David and PM Hall-Jones are based in Hong Kong, but have two wineries: one in Central Otago, and the other in Gevrey Chambertin. In Central, they planted 14 hectares of Pinot Noir in 2000, and their label is called Domaine Thomson.
It’s named after David’s great grandfather, John Turnbull Thomson, who was a surveyor who in the 19th century developed infrastructure projects in the far east, particularly Singapore. He returned to the UK briefly, before heading to New Zealand in 1856, where he was appointed chief surveyor of Otago. Among other things, he named Mount Aspiring and Mount Pisa.
I visited the vineyard, based in the Pisa subdistrict of the Cromwell Basin, with Claudio Haye (who sells the wines), winemaker Dean Shaw, and vineyard manager Simon Gourley. Farming here is biodynamic, and they have been certified organic by Biogro since 2014.
The vineyard is split into four blocks: the North and South blocks, the Terraces, and then the Moon Block.
The Moon Block is at the top of a hill, and is quite an exposed site, at an elevation of 295 m, and it tends to make structural wines.
While the Explorer Pinot is released young, the main estate Pinot, called Surveyor Thomson, is currently on the 2014. ‘The owners, David and PM, like releasing their wines with a few years’ bottle age,’ says Claudio, ‘which makes them popular with the restaurant trade. These are wines that tend to show a bit better with time, anyway.’
Dean Shaw makes the wines, and he explained how he works with this site. ‘The key is how to resolve the tannins, rather than being a fruit bomb,’ he says. ‘The block isn’t allowing us to make fruit bombs: we get structure so we have to meld that structure into the wine. So we are doing a bit of whole bunch, and long-ish ferments with post-ferment maceration. The yeast lees do some fining. Whole bunch keeps the ferment going longer. But we aren’t working the whole bunch because we don’t want that tea bag character.’
The Surveyor Thomson wine is made from 15-20 different ferments. Some are declassified and the rest are blended together. I was really impressed by this wine. There’s also a special release called Rows 1-37, but this is a little backward and brooding at the moment.
Domaine Thomson Explorer Pinot Noir 2017
Supple and fine-grained with nice red fruits, spice and cherries. Has a bit of bite. Juicy and linear with nice grip and fine detail. Nice structure, but not too dense. 93/100
Domaine Thomson Explorer Pinot Noir 2018 (tank sample, just about to be bottled)
Juicy, bright and fresh with lovely red cherry and raspberry fruit, and a nice savoury edge. This has a bit of grip, too. Needs a few months for the fruit to come back up. Nicely focused. 92/100
Domaine Thomson Surveyor Thomson Pinot Noir 2014
This is the current release. A textured wine with lovely red fruits, some silkiness and a bit of raspberry crunch. Has a savoury, grippy undercurrent which integrates nicely into the whole. Some redcurrant character and a bit of tannic grip, showing precision and potential for further development. Subtle sappy notes, too, from 30% whole bunch. 95/100
Domaine Thomson Rows 1-37 Pinot Noir 2014
60-80% whole bunch. This is savoury and crunchy with nice tannins. Shows real grip with detailed red fruits. Nice intensity with good grip and focus. Structural and a bit lean but with great potential for the future. Finishes long and savoury. 94/100
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