Nelson – what every WSET student needs to know?

Nelson might be the best-kept secret of the New Zealand wine industry. Nelson, often called Sunny Nelson, is a city in the northern part of the countries South Island. It is also the name of the wine region south and west of Nelson city. We had the chance to visit the region and some of the best producers over there during our Easter 2021 vacation. And we are happy to share some of the highlights with you.

But before we look the the amazing people, beautiful views, and delicious wines, let’s look at some facts crucial for every WSET student.

ClimateCool maritime
The warm summers are followed by long, dry autumns allowing for an extended growing season. Diurnal temperature variation allows the grapes time to develop phenolic ripeness while retaining freshness. It also makes Nelson such a great fit for the aromatic varieties.
Sub-regionsWaimea Plains
Moutere Hills
SoilsWaimea Plains – alluvial gravel
Moutere Hills – gravel-threaded clay soils
Total vineyards sizeAround 1,200 ha (~2% of total NZ vineyards size)
GrapesMost famous for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, together with aromatics (Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewurztraminer), with Sauvignon Blanc being the most planted
Established1970s
Important producersNeudorf, Greenhough, Seifried, Blackenbrook, Moutere Hills, Rimu Grove, Te Mania, Richmond Planes
Summary of the most important facts about the Nelson region.

Overall, we spent 5 days in the Nelson region, with our base in gorgeous Neudorf Olive Grove. Below are the highlights of our visit, in chronological order.

Te Mania & Richmond Planes

We were lucky to be hosted by Michal Snitko. Michal welcomed us with a big smile, showed us around the winery, suggested places to visit in the regions. Hospitality at its best.

Visiting Te Mania Winery

Te Mania & Richmond Planes started in the early 1990s as separate wineries but recently they have been united under one owner. Both labels offer great value organic wines. We particularly liked their Richmond Planes Pinot Gris 2019 (with gripping texture and a touch of sugar) and Te Mania Three Brothers 2008, Merlot-dominant blend (plush and refreshingly juicy).

Greenhough

We were greeted by Jenny Wheeler, who ran us through the outstanding tasting of Nelson’s finest wines. Greenhough produces wines from the Waimea Plains sub-region, where it’s a bit cooler, resulting in in crisper, punchier wines. The winery is family-owned and established in 1991. All their vineyards are organic, and their wines are full of character and outstanding complexity.

Our highlights of the visit were Greenhough Hope Vineyard Pinot Blanc 2019. Pinot Blanc is rare in New Zealand vineyards, and it was surprising to taste so unusual style – made from old vines (planted in 1976), fermented and aged in French oak. The resulting wine was full of florals, ripe fruit, with hints of spices, buttery notes, and oily texture. Unexpected and delicious wine. The second definite high point was the Greenhough Hope Vineyard Pinot 2019, made only in the best vintages and with 100% whole bunches, adding to the texture and spiciness of the wine. The wine was vivid and youthful, with the depth and layers of aromas and flavours, which, together with the acidity and long finish, gave high hopes for long ageing and evolution.

Moutere Hills

This was the first winery that allowed us to taste the wines from the Moutere Hills sub-region. It is a family owned boutique winery, with the first vines planted in early 1990s. We adored their 2019 Chenin Blanc, full of citrus, stone fruit, vanilla and a touch of reduction, accompanied with high acidity and long, bright finish. 2019 Pinot Noir, with intense and complex nose of red fruit, herbs and spices, medium body, and long finish.

Out visit to Moutere Hills did not stop at the tasting. We also got the opportunity to help with the harvest. And on our last day, we were invited to pick the beautiful Chenin Blanc grapes. It was an amazing experience to be able to be part of the harvest crew and get another bit closer to the winemaking process. Huge shout outs to Michal Snitko for making us part of the team!

Danka, WineUni UX Designer, harvesting ripe Chenin Blanc grapes.
Can you see the joy in my eyes? 🤩

Blackenbrook

Blackenbrook is a Swiss quality-focus transplanted to New Zealand. And the results out astonishing! This family-owned winery planted their first vines in 2001, and now they grow their grapes on 20 hectares of land in the Moutere Hills, next to the Tasman Sea. They also use gravity-based winery, which allows them for minimal intervention, resulting in well-crafted and nuanced wines.

There were many highlights of this visit. Their Blackenbrook Pinot Rosé 2020 was excellent, full of ripe flavours, with lifted florals, medium+body and crispy acidity. We were absolutely surprised by the Blackenbrook Family Reserve Montepulciano 2019 – rich and robust wine, with herbs and spices adding to its finesses. We also enjoyed Blackenbrook Family Reserve Pinot Noir 2019 – complex and concentrated aromas, full of character and length.

Neudorf Vineyards

One cannot go to the Nelson region without visiting Neudorf Vineyards. Particularly if you stay 5km down the road from them. When we arrived, we were greeted by Rosie Finn, part of the Finn family, owners of Neudorf Vineyards. We remembered Rosie from the A Seat at the Table documentary, and this definitely added to the experience of our visit.

Tim and Judy Finn planted the vineyard in 1978 and their Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs are famous all around the world. However, they also make Rieslings (we enjoyed one in their cellar door garden), Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, and even Albariño. We adored Rosie’s Block Moutere Chardonnay 2019 – full of energy and youth, with great complexity and unique minerality.

Conclusion

Nelson is one of those regions that you love from the moment you get there. Smiling and kind people, combined with special wines and spectacular views. See you again soon, Nelson! ☀️🍷

To read more about Nelson, check out the Wine Searcher pages and the overview from Bob Cambell, MW.

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