NELSON, NEW ZELAND: At the north-western end of the South Island is the Nelson wine region. When one thinks of New Zealand wine, the first thought that comes to mind is Marlborough and Sauvignon Blanc. Marlborough is a very large wine-growing region and about 80% of grapes grown in New Zealand are Sauvignon Blanc.
The Nelson region is home to 22 cellar doors boasting not only quality Sauvignon Blanc but also Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, and other varietals. Most of the vineyards here are family-owned. The region just west of the city of Nelson on the Tasman Bay comprises two parts: the Hills and the Plains.
New Zeland Moutere Hills and Waimea Plains wine country
The Moutere Hills are formed from the weathered gravels of an ancient river system, which originally reached from St. Arnaud to the coast. The gravel threaded clay soils are renowned for producing wines of richness and texture. The Pinot Noir is deeply flavored with fine tannins and elegance. The Chardonnay is complex, multi-faceted with excellent structure. Winemakers also produce excellent Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Gris. The clayey soils mean that the vineyards often aren’t irrigated.
The Waimea Plains have stony soils of alluvial origin, high sunshine hours and moderating maritime influence. This means that the temperatures are not as hot or as cold as in Marlborough and they never get frosts. The aromatic whites are vibrant wines, with a flinty backbone acting as a counterpoint to the overt fruit flavors, while the Chardonnay is richly expressive with fine acid structure.
The Pinot Noir is perfumed with plum and cherry characters on the nose. The wine’s ripeness carrying through to the supple tannins on the palate.
You can, of course, visit the cellars yourself but on a partly sunny, partly rainy day recently we took a half-day guided tour through four of the cellars.
Te Mania and Richmond Plains
The first was actually two wineries in one: Te Mania and Richmond Plains. They have the same owner and are both organic wines, Richmond being the first certified organic Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir wines in New Zealand.
Brightwater Vineyards produced a 2014 Champion Pinot Noir. At Brightwater vines covered with netting to keep the birds off the almost-ready grapes. The winery is in the middle of the harvest, with different vineyards having picked some varietals and getting ready to pick others.
At the Kahurangi Estate cellar door in addition to their tasting room, there is a small restaurant serving excellent food to pair with their wines.
Seifried Estate produces a top award-winning Sauvignon Blanc.
Seifried is available in the United States at Whole Foods. Interestingly, they do not sell in Australia. Austrian Hermann Seifried founded the vineyard in 1973. In addition to the usual Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, it features Austrian varietals not found elsewhere in New Zealand.
Both Brightwater and Seifried produce a late harvest dessert wine akin to ice wine.
The Nelson region has a lot to offer. All told, the wine tours introduced various Sauvignon Blancs, Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays, dry Rieslings, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, and an Austrian Zweigelt.
Most cellar doors are open daily during the summer. There are reduced hours in the winter. Important to remember that the seasons are reversed from the northern hemisphere. More information can be had on the Wine Nelson website.
Planning you visit:
PO Box 3344
Richmond – Nelson, New Zealand
General inquiries: [email protected]
All images courtesy of writer, Al Murer (all rights reserved)