Updated: Mar 4, 2020
Domaine Thomson Wines is a family owned wine producer with vineyards in Central Otago, New Zealand and Gevrey-Chambertin in Burgundy, France. Founded upon their mutual love of Pinot Noir, owners PM and David Hall-Jones are committed to organics and dedicated to making the finest expressions of their vineyards. "One vision, two hemispheres."
It has been an exciting few months at Domaine Thomson with, at the top of the list, their Viticulturist Simon Gourley busily competing in (and winning!) both the NZ young viticulturist and young horticulturist competitions. The other big news is the design and build of their purpose built Tasting Room. OWNZ's Marketing Manager, Stephanie McIntyre, recently caught up with owner David Hall-Jones, to discuss all things Domaine Thomson.
Who is Domaine Thomson Wines?
My wife, PM (short for Pui Mun) and I are the sole shareholders and owners of our vineyards in Central Otago and Burgundy. Board meetings mostly take place at the dinner table, or over a glass of wine!
Domaine Thomson’s Central Otago label was previously known as Surveyor Thomson; why the name evolution?
Initially, we had just the vineyard in Otago. At that time, it seemed right to name the vineyard after my great great grandfather, John Turnbull Thomson. Thomson explored and surveyed Central Otago on horseback in the 1850’s – before the sheep men and before the goldrush. He named many places and mountains in Otago (including the Pisa Range, which is the backdrop to our vineyard). But he named nothing after himself, so we thought that naming the vineyard in his honour seemed appropriate – to respect one of Central Otago’s earliest pioneers.
But when we acquired our first vines in Burgundy, in 2012, we wanted our New Zealand and French wines to be labelled under the same name. Hence the change to “Domaine Thomson”. Our name and logo refer to our wines in both places. But our flagship kiwi pinot noir will always be called “Surveyor Thomson”.
I understand your business was founded on a mutual love of Pinot Noir?
PM and I came to wine in different ways. PM grew up in Singapore with a Dad who loved all things French, be it food, wine or film. He introduced PM to Burgundy wines when I was drinking Speight’s (still my favourite beer)! For me, I learnt about wine a little later, when I was studying law in the UK in the 1980’s.
When PM and I met in Hong Kong in 1988, we had independently come to the conclusion that pinot noir was the wine variety that we enjoyed the most.
What is Domaine Thomson’s vision?
It’s simple for us, if a bit unusual. We are aiming to produce really superior single vineyard organic wines – wines that express the land they are from. But we are doing this in two places, Central Otago and Burgundy. It’s a joy to drink our Kiwi and French wines side by side. Even though they come from opposite sides of the globe and the wines are different – as they ought to be – there are common elements between the wines as well. Lightness and elegance are common to both but beyond that, terroir adds its hallmark to each of our wines.
Is Domaine Thomson still 100% Pinot Noir?
While PM and I certainly adore Pinot Noir, the portfolio has expanded a little over time.
In Otago, we still have just Pinot Noir vines. From those vines, we produce our Explorer and Surveyor Thomson wines. Plus, when we have something special coming from the vineyard, we sometimes do a selection from specific rows in the vineyard, the first being Rows 1-37 from our 2014 vintage. And for the first time, we produced a Pinot Noir Rose from vintage 2019. That was huge fun and our rose is a really nice summer wine – mostly gone already!!
In Burgundy, the main theme is still Pinot Noir, with our two principal vineyards being in Gevrey Chambertin and Mercurey. But in addition, we have some Chardonnay vines in the village of Saint-Aubin. And as an extra vineyard tipple, we have also produced our first Cremant de Bourgogne this year – the Burgundian answer to champagne.
When did Domaine Thomson achieve organic certification?
We formally began conversion in 2014, achieving organic certification in 2017. PM and I very proud to have made this transition. Our vineyard – and our wines – are better for it. It’s a joy just to spend time in an organic vineyard. Insects, birds, bees, cows and hens have made our vineyard a living place. It’s a place you want to spend time in, just listening and watching. And of course, tasting...
I understand you practice Biodynamics in the vineyard. Will you certify biodynamics also?
We have discussed the possibility of becoming Demeter certified as a company and have completed and noted all the requirements to do so through our Organics journey. Currently we are happy with our level of certification and are focusing all our efforts on our new tasting room and vintage 2020 before we consider heading down the Demeter road.
Do the Burgundy & Otago vineyards collaborate?
The Domaine Thomson New Zealand team including Claudio Heye, Kate Barnett and our winemaker, Dean Shaw, have all made the journey to Burgundy with us. They have met our winemaker in Gevrey-Chambertin, Gerard Quivy. We exchange thoughts and ideas constantly between New Zealand and France; in the vineyard, in the winery, over dinner and wine and on Whatsapp. Gerard and our second winemaker Armand Heitz are jealous of our ability to make and apply our own biodynamic preparations “on site”. Our vineyard manager, Simon Gourley, will hopefully join us in Burgundy over the north summer (Otago winter) to see our French vineyards and meet the team in France.
Can we buy your French wines in NZ?
Yes, our full range of Burgundy wines are available at our new tasting room in Central Otago. New Zealand and French wines, side by side, made by our own team. It is very satisfying to see all of this come to fruition.
Domaine Thomson's full range can also be purchased at Kinross - a unique and stunning property in the Gibbston Valley comprised of a cellar door, bistro and accommodation.
What is on the horizon for Domaine Thomson?
Getting our tasting room fully operational this month is the immediate priority. We’ll take a breather after that! We need to see how interested our friends and clients are in our two-hemisphere wine adventure. But all going well, it would be great to put a Domaine Thomson Central Otago Chardonnay alongside our Saint-Aubin Chardonnay from Burgundy. That may be the next project. And after that, I am vexed as to how we will find some vines in Chambolle- Musigny!