NZ trip 2010: Nelson

(by peter)

Our Kiwi odyssey came to an end in Nelson, with the obligatory visit to local vinous heavyweight Neudorf.

We were hosted by the delightful Judy Finn, wife of Tim, in their bright yet breezy Upper Moutere base, where they have been since first setting up in 1978. (They had an option to buy the plot or go sailing round the world with friends; the yachting world’s loss was the wine world’s gain.)

Neudorf has around 35 hectares of vineyard, with production split between Brightwater and Moutere. The former, for which they lease two vineyards, produces bright, characterful but ultimately simpler and more accessible wines than those sourced from the Moutere gravel/clays, some of New Zealand’s oldest soils. The winery crushes around 180 tonnes per year. Some 50% of production is exported.

Tim, whom we also met, is a scientist both by training and nature, having initially specialised in animal behaviour (something to do with the way stress affects let-down of milk in goats and cows, according to Judy). But he has transferred his training to good effect in wine.

One example of this is the trials he carried out in conjunction with Lincoln University into the effect of light-reflecting surfaces (bleached and splintered mussel shells, as well as white fabric) placed under the vines, in order to promote earlier flavour ripening. The trials have been going on over 10 years and, while Judy freely confesses it doesn’t make a huge difference, the results have been promising enough not only to keep Neudorf in the mussel shell market, but also influenced others, such as Steve Smith MW at Craggy Range, and Dry River, to adopt similar tactics (ground glass also works, apparently).

Here’s a video of Judy talking about the mussel shells and generally introducing the winery and vineyard:

We were most impressed by their Chardonnays, though the Pinot Gris was an unexpected delight.

Neudorf Riesling Moutere 2009, 9% – lovely pressed green apple nose, some talc, with notes of fresh flowers and cream. On the palate it is fleshy but with very bright acidity underneath. Brisk. You’d never guess there was 44g/l of residual sugar here, so fresh is the acidity that the wine almost finishes dry. Needs time, but this is stylish stuff. Altogether more classy and complex than the crunchy, simple Brightwater version. 7.5/10

Neudorf Sauvignon Blanc 2009, 13.5% – sourced from Brightwater and made using 20% old French barrels, this is the best of the Brightwater offerings. Elegant pea pod and citrus nose, with a smoky hint. On the palate it’s bright and breezy, with elegant smoky and mineral hints. Lovely, young, and tight. Quite foodie. Salty tang on the finish. As Judy says, they’re “trying to squeeze the ‘Heineken factor’ out of SB”. Bravo! 7.5-8/10

Neudorf Moutere Pinot Gris 2008, 13.5% – smoky, slightly nutty nose showing honeyed white fruit. A nice touch of age (we also tried the 2009 which, while similar in character and quality, lacked the elegance and roundness of a year more in bottle). Woolly hints. On the palate it’s succulent and nutty, with elegant weight and slightly funky peaty note on the finish. It’s an engaging style, very versatile with food. Delish. 8/10

Neudorf Chardonnay Nelson 2008, 13.5% – lovely nutty citric nose. New World but with a Burgundian accent. Creamy buttery toasted nuts. Yum. On the palate it’s toasty and savoury, with a pleasant citric tang. Not super concentrated but a good savoury New World style. Refreshing lift. Very drinkable and elegant. 8/10

Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay 2008, 13.5% – elegant mineral nose. So young. Restrained. Smoky. Slightly funky, earthy lactic edge to it – attractive. On the palate it shows tons of intense lemony acidity, with a lovely elegant texture. Real minerality here, lovely velvety texture in combination with a laser-like focus and structure. Deep and layered. Spicy finish. Needs at least 2-3 years before drinking. A real powerhouse. 9/10

Neudorf Home Block Pinot Noir 2006 – Susie was a bigger fan of this than me. This wine is made in selected vintages (there was no 2007 or 2008, for example) from 2 rows of Pommard clone Pinot Noir vines in front of their house. It’s a distinctive style, with grassy, white melon notes together with smoky meaty and toasty characters. On the palate it shows soft earthy red fruits, quite delicate in nature together with tangy earthy depths. Doesn’t quite pull off this tricky tightrope act for me – ie the marriage of delicacy with complexity and persistence – because ultimately it lacks the depth and profundity to be great. Very good nonetheless. 8/10