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. We very much believe in a minimalist approach, treading a path that incorporates both tradition and innovation, embracing both science and artistry.
We feel philosophies should not trump sense of place or origin, which is paramount.
Wine-making influence from Europe is genuine, with both Matt and Sophie undertaking vintage in the Northern Hemisphere every year.
"After years of working as an international consultant, making wines to a brief, Blank Canvas is my unbridled approach to winemaking, using the best quality fruit and the synthesis of science and creativity." - Matt
Matt Thomson - Co-Owner and Blank Canvas Winemaker
Matt knew he wanted to be a winemaker from a very early age – 16 in fact. At this time he was already collecting and necessarily stashing cases of wine under his adolescent bed. Bordeaux, Burgundy, and anything of worldly repute that his pocket money could reasonably enable him to possess were searched for and gathered. Accompanying this avid collecting was Matt’s voracious thirst for knowledge: bedtime reading consisted of Parker’s Bordeaux volumes, and when the time for tertiary education dawned on him he fashioned his own degree to most usefully suit a career as an oenologist.
Farewelling the University of Otago with a Masters in Biochemistry, Matt began working in the Marlborough wine industry quite fortuitously in 1992. The founding of Kiwi-Oeno, his wine consultancy business, came upon witnessing, and being an active part of, Marlborough’s meteoric rise to international wine stardom. The need for professional oenological support and assistance was manifest, and it has today evolved into a true consultancy collective - KO Wine Consultants - which provides services to wine-regions all around the globe.
Aside from the prodigious array of accolades Matt has received for his wines over the years, a professional high-point in his career was winning International White Winemaker of the Year at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in 2008. His expertise and successes in winemaking extend across a sweeping array of varieties with a particular strength in Sauvignon Blanc – this has been assisted by his work as a “flying” (and driving, training, and taxiing) winemaking consultant on behalf of UK importer and distributor Liberty Wines since 1994. This has involved traveling to Europe at least four times annually for the harvest, blending and bottling of wines.
This binary oenological existence allows Matt to bring the both hemispherical perspectives to his winemaking – enabling him to sustain an open-mindedness whatever part of the world he is in.
Sophie Parker-Thomson - Co-Owner and General Manager
Sophie grew up in a family where wine and hospitality ruled supreme. Her family’s business revolved around the pioneering days of winemaking in New Zealand and some zany ideas.
Also a University of Otago graduate, her calling was law, which entertained her writing and public speaking thirsts. Wine and food however never strayed from her heart and it was after living and working in Queenstown and dabbling in wine and restaurant reviews that an opportunity arose to go to Marlborough for the 2011 vintage, working with Kiwi-Oeno.
She is in the final stage of the Master of Wine qualification, having completed the Wine and Spirits Education Trust Diploma in 2014. She assists Matt in the wine-making of Blank Canvas and manages all other facets from export to marketing. Running a wine business and raising a preschooler doesn’t take up a lot of time so pursuing the MW seemed like a good idea!
Stefan Wernli - Logistics Manager
A Swiss native, speaking German, Swiss German and now Kiwi, Stefan is our all-round assistant in the day to day running of Blank Canvas with a specific focus on logistics. Stefan’s manifest love of wine led him to change his career path from his impressive history in hospitality managing restaurants, cellar doors and hotels in New Zealand and also internationally over the past 15 years.
He indulges his passion by collecting wine (much to the consternation of his newly-wedded wife!) and consuming it (a little more acceptable to newly-wedded wife!). As a trained chef he is also quite the asset in our team. Stefan’s favourite wine is Chardonnay, though does find it difficult to single out just one variety, claiming he really does appreciate all good wines equally. Stefan is instrumental in getting our wines to you and the world.