Blank Canvas Awarded Highest Score For Marlborough Pinot Noir


… was the word that came from winemaker Matt Thomson’s mouth upon hearing that his debut Blank Canvas Pinot Noir 2014 had scored a whopping 18.5 points in’s New Zealand Assemblage tasting article published this week. This is the highest score awarded to a Marlborough Pinot Noir.

He remarks, “this review emphasizes the potential that Marlborough has to produce world-class Pinot, and reinforces our faith in the region in this respect.” Matt adds, “there are other producers in Marlborough who are doing wonderful things with the variety. Dog Point, for example have also received 18.5 points for an earlier vintage.”

Blank Canvas was launched this year by Matt, a renown flying winemaker consultant, and his wife Sophie with four wines – a Riesling, Gruner Veltliner and Pinot Noir from Marlborough, and a Syrah from Hawke’s Bay, which are all single-vineyard wines. While Matt has over 25 years’ experience in the wine industry, completing a Northern and Southern hemisphere vintage every year, Blank Canvas is the first venture that he can call entirely his own.

Blank Canvas Wines Bottle Shot

The Pinot Noir was not the only wine to receive momentous accolades. The Blank Canvas Gruner Veltliner 2013 was awarded 17 points, the highest ever score for a Gruner Veltliner outside of Austria, its spiritual home. This crystallizes the thought Matt had about the potential for world-class Gruner Veltliner in Marlborough back in 2008.

“It is very good news for the brave grape growers who have taken a leap of faith and planted this variety which is largely unknown in New Zealand.” He further adds, “I am particularly excited because I feel the 2015 Gruner Veltliner which is bottled but not yet released is even more concentrated and expressive.”

The Blank Canvas Syrah 2014 was awarded 18 points, commended for its likeness to the cool-climate Syrah’s of the Northern Rhone. Matt embarked on a risky experiment with this wine, resulting in a world-first where he co-fermented the Syrah fruit with a small portion of Gruner Veltliner skins. This is not unlike the practice in the Rhone Valley in France where Syrah is co-fermented with Viognier, but Matt believed the Gruner with its white pepper notes and high phenolic content would be a better fit with the peppery, aromatic Syrah.

“Hawkes Bay Syrah is a sleeping giant,” Matt states. “At some stage it will be recognised internationally as an alternative to the best from the Northern Rhone, but there is work to do first! A number of Hawkes Bay producers, such as Bilancia, are now embracing a more Northern Rhone style and pursuing aromatics and elegance over power.”

Sophie and Matt

Sophie and Matt

Sophie, partway through her own Master of Wine studies raises that Matt and she are hugely passionate wine consumers and that they drink very widely – “it is quite clear to see the Blank Canvas wines draw inspiration from some our favourite wines around the world.

The time we spend in Europe certainly helps with the winemaking back in New Zealand – revisiting Italy, France and Spain among other top wine-producing countries allows you to do an external review on your own wines at home, prompting you to ask what you can do to make them better.”

The Blank Canvas Riesling 2013 also fared well in the tasting with 17.5 points. Matt explains, “we have thought for a number of years now that the Mosel Kabinett style of Riesling is something that Marlborough can excel at producing.” He adds, “there are other producers who have been very successful with this style, noticeably Framingham, amongst several others.”

The full reviews are reproduced below:

Blank Canvas Riesling 2013 Marlborough

“A wonderful Kabinett-style Riesling with a balance that I think it is rare to find in the southern hemisphere where the fruit is so often the star. Limey citrus freshness along with a dry, stony texture, the acid/sugar balance is worthy of a fine German Kabinett. There are some hints of development here but hard to describe as they are still a long way from flagrant ‘kerosene-like’ flavours. This has purity and concentration as well as impeccable balance.” 17.5 Points. Julia Harding MW,

Blank Canvas Grüner Veltliner 2013 Marlborough

“Now this really does have Grüner Veltliner written all over it even though the vines are still pretty young (this is the fourth harvest). It is certainly peppery but it also has the oily (in a good way) depth that I have only ever seen in the Wachau. There’s some citrus and green fruit too but also a mineral, dry texture. I do just slightly feel the residual sugar on the finish and would prefer it bone dry, even it that made it slightly more severe. But it is well balanced and remarkably full bodied given the moderate alcohol. Still incredibly fresh but starting to show the complexity of some bottle age. I look forward to tasting it again.” 17 Points. Julia Harding MW,

Blank Canvas Pinot Noir 2014 Marlborough

“Mid crimson. Perfumed, highly aromatic red fruit brought into line with a touch of spice and a hint of that whole-bunch freshness – not in the least unripe but adding a savoury note. This is just gorgeous on the palate, sensual, deep and long but also fresh and vital. There’s finesse to the tannins but they are bold enough to shape the framework for the fruit. You can tell this is a wine made by someone steeped in the best of both burgundy and New Zealand. There’s sweetness to the fruit but sufficient savour and spice to make it a complete wine, with, as Jancis would say, a beginning, a middle and an end. And it has terrific length. This has to be the best Marlborough Pinot I have tasted.” 18.5 Points. Julia Harding MW,

Blank Canvas Syrah 2014 Hawke’s Bay

“Dark, inky black cherry colour. Lots of pepper here and a savoury note a bit like tar. Fabulous texture that is peppery like the flavour but also incredibly compact and smooth. Even with the intensity of elegant fruit, there is still a surprising juicy lightness overall even though the overall character is dark and savoury like the northern Rhône and without the sweetness of the southern hemisphere. Mouth-watering freshness on the finish. Supple and very long. Like the Blank Canvas Pinot, this has the perfect harmony of Old World elegance and structure with the purity of NZ fruit.” 18 Points. Julia Harding MW,

For further information contact: Matt and Sophie Thomson

Blank Canvas Wines

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