Thornbury's winning Pinot Noir

11 Dec 2019

Thornbury Wines celebrate New Zealand’s iconic wine regions by crafting wines from the finest varietals in each one.

Their Central Otago Pinot Noir 2018 scooped up three trophies in the NZ Wine of the Year awards, including the highly coveted Champion Pinot Noir trophy plus the Champion Single Vineyard Red Wine trophy and Best Wine - Central Otago.

Simon Fell in vineyard
Simon Fell

Winemaker Simon Fell has been at the helm of Thornbury wines since 2006. After working vintages in Central Otago, Oregon, Bordeaux and Western Australia, Simon returned to the North Island to add a Wine Science Diploma to his Bachelor of Science.

He then headed back overseas, working in the Gers region of France and onto Chile and the Napa Valley, California, where he was the winemaker for boutique winery DiLoreto Cellars. Simon returned to New Zealand in 2003, first working at Vidal Wines and then Thornbury.

Simon enjoys working with varietals from across New Zealand but finds Central Otago Pinot Noir particularly gratifying. “Personally, making Pinot Noir from Central Otago over the years has been extremely rewarding because it has enabled me to witness the evolution of sub-regional styles and provenance.”

These sub-regional characteristics shine through in the winning Pinot Noir.

“2018 was an extremely warm growing season and I think what’s really special about this Pinot Noir is the restraint it shows without losing its sense of identity or provenance from the Bendigo sub-region.”

Zebra Bendigo vineyards
Zebra Bendigo vineyards

Thornbury source their Pinot Noir grapes from the premium grower, Zebra Vineyards in Bendigo. Craig Carter is the vineyard manager and is just as passionate about the winning Pinot Noir as Simon.

Originally from Invercargill, Craig got into the wine industry via the unlikely path of mountain biking and BMX racing, where he represented New Zealand on the world stage.

One fateful weekend, he entered a mountain bike race which finished Black Ridge Vineyard in Alexandra. He remembers being disappointed at the lack of beer on the finish line, so he had a glass of wine instead. Sipping his wine and gazing over the rolling hills of the vineyard, Craig discovered his future career path.

He took the leap in 2004 to study viticulture in Cromwell. Graduating with distinction, Craig first worked at Akarua, before taking up the position of assistant vineyard manager at Zebra in 2007, progressing to vineyard manager in 2010.

Now a wine-lover, Craig loves celebrating and tasting the award-winning, world-class wines made from his Zebra fruit.

Simon Fell and Craig Carter accepting a trophy at the New Zealand Wine Awards
Simon and Craig accepting the trophy

His favourite time of year in stunning Bendigo is Autumn. “The most satisfying time of the year is at the end of harvest. The grapes are off, the leaves are changing colour and you have time to enjoy the fruits of your labour.”

Simon recommends enjoying the winning wine “with some locally farmed produce, such as a lovely piece of roasted Central Otago Harmony Lamb Shoulder!”

Thornbury aims to make wines that are first and foremost enjoyable to drink. They’ve clearly nailed the brief, with the judges noting, “An absolutely on-point sub-regional Pinot Noir fruit profile with ripe cherry and dark red fruits on the nose encased in a mid-weight package. Superbly made for immediate drinking but with some years ahead.”

Both Craig and Simon accepted Thornbury’s trophy at the New Zealand Wine Awards in Blenheim.

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