Mark Hutchens sees wine as “a methodology for learning about the world.” In a career spanning decades and key industry players, the throughline has been a resolute focus on connecting people with the origins and identities of artisanal wines.
Born in Indiana and, as the son of a Navy man, raised “pretty much all over the U.S.”, Mark has a restlessness that manifests as a consuming curiosity of mind. In high school he became very serious about music, ultimately putting in the work that earned him a college scholarship to study flute. While music and wine are a common pairing in this industry, Mark brings a singular perspective that illustrates the depth of his thinking on both subjects. “When I talk about wine, I’m really just talking about the fact that you can treat it like a serious academic pursuit. Most of what I know about history, geography, most of what a typical person would learn in school, I learned through the wine business.”
Where does music come into this? Mark asserts that “those very fine nuances in wine that help us identify a wine’s origins also apply to the concept of timbre” — particularities of tone and resonance. “I believe everybody is created with the equal ability to understand wine, in the same way everybody is able to hear the differences between a trumpet and a flute. In fact, if a trumpet and a flute play the same note, the amount of information that distinguishes them is miniscule. But the human mind can sense those distinctions. It’s the same thing when you put your nose in a glass of wine. I’m very democratic about that and I work very hard to liberate people from their inhibitions about experiencing wine through their intellects. I don’t believe we taste wine, we think wine.”
“I didn’t pursue a career in music because I fell into wine. And in a way, I found myself able to have the same fascination in music as in wine. Ultimately, I consider them to be the exact same activity,” he explains.
Over the decades, Mark has built up levels of invaluable experience in importation, distribution, and sales around the country. He began his career in Seattle, then moved to New York, where his wife, Erica, a professional dancer, pursued her career with the American Ballet Theatre and he managed the Terry Theise Portfolio, going on to give Skurnik its first presence in the national market. In Chicago, he oversaw the Austrian portfolio at Vin Divino. Once Erica retired from the ABT, dance took them to Florida, where Mark worked with Augustan Wines, and then back to the Chicago area, where he became a founding partner of Robert Houde Wines, building the business over nearly a decade. Most recently, he spent a year at T. Elenteny Imports, accruing a crucial layer of industry knowledge. Erica’s current position as the head of a ballet school in Denver has taken the family west, to a part of the country they’ve fallen in love with and where their now 16-year-old daughter is very quickly following in her mother’s professional footsteps.
Mark’s senior position at Schatzi is commensurate with his extraordinary knowledge and experience. He manages logistics and business development and oversees sales, distribution, and company strategy — “there’ll be nothing off limits,” he laughs. “What excites me most about working with Schatzi is getting back to the liquid and getting back to a close, intimate relationship with artisanal wine growers. My most formative years were invested in working with the wines of Germany and Austria. So this feels like a homecoming, bringing me full circle to where I started over 20 years ago.”
The challenge he relishes is shifting people’s perceptions, opening their eyes to the revelatory work and wines of the small growers represented in the Schatzi portfolio. In this pursuit, he says, “nothing can replace being there with the wine in the bag and the story as you pour that wine. The work we have to do and want to do is person to person.”