Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


Tuesday drinks with... winemaker Lloyd Howes

Baths, bubbly and barbecues are among Lloyd Howes' favourite things, along with camping with his wife and making wine. This is his story of how his career took a vinous turn in his late teen years.  

What took you down the wine rabbit hole and when did it happen?

It began when I was about 19 years old and working in hospitality in Wellington. After long days and nights, I discovered there was some really good stuff out there. I was immersed in the wine and drinks world and came to really enjoy it.

How long have you been the winemaker at Tohu/Kono, and where were you before then?

This is my third harvest as the sparkling winemaker here. Before that I ran the harvest night shift, then I would travel, work another harvest, and come back for the next harvest here at Tohu. The highlights of my time away from New Zealand were the Okanagan Valley in Canada where I focused on small lot Pinot Noir and Riesling. It was beautiful; like Queenstown on steroids. A big lake and bigger mountains. Too hot for really good bubbles though. Another highlight was Margaret River, using grapes from all around south west Australia. Amazing beaches and even better Chardonnay. Right before taking a permanent position with Tohu, I was mixing cocktails in London.

When were you bitten by the wine bug?

I grew up around wine, so it was more gradual than it was for most people. However, there was a clear moment when I was drinking an after-work glass of Ruinart Blanc de Blancs at Cloudy Bay. That was a wow moment that really got me.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Constant improvement and learning new things. One thing I love about the wine business is that very vintage is a challenge because it’s never the same. I’m always learning something new and improving all the time.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

Apathy that shows up as procrastination. It’s a work in progress but doing what I love makes it a lot easier.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

I hate it when people show an absence of compassion. It makes no sense to me and says so much about a person. Arrogance is another trait that really rubs me the wrong way.

Which living person do you most admire?

I really admire Kilian Jornet Burgada, a Spanish professional long distance trail runner, and one of the greatest trail runners of all time. He would be at the top of the list, along with my wife, of course. She is a really rad spiritual person who does an amazing job of balancing life and work. As well as being Argentinian and always keen for a real wood fired barbecue.

What is your greatest extravagance?

What I consider the greatest extravagance/decadence is making pato colgado, also known as hanging duck, by cooking it for seven hours over a Manuka fire, drinking beer, and playing guitar while I keep the fire going. Once it’s cooked, I pop open a Syrah, Pinot, or Malbec, which pair perfectly with the duck. That’s decadence. I might follow the meal with a whiskey, really making it an over-the-top experience. Some might call it gluttony.

When and where were you happiest?

There are two things that stand out to me as pure happiness. I love camping with my wife and dog, drinking something cold while grilling meats over a fire, but I also love drinking a glass of Méthode Marlborough in the bath after a successful day of squishing grapes. 

Which talent would you most like to have?

I'd settle for a bit of musical talent, but there are so many talents I would like to have that I couldn’t even list them all.

Who would you be if you were to die and come back as an animal or person?

Most likely a dog.