Joelle Thomson

Writer, author, journalist

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Friday drinks - Best is yet to come for Martinborough winemaker Tim Bourne

Tim Bourne is the winemaker at Escarpment Vineyard in the majestic Te Muna Valley, Martinborough. A place where Pinot Noir finds its greatest expression in good vintages of Kupe; one of four single vineyard wines released this month in New Zealand. Bourne has worked with Larry McKenna, founder and former owner of Escarpment Vineyard, and now retired. Bourne has stepped into big shoes and he is filling them with some outstanding wines. This is his story. 

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

A great family and three amazing kids is right up there but I think my greatest achievement is yet to come. In a work sense, earning the dux of the AWRI Advanced Wine Assessment Course, was a proud moment for me. Also, there are certain great individual wines that are great achievements to be a part of. I’m really proud of the 2020 wines at Escarpment, particularly the single vineyards. They are a great team achievement. Read the author this blog's assessment of these wines here.

What's your favourite thing about wine? 

The changeable nature of the job. One day I can be cleaning out drains at the winery and the next pouring wines at a high end Sydney restaurant. It is not all romantic but it certainly has that element. Regarding wine itself, in its most simplistic form it is a process that Mother Nature has created. We merely nurture it along the way. It is remarkable that something as seemingly simple as a grape, can transform into something so complex and beguiling as wine. I really love being a part of that journey.

Do you have a most treasured wine? 

I do. I’ve been sitting on a bottle of 1998 Krug for some time and am looking for an excuse to open it.  Not that I need one. I think we’ll open it when we finish building our house.

Where and when are you at your happiest?

At work - In the winery during vintage. It can be the best of times and worst of times, but when the ferments are all roaring away, everything smells amazing. The team you’re working with all become very close during that time.

Away from work – hanging out with family and friends. Drinking good wine and eating good food.

What do you most dislike in wine?

The pretentious side of wine can be inescapable at times and does have its place to a point, but sometimes it can be too much. I like to think that I take my wines seriously, but don’t take myself too seriously.

What is your greatest fear? 

Releasing a faulty wine.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Unfortunately, my budget doesn’t allow too many but wine would be it - as a kind of an occupational hazard so not sure it really counts.  

What is your greatest regret? 

I’m not sure I fully believe in regrets – more missed opportunities, than regrets. There is nothing I am totally regretful for. Everything I’ve done is generally the result of my own decision making.

What talent would you most like to have? 

A photographic memory.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? 

Tough question. Hopefully I never find out.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse? 

Probably the word – buddy. As in “hey buddy”. I am sure there are 100 other phrases I overuse, especially when tasting wine.

What is your favourite meal?

Dinner time. I’m a sucker for a big juicy steak but love eating at places where you get to try lots of different dishes. I’m a big fan of food.

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

Another tough question. Probably a person again. It would depend how many chances you get to come back. If it were only one more chance, then definitely a person. But if it were unlimited chances, I would work my way through the animal kingdom beginning with the letter A.