of the word) inspired by Matt’s love of the Rhone.

It all began in 2003 when Matt, a backpacking English teacher, arrived in Ecuador. He spent a few months there before asking his travel agent to ‘roll the dice’ and sell him a ticket to ‘anywhere in Latin America’. One $60 ticket letter and he landed in Buenos Aires, just as Argentina was emerging from its massive financial crash and external investment was beginning to pour in. He bought and flipped a couple of properties and became established as a property consultant for foreign investors. In 2007 he moved to Chile and started renovating historic mansions in Valparaiso, before ending up in Colchagua in 2009 where he continued his consultancy, again helping foreigners buy property but this time mostly agricultural land.

In 2011 he bought his own piece of land in Santa Ana and renovated its earthquake-mangled, 100-year-old adobe worker’s cottage. In 2013 he planted his vineyard (Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre, naturally) followed by Marselan, Cinsault, Roussanne, Viognier, and Marsanne in 2016-17. He now produces 5-7 different wines per year, including a Cabernet Sauvignon from a friend’s high altitude vineyard and a Pais from one of Colchagua’s very last remaining old vine vineyards (150 years old).

Matt never dreamed he’d be living out his passion in Chile, but as we know, most of the time life doesn’t go according to plan, “How I became a winemaker is one of the mysteries of the universe. Did I ever want to have a vineyard? No… Did I ever want to make wine? Nope… But hey…here I am…after discovering my great passion in life. I love what I do: I love vineyard work, and I love producing wines. Making wine changed my life, and it changed my perception on life. I used to get bored quickly, and after a couple of years in a place, I needed to move on. Now, I measure time in years, instead of months. Wine has taught me that life should be lived slowly, nothing is to be gained in rushing around. The best things in life take time.”

Matt isn’t a fan of aged characters in wine, which is just as well because space in the winery is tight, requiring him to clear the last vintage before he bottles the next one. Consequently, the house style is one of primary fruit immediacy and super silky tannins.

At Propeller, we’re delighted to showcase Matt’s two wines he’s brought home to the UK.

Cold Shower Wines – Mission: Impaissible
Dry farmed (on about 12” of rain a year) old-vine Pais aged in flexitank to ensure maximum freshness and no oak influence. The Old vine Pais is at least 120 years old, most likely 150+, and comes from one of the very few remaining old vine Pais vineyards in Colchagua. Pais is of course known as ‘Mission’ in the US, hence the name! Whilst Maule boasts 3000+ ha of old vine Pais there are barely 40ha left in Colchagua, so much so that producer aren’t allowed to declare it – hence the name ‘Cold Shower’, which sounds uncannily like ‘Colchagua’ if you’re not paying attention. It’s way ‘more’ wine than a Maule Pais. More concentration, a bit more booze, much better colour. Only 2,500 bottles produced

La Despensa Field Blend 2019 – Colchagua
A hedonistic blend of Grenache, Syrah & Mourvèdre plus an additional dollop of Marselan – although this also can’t be declared as it’s not a permitted variety in the DO. All the fruit is from Matt’s own, organic vineyard and is co-fermented only using native yeasts. The vines were planted simply because he grew up loving these varieties in French wines and winemakers love making wine they want to enjoy themselves. It’s then aged in his homemade concrete tank for 10 months before bottling. Marselan is added just after malolactic fermentation, as we saw it gave a bit of an extra kick in structure and colour to the wine. Wine is bottled and aged for a further six months before release, so the wine is refined but still fresh.

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