Winemaker Simon Fell on ocean swims, negronis and a glass that’s never empty

Meet the man behind the label; Simon Fell who makes Thornbury wines, which launched a new look this month.

What wine, person or event got you hooked on the idea of winemaking?

Exploring the wine regions of Europe ignited my interest in tasting and  drinking copious amounts of wine… that was during my OE in the late 80s  and early 90s.


What’s your favourite part of each day?

Mid- morning as this is when I feel the most alert and creative, whether in making decisions, assessing and tasting wines to blend or creating. This part is usually during the harvest period when I discover ideas to handle the harvest and processsing methods that are reflective of the growing season and respectful of the conditions and provenance of the vineyard.

Hitting the pillow after a long day during vintage is also a welcome part of the day too.


What’s your pet wine peeve?

Apart from oenophiles who like to enforce their views on others in situations that are inappropriate, wine should be a celebration and enjoyed in all situations and not turned into an exercise of fear and confusion for the less knowledgeable. Don’t get me wrong, I love the complexity wine can offer but there is also a place for us professionals to break down the barriers of confusion and try simplify the choices for consumers. For example, with the range of regional wines I create at Thornbury, I want to showcase the wonderful diversity that New Zealand’s wine regions have have to offer and showcase the varieties I feel are best suited to those regions .


What’s your top piece of advice to all wine lovers?

Wine is a personal experience, so drink what appeals to you. Be adventurous and take yourself outside your comfort zone when trying new wines or regions. For me, wine is all about celebrating the wonderful diversity our wine regions have to offer.


How do you like to unwind after vintage each year?

Usually with a cold beer and time to enjoy with the family that has been orphaned for such a long period. Making wines from Gisborne to Central Otago turns into a long harvest each year. I also like to get back into my regular routine of ocean swimming, which clears the head and settles the mind.


Favourite drink?

Hard question. Apart from discovering new and interesting wines, a well-made negroni always goes down well.


Favourite food and music with your favourite drink?

Another hard question. I have many favourite foods and music. Variety is the spice of life. One particular favourite is the simplicity of sashimi with a vibrant fresh aromatic wine.


What’s your most memorable wine experience ever and where was it?

Probably one of the weirdest and most surprizing was enjoying a bottle of Opus One Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and eating Taco Bell in the back seat of a good friend’s car.


If you could make wine anywhere in the world, what would it be?

I have been very fortunate to have experienced winemaking in many great regions of the world from Bordeaux to Napa Valley, to name a few, but returning to home to create wines that express our country’s diverse regions is both challenging and fulfilling. I have reached a sense of contentment in a way.


If you had to choose your last ever glass of wine, what would it be?

A glass that is never empty.

Author: Joelle Thomson

I am a wine writer, author and educator... first bitten by a big buttery Chardonnay on a dark and stormy night in the 1980s and there was no turning back... Follow my tastings and join some too on this new site.

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