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Surveyor Thomson – Exploring the World

By December 5, 2012No Comments

Establishing 14 ha of Pinot Noir in the Lowburn district of Central Otago 12 years ago, David Hall-Jones and PM Chan have slowly grown their Surveyor Thomson brand, named in tribute to David’s great-great grandfather John Turnbull Thomson who was New Zealand’s first Surveyor General. True to his forebear’s craft, David and PM have truly got the lie of the land and are now beginning to explore it. The addition to the team in September 2011 of sales and marketing specialist Claudio Heye, who did a sterling job at Gibbston Valley winery for many years, is a key part of the plan to take the Surveyor Thomson wines to the wider market.

 
Claudio was in Wellington recently and visited to explain his news. Over the past few months, there is been expansion with sales in Australia, Japan and Korea as exports continue to grow. The domestic scene has been catered well by their distributor Maison Vauron, and Claudio has increased his support activity within New Zealand to assist. However, the devastating frost event of 4 November will see an estimated 20% drop in production, and unsettled spring weather may have its effects on flowering. It will be a task for Claudio to manage the allocations!
 
The Surveyor Thomson Range
Unusually in these times, Claudio is very pleased to be able to offer more than just the current vintage of the Pinot Noir wine, as being a specialist single vineyard, single variety producer, it offers a degree of differentiation for his clients. The current release Surveyor Thomson Pinot Noir is 2009, with the 2010 in the wings (click here to see my review). Limited stocks of older releases have been made available. In addition, there is the second label, suitably named ‘Explorer’, made in a lighter, fruitier and more accessible style. I posed the question of the possible production of a ‘super-premium’ bottling. While an attractive proposition, Claudio felt the preservation of the highest quality possible in the Surveyor Thomson label was the priority. A deluxe wine could only be made in the best vintages, in tiny amounts, and as long as it didn’t detract from the main wine.
 
The premium label reflects the vineyard site, the stylistic preferences of David and PM, and the influence of winemaker Dean Shaw. The vineyard is under the care of James Dicey. The same blocks consistently provide fruit for the two labels. David and PM, who live part of their year in Burgundy, shun Pinot Noir wines that are excessive in alcohol, and prefer wines that do not exhibit overly sweet fruit. This fits in well with the textural styles that Dean Shaw specialises in, Dean not afraid of employing a significant amount of whole bunches in his ferments. It all adds up to the Surveyor Thomson wine being one that is more savoury and terroir expressive, with the structure that requires a little more bottle-age to allow its full character to show. My experience of the wines is that they are still very much Central Otago expressions, but have the texture to go very well with food and have the ability to develop complexity.
 
Tasting the Current Releases
I had a relook at the two wines currently available. The Explorer Pinot Noir 2011 is a more elegant expression, in comparison to the rounded 2009 and firmer 2010. This seems to be the picture for the region in general. While lighter in weight and not as ripe as the two previous years, the 2011s generally offer more fragrance and fresher acids. They will be earlier maturing, but that’s not a problem in itself. Showing some purple hues to the colour, the bouquet has cherry fruit with earth and dried herb nuances. This is a more slender wine in proportion, refreshingly bright and with crisp structure that will make it versatile with food. Around 3,500 cases of Explorer are made annually.

The Surveyor Thomson Pinot Noir 2009 shows a little garnet to the colour. Very attractive development has occurred since I last saw it. Ripe red fruit aromas are now complexed by secondary notes of mushrooms and game. The palate has excellent ripeness and a degree of lusciousness, well-balanced by tannin grip, negating any overt sweetness. Layers of secondary detail grow in the glass. This has become considerably more interesting as a wine. Around 1.500 cases are made every year, so it’s not a lot for the world. www.surveyorthomson.co.nz

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