I worked out that since November 2008, my first visit to New Zealand, I have visited five times in five years. That’s a significant accrual of air miles. But over the course of these visits, I’d never visited Nelson, so as I picked up my hire car at the airport and headed off on the short drive to Judy and Tim Finn’s Neudorf Vineyards, I enjoyed the sense of anticipation that a first visit to a wine region brings.
Neudorf – pronounced ‘noy-dorf’, although Tim and Judy don’t object to the variant ‘new-dorf’) – is one of New Zealand’s most celebrated small wineries, with a particular reputation for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. I rocked up to find the whole team finishing their coffee break, giving the impression of a big, happy family. There does seem to be a lot of happiness here, which is a good thing indeed.
After liberal application of sun screen, Tim Finn, Todd Stevens (winemaker) and Richard Flatman (viticulturist) took me for a walk around the vineyards. As with many vineyards in New Zealand, vine age and the benefits it brings is beginning to kick in. For a whole host of reasons, vines really start ramping up the quality after they are about 10 years old (which for most, would be after eight vintages). There’s some experimentation here, with different clones of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris being trialled, as well as different cover cropping systems. Tim has a great scientific mind, and applies this very intelligently to his work.
Nelson is not a big wine region, but it does seem to be able to do quite a few things well. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Pinot Gris, even a bit of Viognier. It’s also home to the famous Nelson Sauvin hops which are so beloved by craft brewers the world over.
I was thrilled by some of the wines I tasted. The Moutere Chardonnay 2005, 2007 and 2011 were all world class, with precision and complexity. Tom’s Block Pinot Noir is utterly joyful and elegant, for drinking with pleasure now.
The Moutere Pinot Noir 2007 and 2010 were brilliant, silky, multi-layered wines, and the Home Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010 combined spicy structure with elegant fruit. The big surprise was the 2003 Home Vineyard Pinot, which had evolved into an amazing multi-layered, aromatically complex and broad wine, speaking more of the Mediterranean than Burgundy, but utterly compelling with it.
We followed the tasting with lunch at Tim and Judy’s home, where we were joined by their daughter Rosie, who is remarkably like Judy (which, of course, is a good thing). Alas I was driving, and I found it hard to ration myself to tiny sips because these wines are just so delicious. Then it was off to Marlborough…