Marlborough, New Zealand
Blank Canvas is the vinous studio of award-winning international winemaking consultant Matt Thomson and Master of Wine Sophie Parker-Thomson. With over 40 years of collective experience in the global wine industry, Matt and Sophie produce small batch fine wines from exceptional single vineyard sites throughout New Zealand under their art-meets-science project, Blank Canvas.
Matt 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. Sophie has been travelling to Europe and working with Matt since 2011, leaving her career in law behind her. It is this international experience that is the founding inspiration for this husband-and-wife team.
All vineyards are certified sustainable and all the growers live on their vineyards.
Blank Canvas produce two different Sauvignon Blanc wines from the regeneratively farmed Holdaway Vineyard, located in the coastal Dillons Point subregion in Marlborough. The classic Holdaway Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc is what Matt and Sophie like to call ‘Sauvignon Blanc for grown-ups’. It is near bone-dry with intense passionfruit and blackcurrant notes alongside an attractive salty character. It is quickly becoming established as one of New Zealand’s top rated Sauvignon Blanc wines.
The ‘Abstract’ Sauvignon Blanc, from a dry-farmed parcel of the vineyard, is a departure from the classic Marlborough style. Fermented with wild yeast in seasoned French oak puncheons and bottled without fining or filtration, it is a savoury, texturally complex wine with parallels to Bordeaux blanc from Graves. Both wines are Appellation Marlborough Wine™ (AMW) endorsed.
The Reed Vineyard Chardonnay comes from the Waihopai Valley, with low-vigour clay soils, and typically displays white peach, grapefruit and an attractive flintiness alongside a precise drive of acidity. Wild yeast and high solids fermentation are employed alongside fermentation and maturation in French oak puncheons. There is no lees stirring or filtration. The resulting wine is generous and complex, with great capacity for ageing.
Matt and Sophie have been producing Gruner Veltliner since the first plantings came on stream in New Zealand in 2010. The Berakah vineyard in the Rapaura subregion is home to the Blank Canvas Grüner Veltliner. The free-run juice is fermented in both puncheons and stainless steel after which it matures for 8 months on light lees to give savoury complexity. The oak gives depth and texture to the wine without being obvious aromatically. The fruit profile is replete with mandarin and tangelo citrus, alongside the hallmark white pepper note. It gains weight and richness as it ages, and Sophie describes it as “an aromatic Chardonnay, especially after a few years in bottle.
Sophie and Matt’s love of German Pradikatswein has inspired their two Rieslings: the Blank Canvas Riesling, sourced from a single vineyard in Blind River, is made in a Kabinett-style with just 8.5% abv and ~25 g/l residual sugar, while the ‘Meta’ Riesling is a luscious Beerenauslese-style with 167 g/l residual sugar. The ‘Meta’ is only produced in exceptional botrytis years with 2018 providing extraordinary conditions for this hedonistic, marmalade-driven expression.
Both their single Vineyard Marlborough Pinot Noirs are made with high percentages of whole cluster to enhance aromatics and provide all important structure and tannic complexity. The Escaroth Vineyard Pinot Noir from the Taylor Pass is complemented by the newly released Settlement Vineyard Pinot Noir from the Omaka valley.
Finally, their Element Syrah comes from the smallest vineyard in the Gimblett Gravels of Hawkes Bay. Inspired by the best wines of the Northern Rhone, especially Côte-Rôtie, this is a true cool-climate expression with 60% whole bunch fermentation to provide a very aromatic and elegant Syrah. In a world-first, the Syrah was co-fermented with Gruner Veltliner. Matt explains, “we prefer the white pepper, savoury character of the Gruner rather than the sweet apricot jam note Viognier can sometimes impart.”
“It’s a lot of work, a lot of small batches, but we’d much prefer to keep them separate as every vineyard site, vintage and resulting wine has a great story to tell. There’s a wonderful energy, focus and vitality to them all.”