Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


Things we least expect

Joelle Thomson’s weekly blog about life, wine and other unexpected things

It happens when you least expect it. When I finally realised my sister might not recover, or at least get a brief reprieve from her cancer, it quickly became clear that getting to see her in a remote part of Western Australia was a hard ask, at best. At worst, it was impossible to get there in time to say goodbye to her in person. The worst happened. Sue passed away this month and I never got to say goodbye in person, to hold her hand one last time and to say all those things that swirl around in my mind like a storm of sadness and longing for someone so important, so loved and so cherished. We talked on the phone and thanks to other technology, we saw each other on computer screens, but it’s not the same as being with someone in person. It’s going to take time to process. Part of the process is writing about it, for me, and connecting with people who understand, of which a surprising number seem to. It’s incredibly affirming to have conversations with people who have suddenly come back into my life, often via email or Facebook or the phone (due to physical distance) to say how sorry they are for the loss in our family.

Losing a sibling is high on the list of things I least expected to happen but it happened anyway, in the way that life does when you are least expecting it. The ‘us’ in question is my other sister and I, who are, along with our parents and other close family members, deeply shocked and saddened by the incredibly swift cancer that our sister Sue had.

When she was drifting deeper into illness and fading away from us over the past few months, many parts of life began to lose their shine and wine was one of those things, but life goes on. And, in easing back into work following the funeral last week, something else happened that I least expected. It may sound trivial when compared with the death of a loved one, but two wines from small vineyards stopped me in my tracks. Winemakers Sarah-Kate and Dan Dineen have always made wines that rate highly, for me, under their Maude label, but these two Pinot Noirs are in another realm. They have the earthy flavours and velvety depth that my beautiful sister, Sue, would have loved. Here they are…

Wines of the week

Two Pinot Noirs from Wanaka, Central Otago, New Zealand


2018 Maude Kids Block Central Otago Pinot Noir 
This is made from grapes grown on Mt Maude Vineyard at the base of Mt Maude in Wanaka, a one hectare site planted at 400 metres elevation and grown without irrigation. The family owned site was planted in three Pinot Noir clones: 667, 777 and 115. It’s made without whole clusters in the ferment and with 18 days of maceration by winemakers Sarah Kate and Dan Dineen. Silky, structured, sensitively balanced, long and fresh with great depth of flavour; earthy spice married with red fruit. Its complex flavours will develop further with time. 


2018 Maude Mt Maude Pinot Noir Wanaka
Made from a 1.25 hectare block of Pinot Noir planted at 360 metres elevation in Wanaka. The vineyard is now 25 years old, planted in Pinot Noir clone 10/5 and dry grown. There were 70% whole clusters in the ferment, which had minimal pigeage (plunging of the cap of grapeskins) and 20 days maceration followed by a gentle basket press with the finished wine going into oak. It’s a commanding impressive wine with great structure and concentration.