Marlborough, New Zealand
Matt Thomson has worked over fifty vintages in numerous wine regions around the world, and has worked with David Gleave since 1994. He is involved with many of the wines in our portfolio, primarily as a consultant. In Matt’s words: "Blank Canvas represents my story as a winemaker. It is an endeavour that is entirely my own expression of winemaking, is from my own funding, and is exclusively my risk." The 'Blank Canvas' is the vineyard and the variety, the winery the brush and palette (no pun intended) at the winemaker's disposal, all the while defined by the scientific grounding Matt laid at university and has built upon over the past 25 years. With partner Sophie Parker-Thomson, the aim is to break some rules with the Blank Canvas wines, but they feel that in order to break the rules, you need to know them. This is what sets the Blank Canvas wines apart.
The fruit for the Grüner Veltliner comes from a single vineyard in the Rapaura sub-region. Free-run juice was fermented primarily in stainless steel, with 25% of the blend going to half new and half one-year-old French oak puncheons (600 litre, to ensure less oak uptake), where the wine remained for eight months. The oak gives depth and texture to the wine, while the single vineyard and the careful handling gives the wine a lovely aromatic intensity. It is a stunning example of how well Grüner Veltliner ages in bottle. The Sauvignon Blanc comes from a single vineyard in the Dillons Point sub-region, very close to the sea. The wine shows a combination of focus and exuberance with blackcurrant, guava and passion fruit alongside lemongrass and salinity. The ‘Abstract’ Sauvignon Blanc is a departure from the classic Marlborough style – fermented by 100% wild yeast in seasoned French oak puncheons. It is a savoury and complex wine showing the classic pillars of Dillons Point in its intense blackcurrant notes and salty minerality. Both Sauvignon Blanc wines are certified ‘Appellation Marlborough Wine’.
The ‘Reed’ Chardonnay comes from the Reed vineyard in the Waihopai Valley, with low-vigour clay soils. It is fermented in 500 litre French oak puncheons, 50% new, with no lees stirring, giving it a textured and savoury nature and a subtle vanillin and toast character. The new ‘Escaroth’ Chardonnay is from the eponymous, unique and dry-farmed vineyard in the Taylor Pass. The north-facing slope gives excellent exposure in what is a more extreme climate, with greater diurnal range, than in the main Wairau Valley. All the Chardonnay planted on this site is clone 95 – Matt and Sophie’s favourite. Firm believers in Marlborough's ability to produce some of New Zealand's best Pinot Noir, they like to show the differences in single site expression. The ‘Upton Downs’ Pinot Noir is from a site perched on a terrace above the river in the Upper Awatere Valley, while the new ‘Escaroth’ Pinot Noir is from the same hillside site as the Chardonnay. These both have varying degrees of whole-bunch fermentation, which gives a lovely perfume and fragrance to the wine, and both are bottled unfiltered. The ‘Upton Downs’ site is planted with the Burgundian clone 777, known for its perfumed aroma profile. The ‘Escaroth’ Pinot Noir is made from a mixture of 115, 667 and 777 clones, which provide complexity and fragrance in the resulting wine.
The fruit for the Syrah comes from a single vineyard on the Gimblett Gravels. The Syrah was co-fermented with 7% of Grüner Veltliner skins ("I preferred the white pepper character of the Grüner to the riper Viognier fruit," explains Matt) to give a wine with stunning yet restrained aromatics. As with the best Côte-Rôtie, Matt used a higher percentage of whole bunch (60%) to enhance the spiced fruit character of the Syrah.
In 2018, Matt and Sophie could not refuse the opportunity to take a small parcel of perfectly botrytised Riesling when offered from the Couper vineyard in the central Wairau Valley. From here, the ‘Meta’ Riesling was created. At 168 g/l residual sugar, it is nectar sweet, but is balanced by enlivening acidity.