Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


Friday drinks with... Roscoe Johanson

Roscoe Johanson has a 5am start every day and hosts wine professionals to Giesen's Marlborough winery as part of his role as export sales manager for Canada, Asia-Pacific and Europe. He is raising a family with his partner and travels regularly for work. As if that isn't enough, he is studying the Wine & Spirit Education Trust's (WSET) highest qualification, the Level 4 Diploma. It's not study for the faint hearted, as his wall of maps attests to. It is a humbling process, but one that he is enjoying, despite a busy life right now.

This is his story.

What is your main role at Giesen and when did it begin, in a nutshell…

I started with the Giesen Group in Sydney 13 years ago and have been lucky to have a number of interesting roles from market manager in Australia, global brand ambassador and, these days, working in export sales looking after Canada, Asia Pacific and Europe. I also do much of the hosting that the company undertakes in Marlborough, which can involve having guests for two hours to four+ days at a time.  

What made you dive down the rabbit hole of wine study?

Wine study started with WSET levels two and three, it was Marcel Giesen who challenged me to go to the next level. I had an inkling that COVID would be around for a while, and travelling could be curtailed, so thought the diploma programme would keep me occupied. As my old teachers would testify, I didn’t exactly excel in the classroom, so this is redemption.

How has studying changed your life at home, work and in wine? 

The diploma requires a significant amount of study over a relatively short period of time, which is not always a great recipe. I am lucky to have an understanding partner and employers who see the benefits of learning. We also have three teenage kids who don’t always appreciate Dad locked away studying. I have found that early mornings work best for me, so the alarm goes off at 5am, and I hit the study before I head to the office. It’s the same ritual for weekends. Unfortunately, I fell short with the last module Wines of the World so am  currently working towards resitting the final theory exam in May this year. While initially disappointed, I sat down and took stock of the situation, and saw it as an opportunity to get even more out of the programme. As we all know, wine is such a massive topic, the more you dig deeper, the more you uncover.

Our chief winemaker Duncan Shouler, who is at stage two of the Master of Wine programme, has been a big help. Duncan’s always willing to stop and explain things or ask me in to taste wines. The support has been really appreciated.

When were you bitten by the wine bug?

I had always been working around wine. Training in hotel management required a certain level of understanding about wine. Having also worked in sales and marketing roles in both beer and spirits industries, it was only a matter of time before wine beckoned. It’s a privilege to work in the New Zealand wine industry, given its success over such a short time

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Out in the Marlborough sounds, with the family, catching dinner.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

I have been known to catch the procrastination bug.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

People who take themselves too seriously.

Which living person do you most admire?

Richard Branson is someone I have admired for a long time as he has dyslexia and was told by his headmaster that he would either end up in prison or become a millionaire. He chose the latter. I admire his disruptive style, openness to help others succeed and his philanthropy work

What is your greatest extravagance?

Working with Remy Martin, I got the taste for Fine Champagne Cognac. It is such an amazing spirit with such a depth of flavour and length.

Which talent would you most like to have?

I love music but have never learnt to play an instrument. Maybe after the Diploma is done and dusted, I’ll go out and buy myself a guitar. Keep an eye out on Spotify. 

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Schooling wasn’t my strong suit. I spent a great deal my life trying to convince myself I couldn’t learn and I’m now one exam away from (hopefully) my second diploma.

Where would you most like to live?

After life in Auckland and Sydney, I really enjoy Marlborough. It is pretty special when after a stint working overseas, to fly over the Marlborough Sounds then into the valley. I love the outdoors, whether it's flyfishing, mountain biking or boating. Marlborough delivers.

What is your most treasured possession(s)?

Our kids are my most treasured possessions, most of the time. They make you laugh, cry, and ultimately rich and poor.

Who are your heroes in real life?

Medical staff around the globe, who unselfishly put their own health at risk during the COVID pandemic to help others.

What is your favourite wine style and wine region?

Méthode Traditionnelle, will always be a favourite and Champagne ticks all the boxes. It has such history and the ability to hold its position as a premium luxury brand.