Written by Victoria Clark
Savouring a 2002 Neudorf sauvignon blanc on a wine-tasting outing fifteen years ago, Jane Docherty made an instant decision to pack up her life in London and come home to New Zealand.
“I’m going to be a wine-maker,” she decided, without saying a word to her friends, and left Neudorf Vineyards that day with a case of the career-changing vintage.
Back in London, where she’d spent four years working in the corporate world, she enrolled on-line for a one-year, post-graduate degree in viticulture and oenology at Lincoln University in Canterbury, where she met her now-partner, fellow student Todd Stevens.
On graduating, the pair launched their careers in the wine-industry at wineries in Central Otago, from where their employers sent them for hands-on training in wineries overseas. Jane worked harvests in France and Austria and in Oregon, America – a vineyard she remembers fondly for the down-time training her employer gave her in card games and “making the very best margaritas.”
“All the wine-producers I’ve worked with over the years have been so generous with their knowledge, and every year, every vintage is different, so even once you become a wine-maker, you’re constantly learning.
“It was in Austria I first truly understood ‘terrior’ – about how the climate and soil influences the taste of a wine. It was in Austria I fell in love with aromatic wines. I love that Nelson’s wineries produce fantastic aromatics.”
When Todd was appointed wine-maker for Neudorf Vineyards in 2012, the couple had two children aged under two years and, Jane says, her work in Central Otago as a wine-maker had become quite a juggle with motherhood.
“It was far from ideal, because I would work every weekend from January to June. I decided I’d be a Mum full-time when we moved to Nelson.”
She admits she misses making wine, but Nelson Winegrowers Association quickly tapped into her knowledge and she now works, part-time, managing the Association and helps with its marketing.
Recently, Jane got together with the friends she went wine-tasting with back in 2003 and, she says, “we reminisced about our afternoon at Neudorf and the sauvignon blanc that changed everything for me.”