Congratulations to Tim and Judy Finn and their team in reaching this significant milestone.
Thirty years is a lifetimes work and when you have started a vineyard from scratch in a region that has had no viticultural history, realizing the vision takes an unyielding resolve to overcome the many challenges of nature and human-nature in an uncharted path of discovery and evolution. Tim Finn says it was about 1991 that they started to realise the full potential of the Neudorf vineyard which in some ways you could attribute to vine age and selection (that is the right grapes for the site) although I suspect considerable hands-on experience was starting to really show results.
They now have some of the oldest pinot noir and chardonnay vines in the country and whilst these are arguably their flagship wines, there is not one wine in the Neudorf range that you would relegate – from their stunning, pure and vibrant rieslings, racy, tantalizing tangy sauvignon blanc and unctuous pinot gris’ are every bit us enjoyable as the Moutere Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, although there is no question the later age very well and are truly site-distinctive.
I feel connected with the Neudorf evolution having followed them since my early years as a sommelier back in New Zealand (circa 1980-1986) when their very first wines were only just appearing. We had all the pinot noir’s produced in New Zealand on a wine list at the time, all four of them! I have lost count how many New Zealand pinot’s there are now, certainly in the hundreds. An article on Neudorf is long overdue having last written on their Moutere Pinot Noir 2004, follow the link Peaks of Celebrity although I did select their chardonnay for this year’s (2009 retrospective) Must-Have Wines of the Lunar Year with an article on this coming.
Best White Wine of the Year
Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay 2007 – Nelson, New Zealand
Bravo! to Tim and Judy and their team
Thirty years ago this week, Tim and Judy Finn completed their first vintage at Neudorf Vineyard.
“In those days the internet was a rumour, fax machines were cutting edge and Muller Thurgau was considered the smart grape.”
“We knew very little except we wanted to make beautiful wine in beautiful surroundings. I guess we lucked out finding this spot in Upper Moutere. It gives us grapes with the texture and definition we love,” says Tim Finn.
Looking back, Tim says 1991 was about when it became clear that the Neudorf block was so special.
“We had a Chardonnay in the Sydney Top 100. Australian judge Huon Hooke declared he had found a Puligny Montrachet ringer in the flight – it turned out to be our Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay 9. As the then winemaker I take very little credit for this, the quality comes from the Moutere terroir. These unique sites are not generally treated with the respect they deserve but future generations will recognise and value them”
Since then the wine has gone on to received accolades from Jancis Robinson MW “Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay would fool many into thinking it was a fine, white Burgundy;” Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate said it was “a must have” wine and last year it collected the White Wine of the Show at the Tri Nations Challenge in Sydney – a competition where wine writers, not wineries, enter wines.
Unsurprisingly Neudorf is also known for the quality its other wines: Pinot Noir, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc.
Earlier this year their Sauvignon was Wine of the Week on www.jancisrobinson.com “That was perfect timing” says Judy. “Just as the world was tiring of the flood of cheap, over cropped Sauvignon we get this huge endorsement of our more textural complex style.”
“Last year we were named “New Zealand’s Greatest Winery” in The UK Wine Report. While you take these things with a grain of salt, we were flattered to head a list of wineries we admire.”
Both agree that to make and market great wine you need total focus.
Judy adds “It starts with a vision, and that has to continue through everything you do…from innovation in the vineyard, through a mix of flair and attention to detail in the winery, to the look of the bottle and taste of the wine on your table. In a small business like this we need and cherish the best people – we have a great winemaker in John Kavanagh, a great viticulturalist in Richard Flatman and the people working with them all share their dedication to excellence.”
Neudorf has always been hot on new technology – they were one of the first wineries to use screwcaps and Neudorf was the first winery to trial mussel shells under the vines as a way of increasing grape ripeness without increasing alcohol.
Tim’s current interest is a time-lapse webcam he set up overlooking the winery yard through vintage.
“It probably only appeals to the geeks, though it’s quite funny. The vineyard guys have threatened to work naked one day to see if anyone actually visits the website.”
“But there’s a lot of hard work involved, and you have to enjoy the process and the results – luckily we do. And we enjoy our colleagues too. The world of fine winemaking is tightly knit and peopled by huge characters and exciting innovators.”
“It is sad to see our industry currently in such a state” says Tim. “It is not created just by the world recession, it is also the fault of short sighted late investors who have no love for wine – they are simply in it to make a buck”
“The forgotten hero of the industry is Winegrowers of New Zealand. Under a succession of farsighted chairmen and evergreen CEO Philip Gregan, they have helped guide the industry to the point where it is the envy of producers worldwide”.
Both Tim and Judy have been active in wine politics – Tim was made a Fellow of NZ Winegrowers for his contribution to the industry, including chairing two international symposiums in Nelson. Judy has worked with the local winegrowers group and was on the board of Pinot Noir 2007 and Pinot Noir 2010.
This year to celebrate 30 vintages, Tim and Judy will open some library wines for special events at Hopgood’s in Nelson, Martin Bosley’s in Wellington, The French Café in Auckland, and also London. Late this week they head to Singapore as part of Robert Parker’s Top 100 wineries of the World.
“Once this vintage is safely tucked away it is time to party.”
And the future? “More trials, better grapes, greater wine.
We will have to see what our daughter Rosie has planned.”