Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


Friday drinks with Duncan Shouler, fan of La Tache

If he is ever reincarnated, Duncan Shouler would like to come back as a bottle of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti La Tache, one of the great grand cru wines of the world, but in the meantime his family remains his greatest achievement, despite all the innovation going on in his current role as chief winemaker for the Giesen Group. 

This winery's humble beginnings were in Canterbury when the German born Giesen brothers, Theo, Alex and Marcel, founded the company after emigrating to New Zealand from their German homeland. 

Shouler is now their chief winemaker and shoulders, if you'll excuse the pun, an enormous responsibility for making wines in a diverse range of styles and product ranges, including, an ever expanding bunch of zero alcohol 'wines', the latest of which was my wine of the week on this blog last Friday - the new Giesen 0% New Zealand Riesling. 

Meet Duncan Shouler, the subject of this week's Friday drinks interview. 

The weekly interview on this website is inspired by the Proust questionnaire.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

This might be a bit predictable, but I’d have to say starting a family.  Although I can’t claim that one on my own but it is, without question, the most challenging and rewarding experience.  

What is your current state of mind?

It’s currently the back end of a long and very tough vintage, so that’s a dangerous question. I’m running on adrenaline at the moment. This has been a really challenging harvest, but it's been fantastic to see the team at Giesen really come together for vintage. I’m currently feeling tired, but charged and proud of what we’ve achieved.

What is your favourite part of winemaking?

Trying to understand the consumer and use that to create wines that resonate with them. For me this is the essence of winemaking, and is critical from wines at an entry level right up to the top small batch expressions of variety or terroir.

Do you have a most treasured wine?

I was lucky in 2007 and 2009 to work at Chateau Angelus in St Emilion. A fantastic experience and I have so many great memories of wine and food from that experience. I brought home a few bottles of Angelus and still have a couple left. These would be my most treasured wines because the wines are fantastic and also evoke great memories.

Where is your favourite wine region?

Burgundy. I love Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and there’s no better spot for both than Burgundy. And it’s just such a fascinating and complex wine region full of great personalities, history, and wines that have amazing sense of place.

When and where are you at your happiest?

Again, probably a little predictable, but when I’m with family and friends, enjoying good food and wine.

What do you most dislike in wine?

Prejudice and snobbery. People should never worry about “saying the wrong thing” about wine.

What is your greatest regret?

Being born too late to see Jimi Hendrix live in concert.

What talent would you most like to have?

I’ve always wanted to be a naturally gifted tennis player but I’m rubbish.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Life without gin and tonic.

What is the trait that you most deplore in yourself?

Impatience when I go fly fishing.

What do you most value in your friends?

Time spent enjoying each others' company.

What is your favourite meal?

I was lucky enough to grow up in Cyprus for a few years when I was young so I have great memories of eating in seafood tavernas, overlooking the Mediterranean. I also love diving. So for me it's fresh seafood eaten on the coast overlooking the ocean.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing what do you think it would be? 

Perhaps a bottle of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti La Tache Grand Cru. That way I’d know I would age gracefully...