Lisa Perrotti-Brown - 02/01/2015
About this WINE
Neudorf Vineyards, Nelson
Nelson is the sunniest viticultural region in New Zealand. Relatively isolated, it has never developed large-scale production but several wineries have established an excellent reputation for quality. Prime amongst these is Neudorf, created by pioneers Tim & Judy Finn back in the late 1970s. The winery buildings have developed steadily since 1980, and so has the reputation of this excellent producer specialising predominantly in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Their flagship wines are designated by the subregion of Moutere.
One of New Zealand’s early adaptors, Tim and Judy Finn established Neudorf in 1978. They planted a mix of grape varieties: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc, Riesling and even Müller-Thurgau to see which took. Tim recalls that Herman Seifried was already dug-in next-door, and generously offering advice to his new neighbours. Orchard fruit production was then the norm; grapes a novelty.
Tim wanted to plant on clay soils and as a result they are one of the few vineyards in New Zealand who don’t irrigate. The home block and Rosie’s Block (named after their daughter, who joined them in the business after two years working in the London wine trade) are run organically. The estate is revered for both its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (both certified organic) and they also produce excellent Riesling, Pinot Gris, Albariño and Sauvignon. The winery is non-interventionist, using wild yeasts and letting the mood of each vintage speak for itself.
Nelson, it could be argued, is to South Island what Martinborough is to the North: each representing approximately three-point-five percent of the country's vineyards, both home to a similar set of varietals (Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling), both suffering from above-average land prices due to the proximity of an urban centre, yet neither displaying the frenzied monocultural industry of Marlborough, content to lead a relatively laid-back crofting existence (apples and pears in Nelson's case).
Pioneer winegrowers such as Hermann Seifried were instrumental in establishing the region's viticultural credentials during the late 1960s, well before Montana had ‘discovered’ Marlborough. Stories abound of Seifried hammering his vineyard posts in through the night, and hedging his bets with a rich array of grape varieties (something he stands by to this day).
Located at the most north-westerly point of South Island, this warm enclave is hemmed in by Mount Arthur and the Southern Alps to its rear, while the Richmond Ranges to the south-east protect it from the Antarctic south-easterlies. From time to time though it receives a good dowsing from north-westerly tropical storms, giving it the highest rainfall (562mm from October to April) of the five key Pinot Noir regions (the others being Wairarapa, Marlborough, Canterbury, Central Otago).
Fertile, silty loams dominate the flats nearest the ocean, giving rise to market gardening interspersed with vineyards, while remote clay knolls (such as those of the Upper Moutere), set well back from the water's edge, are host to the better, lower-yielding Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc vines. Riesling certainly seems to have found its feet among the free-draining, stony silt soils while Gewürztraminer shows potential.
Apart from the high-quality Pinot Noirs and Rieslings made by Tim Finn at Neudorf (where he lines the ground with seashells from Nelson's thriving shellfish industry to increase UV radiation), the terroir is simply too warm and humid, and the soils too fertile to produce anything but aromatic whites. Seifried makes an excellent Sauvignon Blanc from old vines on clay in the Redwood Valley.
Pinot Noir is probably the most frustrating, and at times infuriating, wine grape in the world. However when it is successful, it can produce some of the most sublime wines known to man. This thin-skinned grape which grows in small, tight bunches performs well on well-drained, deepish limestone based subsoils as are found on Burgundy's Côte d'Or.
Pinot Noir is more susceptible than other varieties to over cropping - concentration and varietal character disappear rapidly if yields are excessive and yields as little as 25hl/ha are the norm for some climats of the Côte d`Or.
Because of the thinness of the skins, Pinot Noir wines are lighter in colour, body and tannins. However the best wines have grip, complexity and an intensity of fruit seldom found in wine from other grapes. Young Pinot Noir can smell almost sweet, redolent with freshly crushed raspberries, cherries and redcurrants. When mature, the best wines develop a sensuous, silky mouth feel with the fruit flavours deepening and gamey "sous-bois" nuances emerging.
The best examples are still found in Burgundy, although Pinot Noir`s key role in Champagne should not be forgotten. It is grown throughout the world with notable success in the Carneros and Russian River Valley districts of California, and the Martinborough and Central Otago regions of New Zealand.