Thomas Wines

A Hunter Valley Superstar

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 a 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.

“Hunter Valley semillon is one of Australia’s few unique wines, and Thomas’ Braemore is, simply, one of the best.” Huon Hooke, The Real Review

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 Wines 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.

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, 2014 and again in 2023.

The Range

Thomas Wines Kiss Shiraz 2022
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Thomas Wines Kiss Shiraz 2022

First released in 2001, Thomas Wines’ flagship Shiraz is a single-vineyard wine sourced from the mature Pokolbin Estate Vineyard across the road from Brokenwood’s famed Graveyard Vineyard. The vines date back to 1969 and are planted on Hunter’s classic clay/loam soils, where the low-yielding vines produce fruit with exceptional depth and concentration. As in 2021, the cool, wet conditions in 2022 demanded hard work in the vineyards. After three decades in the Hunter, Thomas is well-placed to navigate such hurdles. Crop-thinning is the norm in the Kiss vines, and in 2022, over 35% of the fruit was dropped post veraison. In the end, yields ended up at a paltry 28hl/ha―lower than those permitted for Grand Cru Burgundy.  The fruit was picked in late February and fermented on skins for eight days before being pressed to French hogsheads (20% new) for 16 months’ maturation. The wine was held back for a further 10 months in bottle before release. Thomas describes Kiss as the introvert to Sweetwater’s extrovert, meaning, like many other top producers, his flagship wine is not necessarily his biggest or loudest. Expect a more reserved expression, sitting firmly in the medium-weight spectrum while holding just as much complexity and aging potential.

“Dark and brooding red, broad shoulders, intense and layered with ripe berry/cherry fruit, smoky spice elements, touches of turned earth, autumnal leaf, pepper, graphite and crushed rock minerality. Big focus of flavour, deep and rich. It’s chewy with its woody elements but the flavour profile of fruit is to the task. Bold, distinctly Thomas and Kiss, and will have its fans for that.”
95+ points, Mike Bennie, The Wine Front
"An open textured, rich and flavourful wine with boysenberry and Madagascan vanilla. A potent spice vein races through the palate, engaging the drinker and hooking one's interest. Anchored by dark, concentrated fruit, the wine accentuated by hints of sarsparilla, juniper and clove. This combines juiciness and liveliness with a warming embrace, showcasing richness, power and regional character."
96 points, Toni Paterson MW, The Wine Companion
Thomas Wines Kiss Shiraz 2022
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Thomas Wines Elenay Shiraz 2022
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Thomas Wines Elenay Shiraz 2022

The first release of the Elenay Shiraz in 2011 was the result of what Andrew Thomas calls a beautiful accident. A few barrels initially destined for the premium Kiss Shiraz didn’t quite fit the style and were blended with a few barrels of Sweetwater Shiraz to form Elenay. Such was the enthusiasm for the wine that Thomas decided to continue with the label. The vineyard composition changes depending on the vintage, but the style remains the same, with seductive fruit and premium French oak playing an important role. As with 2021, 2022 brings together two sites. The new-to-the-fold Ridgeview vineyard comprises 60%, with the balance from Thomas’s flagship Kiss vines. Thomas has been working with fruit from the Ridgeview site in Belford since 2017. These mature vines (planted in 1998) are deep-rooted in Belford’s signature red/brown loam over limestone soils and face east, providing some protection from the hot afternoon sun and giving vibrant, perfumed lift to the wine. The Kiss vines at Pokolbin Estate are planted just across the road from one of the Hunter’s most famous vineyards, Graveyard, and these old vines (planted in 1969) yield meagre crops of exceptional fruit. Before blending, both components aged in a mix of new, one-, two- and three-year-old French hogsheads for 14 months of maturation.

“Well meshed woody spices, gingery notes, toast supporting dark cherry, plum, maraschino, blackberry jubes. Supple texture, lots of concentration, fleshy, quite lush and the oak seasoning apt with its woody elements, cinnamon/clove and peppery notes. Potent, quite ripe/sweeter fruit spectrum amongst the wood. It nails the brief for a fleshier, darker Hunter shiraz.”
94 points, Mike Bennie, The Wine Front
“Deeply-coloured, purplish shiraz with aromas of blueberries, peppery spice, anise, dusty oak and a little whiff of reduction, all still subdued by youth. The palate is juicy, full and intense, yet reserved like the nose. This needs time to build but the foundations are there. Ample tannins and mouth-watering acidity should underpin a long cellaring future.”
94 points, Ralph Kyte-Powell, The Real Review
"It is a powerful, weighty, multilayered wine with abundant character. The fruit is dark, the structure dense, and a spirited rustic thread ties it together. Rather than being a wine to dissect, it is a wine to enjoy with hearty fare, good friends and convivial ambience."
95 points, Toni Paterson MW, The Wine Companion
Thomas Wines Elenay Shiraz 2022
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Thomas Wines Sweetwater Ridge Shiraz 2022
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Thomas Wines Sweetwater Ridge Shiraz 2022

Thomas Wines put Sweetwater Vineyard on the map. Unfortunately, in 2016, the vineyard was sold, and in 2021, Thomas made the difficult decision not to renew his contract with the new owners. Fortunately, he had a contingency plan; in 2017, he had begun purchasing fruit from the adjacent, independently owned and operated Ridgeview Estate. “It’s a fantastic vineyard,” he told us. “The fruit has a lovely floral complexity among the red and blue fruits.” The fruit went into Thomas’s mailing list-exclusive Belford Shiraz until 2022, when Thomas felt ready to siphon it off to the Sweetwater label. In recognition, the wine’s name has been updated to Sweetwater Ridge.Located in the Belford subregion of the Lower Hunter Valley, the old vines were planted in 1998 and are deep-rooted in the signature red/brown loam over limestone soils of the region. Thomas’s steeply sloped block faces east, providing some protection from the hot afternoon sun. Picked in mid-February, the fruit fermented as whole berries and was pressed to a selection of new, one-, two- and three-year-old French hogsheads. After 13 months’ maturation, the very best barrels were selected and blended before a further 11 months resting in bottle in readiness for release. 

“A cracking wine, bold yet energised with vibrancy, clarity and verve. Fabulous mulberry, dark cherry and chocolate flavours with fragrant star anise. A fabulous modern interpretation of Hunter shiraz with fastidious winemaking on display. Stunning value.”
96 points, Toni Paterson MW, The Wine Companion
“Quite concentrated and inky, rich and chocolatey elements with raspberry, strawberry red fruit characters, lots of clove, cinnamon, twiggy-earthy notes, smoky graphite minerality. At the fuller end of medium weight with firm, dusty tannins and a woody finish. Serious wine, a touch edgy at present in its mesh of acid, tannin and fruit, but seems like immense potential.”
93+ points, Mike Bennie, The Wine Front
Thomas Wines Sweetwater Ridge Shiraz 2022
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Thomas Wines Elevage Semillon 2023 (500ml)
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Thomas Wines Elevage Semillon 2023 (500ml)

This is just the third release of Thomas’ dessert-style Hunter Valley Semillon. The famed Braemore Vineyard contributed the lion’s share of the fruit. Thomas took only the lightest pressings, ensuring a fresh, delicate balance for the luscious, mouthfilling texture. The juice underwent a relatively long, cool fermentation, which Thomas stopped at around 10% alcohol, leaving approximately 145g/L of residual sugar. It was raised entirely in stainless steel. The 2023 is an opulent, potent style of sticky, teeming with citrus, blossoms and honey, with unctuous texture balanced by juicy orange acidity and a lengthy close. Just the ticket for a light dessert or some cheese. Bring on the blue!

Thomas Wines Elevage Semillon 2023 (500ml)
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Thomas Wines Two of a Kind Shiraz 2022
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Thomas Wines Two of a Kind Shiraz 2022

Thomas's ‘Two of a Kind’ wines are a tribute to the multi-regional blends that created some of Australia’s best wines in the 1950s and '60s. The wines are based on the Hunter Valley’s signature varieties of Semillon and Shiraz, and blended with the varieties that are well suited to other South Australian regions, providing an interesting twist and extra dimension to these unique styles. The Hunter component (51%) is sourced from the Fordwich Hill vineyard. The McLaren Vale component (49%) grew on Barry Clarke’s vineyard in the Blewitt Springs subregion. The fruit from each source fermented separately in stainless steel and the wines were blended soon after pressing. This 2022 Two of a Kind Shiraz matured for 16 months in 300-litre French hogsheads.

“A tried and true blend of 51/49% Hunter Valley/McLaren Vale fruit, separately fermented but blended shortly thereafter, then spending time in premium quality oak for almost two years. Only just medium bodied, but has plenty happening, the palate lengthened by fine but persistent savoury tannins.”
93 points, James Halliday, Halliday Wine Companion
Thomas Wines Two of a Kind Shiraz 2022
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Thomas Wines Synergy Shiraz 2022
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Thomas Wines Synergy Shiraz 2022

A blend of Shiraz from the Fordwich Hill, Pokolbin Estate (Kiss and Dam Blocks), Sweetwater Ridge, Cote D'or and Black Cluster vineyards. Each parcel was given a pre-fermentation cold maceration for 24 to 48 hours, followed by vinification in stainless steel. The parcels were then racked to barrels for malolactic conversion. The wine was raised in oak 300-litre French hogsheads for 15 months before bottling.

“Taut. Playful. Fruit-focused and bright. A wine for Friday night pasta and Sunday barbecues. Wild cherries. Classical tones.”
91 points, Toni Paterson, The Wine Companion
Thomas Wines Synergy Shiraz 2022
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“Winemaker Andrew Thomas is an emerging superstar of the Hunter, producing peerless Semillon and classy Shiraz.” Peter Forrestal, Qantas Magazine

“Hunter Valley semillon is one of Australia’s few unique wines, and Thomas’ Braemore is, simply, one of the best.” Huon Hooke, The Real Review

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ “The quality of the wines and reputation of Andrew Thomas have never been higher.” James Halliday, Australian Wine Companion



“After 22 consecutive vintages, the impeccably crafted Thomas Braemore Semillon is one of the iconic wines of the Hunter Valley. Although delicious in its youth, age reveals the true magic of the Braemore site. It is one of Australia’s best value ‘fine wines’ and an absolute bargain in the broader wine world.” Toni Patterson MW, Gourmet Traveller Wine

Country

Australia

Primary Region

Hunter Valley, New South Wales

People

Winemaker: Andrew Thomas

Availability

National

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