Glenn Thomas an oenology graduate of Roseworthy College, South Australia, has worked in McLaren Vale and the Barossa Valley before moving to the Awatere Valley, New Zealand. In 1989 Glenn produced the Awatere Valley’s first Sauvignon Blanc.
More recently Glenn joined Kiwi-Oeno, a high profile winemaking consultancy with clients throughout New Zealand, Northern Italy and Southern France. Glenn is a truly global winemaker but his primary focus remains the Awatere Valley and his pivotal role at Tupari.
Tupari Wines is a small artisan wine producer located in the Awatere Valley sub-appellation of Marlborough in the South Island of New Zealand. Tupari takes its name from the dramatic cliffs forming the Upper Awatere Valley.
Where the Turnbull family and pioneering winemaker Glenn Thomas have collaborated to create wines of distinction. The vineyard is situated on north-facing river flats overlooking the braided Awatere River. The carefully nurtured grapes allow Glenn to create sophisticated, elegant wines displaying arresting flavour intensity and finely honed structure and balance.
I still remember like it was yesterday when Glenn came up to Auckland to show his sole wine at the time - a Sauvignon Blanc that displayed more palate texture and personality than I had seen from New Zealand, with resonance with the Loire Valley hard not to compare in a complimentary way. It has been a pure pleasure to see the vines and the wines develop and mature each new vintage; there is now a Riesling, Pinot Gris and soon a Pinot Noir in the family. Here are some of his thoughts.
What first attracted you to the wine industry and as a winemaker?
It was a long time ago! I was interested in the fermentation process after a science lesson at school. It grew from there and I made my own wine from fruit at home. I grew up in South Australia, which has a large wine industry, and provided opportunities for me.
Where and when did you study winemaking?
I studied winemaking at Roseworthy College in South Australia. I graduated in 1980.
Which person has influenced you the most as a winemaker and why?
David Hohnen was an influence. It was more about his attitude. He didn’t let things bother him, and he was confident in his decision making. He had vision as well.
What is your favourite grape varietal to work with and why?
I like a range of varieties. I find I’m currently working on Pinot Noir a lot more. I find that a challenge - (an enjoyable one). The results can be worth the work, but it can be disappointing sometimes.
Which grape varietal would you most like to work with in the future and why?
I like to work with new varieties, and Gruner Veltliner is new to Marlborough. I think we can make distinctive wine from this variety in our conditions.
With each new vintage what do you most look forward to?
Hopefully fine weather. It’s a cliché now, but every vintage is different, and I look forward to seeing everything in the tank at the end of harvest and taste the wine we have made. It’s difficult in the rush of vintage to sit back and see what you have. I like the evaluation part at the end.
To date what has been you most interesting/challenging vintage and why?
There have been a few challenging vintages (rain or drought). None in particular stand out. They all have their challenges and rewards.
Which person ‘current’ or ‘past’ would you most like to have met or meet and why?
I would like to meet Eric Clapton to discuss the blues - (and hear him play).
If you were stranded on a desert island and you could take one bottle of wine with you - what would it be and why?
It would have to bottle of vintage Champagne. Something to pop when I am eventually rescued.
If you could make wine anywhere else in the world - where would it be and why?
I really like Italy. They have a great attitude to food and wine, and make some wonderful wines.
What advice would you give a young person starting out as a winemaker?
Make sure you study viticulture. A winemaker must understand how grape growing shapes the wines they are going to make. Most of all though, enjoy what you do. It is important to have a passion for wine, but have other things in your life as well. We need a balance.
If you weren’t a winemaker - what would you like to be and why?
That’s a tough one. Either a professional photographer or a professional musician. I have a passion for music and photography.
In the future, what exciting changes can you see, or would like to see for your wines, wine styles, vineyard or winery?
I am really looking forward to our first Pinot Noir. I would like Tupari to grow some more, but we will always keep our quality driven philosophy, so we can’t be too big.
Tupari Wines are available in New Zealand and around the world from quality wine retailers and restaurants. Or visit their website: Tupari Wines.