Together they have amassed a phenomenal amount of international experience in all areas of the wine industry. Their collective goal is to create distinctive small-batch, single vineyard wines that reflect the best sub-regional sites in New Zealand. The Blank Canvas philosophy embraces using as little manipulation as possible to uphold, over everything else, the wine’s sense of place. Wine-making influence from Europe is genuine, with both Matt and Sophie undertaking vintage in the Northern Hemisphere every year.
“I’ve been working as an international winemaking consultant for over twenty years with some of the best people in the industry,” says Matt. “Over this time I’ve made wines that I am very proud of. Working in a trade I truly love and appreciate makes me very fortunate.”
As a young winemaker, like many others starting out, Matt wanted his first wine to be the greatest the world had ever seen. His amassed experience working as a consultant has demonstrated however that great wines are not born overnight from pure cognition. Great wines come from working years with the same vineyards, from trial and error, and from understanding every detail of winemaking. He has learned that a great winemaker knows intimately the vineyards he or she draws fruit from – they recognise the bearing of its microclimate and the nuances of the fruit it yields. This knowledge then gifts that winemaker the tools to express through the wine the precise place it came from.
“It is for this reason that we work so closely with our growers and their vineyards,” Sophie explains. “Many of them are rather eccentric, but they are absolutely passionate about producing exceptional quality fruit that they are extremely proud of. Even better, it goes into a single vineyard wine that they can then call their own.”
So, Why Blank Canvas?
Matt explains, “consulting work, which I love, has allowed me to get where I am today. It has enabled me to accrue extensive experience and knowledge. Having worked over forty vintages in vastly different wine regions around the world, the time to launch my own wine range, together with Sophie, has come. It has been a long-time in the making and we’ve thought long and hard about how to capture the story of us, the special vineyards we draw fruit from and the non-mainstream styles of wine we are striving to create.”
Blank Canvas alludes to the fact that as a winemaking consultant, the wines created must be not only the best possible quality, but must suit the stylistic requirements of the client and be ultimately commercially successful. You cannot make the young winemaker’s esoteric wine.
“Even if you believe it is the best wine in the world, if it doesn’t sell then you’ve failed. What’s more, you only get one shot each year to present the tangible best from the vineyard. Blank Canvas is an endeavour that is our own expression of winemaking, is from our own funding, and is exclusively our risk.” As someone else once insightfully said, “Blank Canvas is our sand-pit!”
“Having a science background allows you to know the parameters of the winemaking canvas, which means you can create and paint right to the very edges.”
Blank Canvas is about creating wines that push the sensory boundaries, that challenge the mainstream and that are essentially about enjoyment.
We believe regime should not trump sensory enjoyment, nor quality. Both these things are paramount to us.