WORD FROM THE WINEMAKER WITH BLANK CANVAS
In celebration of International Women's Day, we're thrilled to be shining a light on the brilliant work of Sophie Parker-Thomson MW and Blank Canvas Wines in this instalment of Word From The Winemaker.
Based in Marlborough, New Zealand, Sophie became the country's third female Master of Wine in February 2021 and as the co-founder of Blank Canvas, along with husband Matt, has an immense wealth of wine knowledge that we were delighted to delve into!
Continue reading to discover just why Sophie reaches for our Jancis Robinson Collection both in the winery and the comfort of her own home.
When tasting and judging a wine, what do you look for in a glass?
When tasting and judging my own wine in glassware, I always look for accuracy and detail. The wine needs to be conveyed with a sort of clarity so that you can see if there's any particular things you need to focus on to remedy.
I also look for a glass that isn’t clunky or cumbersome. It's got to be fine and tactile; it’s almost as if you need to feel there's not even a glass between yourself and the wine, which is really quite special. It certainly helps when you're not even thinking of the glassware itself!
Why do you choose to use the Jancis Collection at Blank Canvas?
The Jancis glasses are so attractive as a glass because they perform across all different wine styles. Normally there's a trade off with one variety, particularly Pinot Noir as it’s quite aromatic. The Jancis Robinson glass gives detail across all different wine styles, and the aesthetic of the glass and its tactile fine nature makes it a real pleasure to taste from.
It ticks all the boxes for me, and that's part of the reason why I went with the Jancis glasses for what we’re doing with our work and our tasting. We did lots of trials with different glassware when I was studying and undertaking my Master of Wine blind tasting exam, and because it does perform across all those different varieties, you just get that extra level of detail.
For me, it’s like a really good pair of reading glasses in terms of what the JR glass does for wine. It just elevates and gives that detail and focus that really assists in the most accurate tasting.
Is this the same for when you’re at home and enjoying wine outside of work?
The Jancis glass is something I reach for every evening! I’d say both the trauma and pleasure of the MW blind tasting has stuck with me and I still do blind tasting pretty much every night.
Now I rope in my husband Matt, who is also a winemaker at Blank Canvas, and we take turns to serve wine blind to each other, and it’s a great glass for that.
It’s just a lovely experience to drink from.
Which features of your wines become clearer and more prominent when using our Jancis Robinson glasses?
The features I find the Jancis glass really highlights is the bouquet of course, but I find that you just get that extra level of detail across the different wine varieties.
The one wine I think you would probably say to go with a variety specific glass for is a Pinot Noir, but I’ve found, especially with our wines, which are quite savoury and have plenty of the NZ intense fruit and use whole bunch fermentation typically as well, that the Jancis glass performs really well for the style of Pinot Noir that we’re making. Of course with a Sauvignon as well it just gives that extra level of detail and clarity that we’re looking to convey in our wine.
What do you hope people experience with your wine?
Our Blank Canvas wines are all single vineyard wine, and I think because of that you tend to get more focus and detail in those single vineyard sites more than you do blends, whether a variety or region.
The other thing is you can’t hide anything in a single vineyard wine!
For us and our wine, you find a real sense of that vintage and where that wine has come from, and we hope that the wines take our consumers on a journey to that specific place.
All are small batch wines; we’re not a big winery by any stretch, so we have lots of little batches at the winery which can be quite fiddly at vintage time. We’re trying to make fine wines that are a true expression of the time and place that they are from, making wine from Marlborough, Hawke’s Bay and Central Otago, but with a particular focus on Marlborough.
I think the wine that we are producing is special because of this philosophy, but I also think what comes through is the time both myself and particularly my husband Matt have spent in Europe.
It’s almost like doing an external review on your wine. After doing a vintage in Europe every year you get to come back to your own wine; it’s refreshing and you get to see things you might have missed if you hadn’t been away and immersed in the wines of Europe.
We like to do a lot of whole bunch fermentation with our red wine, trying to introduce more tannin structure on top of the lovely New Zealand fruit we get, and for our white wine we’re experimenting with lees ageing and wild fermentation to create more textures and interest for our customers.
Do you decant your wine, and if so why and when?
I do like to decant our wines every now and then. I use the mature wine decanter pretty much every night, and that’s because Matt and I like to serve each other blind wines just to keep our palettes in spick condition and trained. It's also a nice way to explore the world of wine and it brings great inspiration to what we do at Blank Canvas.
It’s a really functional, practical decanter that gets a lot of use in our household!
In terms of our own wine, if it’s a very young wine, particularly a Pinot Noir that has a lot of whole bunch in it, it might be closed in its youth so thats when I would use the young wine decanter.
I think it’s always nice to decant a wine. I think it brings a bit of traditionalism but also the aesthetic of sharing wine, and is very helpful for blind wine set ups!
What are your favourite local food and wine pairings?
There's so many amazing local food and wine pairings in Marlborough, we’re so lucky to have such a bounty of different produce.
One of my personal favourites is our Marlborough Sounds Salmon when it’s smoked with Manuka chips and it matches really beautifully with our Reed vineyard Chardonnay, which has a lot of toasty smoked characters in it. There is a nice acidity which makes a beautiful match.
In terms of red wine, I particularly love venison with our Syrah. I find that venison, which is obviously a gamey, dense meat, matches really well with the cool climate Syrah, and the black pepper, juniper, and meatiness you get from the Syrah is just a perfect pairing.