Winefriend by David Way

Writing about the wines of Piemonte, Italy and France

Postcard from Neudorf

Tim and Judy of Neudorf Vineyards are another of the Family of Twelve’s Kiwi winegrower pioneers.  As such, in the early days there was a good deal of trial and error, a spirit of adventure which has continued to stand them well.  Neudorf is a step apart – coming here from Marlborough it does feel you are genuinely in the countryside, rather than in viticultural monopoly.  The near neighbours grow strawberries and much more.  The geographical region is called Nelson and the estate is actually at Upper Moutere, forty minutes around the Tasman Bay from the town of Nelson, on a sunny day a rural gem.

Here are some of the things Janet and I learnt on our visit: 

  • as noted the early days were learning on the job: Merlot came and went, Cabernet Sauvignon also did not suit the climate which is marginally cooler than Marlborough if sheltered. But the Chardonnay is now fully mature and doing so well that they don’t want to replant just to have narrower rows. And the Pinot is flourishing too. 
  • the experimentation is not over here: we tasted the first bottling of their Albariño, a variety which is beginning to have a bit of following in New Zealand 
  • the soils here are ancient clay and gravel. It drains well and the roots to go down to 3.5m, spread out through the gravels
  • as in some other Family of Twelve properties, the vines here are the first crop of any sort on this land 
  • Scott-Henry trained plants, with upper and lower canopies, carry a lot of fruit which means it gives the producer a choice, discarding anything damaged and the ‘shoulders’ of bunches or even the surplus fruit. It is more work but worth it if you are quality minded
  • the Chardonnay grown is the Mendoza clone which is particularly vulnerable to the poor fruit set known as ‘hen and chicken’ or millerandage if you prefer. The result is some small berries amid the full size one. While this reduces yields it is by no means all bad news: the small berries give very concentrated, flavourful juice and high acidity; the bigger berries give volume and ripeness.

From the wine we tasted I particularly liked the unoaked Chardonnay.  Many of the fine Chardonnays we tasted in New Zealand were barrel fermented with around 20% new oak. But the quality of the fruit suggests that an unadorned style would also have real merit.   Unoaked Neudorf 25 Rows Chardonnay 2014 is a trial. The wine is fermented in stainless steel, spends some time on its lees and is aged in old puncheons – mildly oxidative but no oak flavour.  I like this very much for its unadorned, rapier-like palate with fine honey and green apple notes; linear in style but with fruit ripeness. (See also the forthcoming piece on Felton Road’s Chardonnays.) The top wines for both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are sold under the ‘Moutere’ label and come from the older vines and the best plots. These are high quality, dense and textured with real potential to age.  

With thanks to all at Neudorf.  We really enjoyed meeting you, visiting the beautiful place in which the estate is based and, of course, tasting your wines.

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