Blank Canvas Wines | Tasting Review | July 2019

This tasting was hosted by Matt Thompson and Sophie Parker Thompson who own a small and relatively new label, Blank Canvas.

“Blank Canvas is about pushing boundaries, taking risks and using creative license to create wines that are different, distinctive and sincere.”
A great ethos and as we discovered, very true…

After 20 years of making wine around the world for the likes of Saint Clair and UK based Liberty wines, Matt and Sophie started creating their own wines in 2013.

Matt has a Masters in Bio-chemistry and he has put his thinking cap to very good use in his winemaking career. Travelling to and from various wine making regions – Europe, South America and New Zealand – Matt has managed over 50 vintages. In 2008 Matt was recognised as the International White Winemaker of the Year at the International Wine & Spirit Competition in the UK. Blank Canvas is his chance to synthesize that accumulated knowledge into his own label.

Sophie’s background is law, but with a passion for wine she has made her own mark. Currently she is awaiting the results of her Master of Wine exam due in September hopefully joining that elite group.

Matt and Sophie’s passion and knowledge for wine is very evident and the thought and creativity that goes into their wines is impressive. Based in Blenheim, Blank Canvas is focused on single vineyard wines – currently from Marlborough and Hawkes Bay. These are wines from New Zealand, but with Matt’s international experience, made with an international audience in mind.

Matt and Sophie were great presenters – bouncing off each other with in-depth, insightful commentary. Matt talked about ‘cerebral complexity’ – thoughtful wines. They are small batch, handcrafted wines that are worth seeking out.

Blank Canvas Riesling 2018

A refreshing, delicate Riesling from a single vineyard in the Blind River area of the Awatere. Made in the German ‘Kabinett’ style – early pick fruit fermented to 8.5% alc. with 25gms rs. A pale colour with plenty of yellow citrus fruit/ pineapple flavours bound with juicy acidity. The wine has tension and length. A delicious Riesling that is perfect as an aperitif/lunchtime wine.

Blank Canvas Sauvignon Blanc 2018

Matt has had a hand in some of New Zealand’s most iconic Sauvignon Blancs over the past 20 years and has quite definite ideas on the style he wants to produce – dry, ripely fruited with purity. From the Holdaway vineyard at Dillons Point (toward the coast from Blenheim). The alluvial soils are mineral rich, adding a saline, oyster shell quality to the wine. There is a core of tropical fruit flavours on a fine, almost silky palate.  An impressive ‘grown-up style’ Sauvignon Blanc.

Blank Canvas Abstract Sauvignon Blanc 2017

This Sauvignon Blanc is all about texture and flavour. Gently pressed fruit is wild-yeast fermented in larger, older oak, left on lees before being bottled unfiltered. Also from the Holdaway vineyard. Golden fruited – fleshy grapefruit, peach (yes it has elements of Chardonnay flavours about it) This is more like a Bordeaux dry white style with a waxy texture and hints of minerality. Plenty of interest and intrigue.

Blank Canvas Grüner Veltliner 2013

Matt is one of a few NZ producers of Grüner who seems to have a handle on the variety. He reckons the trick is to get the grapes perfectly ripe – not too ripe or underripe – the picking window is quite small. A portion of this was fermented in large oak to add texture. Sophie describes this as being like an aromatic Chardonnay, especially as it ages, starting to get a lanolin-like quality on the palate. Flavour-wise this shows orange fruits – mandarin, tangelo with a bit of pepper and spice. At 6 years of age this is still really fresh.

Blank Canvas Reed Chardonnay 2018

This is an impressive Chardonnay. Hand picked, whole-bunch pressed, free-run juice, no added yeasts, fermented in two puncheons with full malolactic. Ok it starts with plenty of ‘reductive’ flavour – Matt describes this as noble reduction rather than the stinky kind and you can tell this, as on the palate this evolves into a flavour ball of golden fruit biscuit, fig, sizzled butter and hints of a briney character. A serious Chardonnay that is seriously good. With only two barrels made this is very limited availability.

Blank Canvas Upton Downs Pinot Noir 2017

From a vineyard on an elevated terrace in the Upper Awatere. Matt likes his Pinot Noirs to be ‘about aromatics rather than size’. This is a lightly coloured, pretty opaque ruby red, that belies the palate to follow. With 40% whole bunch the palate is spicy and savoury. There are lifted floral, cherry notes that sit alongside some meatiness. This wine certainly fits Matt’s bill of making wines that have character and offer a cerebral challenge – the thinking persons Pinot.

Blank Canvas Hawkes Bay Syrah 2015

From the Gimblett Gravels. Inky dark, this is a dark fruited, juicy, plush wine. The twist with this wine is that it has been co-fermented with Gruner Veltliner skins (rather than the traditional Viognier) Matt’s thinking was to have the spicy notes of Gruner rather than the apricoty Viognier. Seems to work. 60% whole bunch gives the palate a velvet-like texture and a fine baking spice note and a grainy, gamey twist on the finish.

Blank Canvas Meta Riesling 2018 (375ml)

100% botrytised Riesling made to a Beerenauslese level – 9% alcohol with around 167 gms residual sugar and plenty of acidity to balance. Classic ‘sticky dessert wine’ with lemon, marmalade, honey flavours. Plenty of freshness to avoid being too cloying. And don’t just think dessert – this can be a treat on its own.