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Thomas Wines - A Hunter Valley “Superstar” Joins the Bibendum Family

Thomas Wines - A Hunter Valley “Superstar” Joins the Bibendum Family

Born and bred in McLaren Vale, Andrew ‘Thommo’ Thomas reckoned he had it all figured out. He would graduate from Roseworthy and pursue a career in South Australia, following in the footsteps of his father, Wayne Thomas. And then fate stepped in. Between semesters, Thomas took on vintage at Tyrrells. Here he met and worked under larger-than-life Murray Tyrrell and his experience in the Hunter would imprint on Thomas for life.

Thomas’ stage impressed the Tyrrell family enough for him to be offered a number-one draft pick straight out of college: assistant winemaker at Tyrrells. Despite reservations about leaving his base, Thomas knew he could not look this gift horse in the mouth and besides, McLaren Vale wasn’t going anywhere. He would return home as a more knowledgeable and experienced winemaker. That was 35 years ago.

Thomas couldn’t have asked for a better start to his career. The 13 years he spent at Tyrrell’s instilled a passion for place that remains to this day; the Hunter’s unique setting, its enigmatic signature white, Semillon, and the close-knit camaraderie between all who live and work there. Thomas had found his tribe. “The place just got under my skin,” he admits.

A decade into his tenure with the Tyrrells, Thomas felt that niggling desire to make wines of his own, and despite a few choice words from Murray Tyrrell on the subject, the family rubber-stamped his ambitions—providing it didn’t impact on his day job. In 1997, Thomas released his first wine, a white from what he considered one of Hunter’s great Semillon vineyards, Braemore, then owned and farmed by Ken Bray.

Thomas left Tyrrells in 1999 to set up shop on Pokolbin’s Mistletoe Lane. Rather than looking to please every taste, Thomas chose to nail his colours to the Hunter’s two signature grape varieties, Semillon and Shiraz. He started with just two wines (a red and a white) but soon began to explore and champion the stylistic diversity that exists within his region. Today, the range can run to as many as eight or nine Semillons and nine or ten Shiraz bottlings in a single vintage, encompassing each of the Valley’s sub-regions: Pokolbin, Lovedale, Belford, Broke/Fordwich and Mount View.

Thomas’ portfolio is a many-splendored thing, yet there is one vineyard that has become synonymous with this gifted producer: Braemore. Located in the heart of Hunter Semillon’s dress circle, on the free-draining sandy flats of Pokolbin, Braemore is something of consecrated ground for fans of the variety and region. Having worked with Braemore fruit from his very first vintage (and every year since), when the opportunity to purchase the vineyard arose in 2017, Thomas jumped at the chance. And while today the vineyard contributes to several Thomas’ blends, it is the two wonderful single-vineyard wines—the Braemore Semillon and Cellar Reserve Semillon (released at six years old)—that shine the brightest.

Now in its 25th year—and with his eldest son Dan blooded into the business—Thomas Wines’ Semillon bottlings have become the embodiment of the lithe, pure, star-bright style that made the region so famous. They are digestible wines, screaming out for a plate of “anything you think about putting a squeeze of lemon over”, offers Thomas (although we wonder if this phrase originated from Andrew’s partner, the talented Sommelier, Kim Bickley). Light in alcohol but in no way austere or lacking texture or personality, these are unique and delicious wines we proudly offer to our clients.

What is perhaps less well known, outside of NSW at least, is the quality of this producer’s Shiraz. Indeed, Thomas’ mastery of both styles has seen him voted by his peers as Hunter Valley Winemaker of the year in 2008 and again in 2014. We’ll discuss the Shiraz in more detail with an upcoming release when we have more wine on our books. For now, we can offer the three wines featured below. Born from a complicated vintage in which Thomas struck off 60% of his Shiraz. In Hunter Burgundy idiom, the style is one of pure pleasure: mid-weight, refined and silky, with fine structure and refreshing presence. The wines also offer terrific value for money.

The Wines

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