There are more people joining the Nelson wine industry all the time, in fact there have been more since this article was written late last year. This is a snap shot of some of our Women in Wine in Nelson Tasman.
WOMEN IN WINE - © - 2018 Victoria Clark
One summer’s evening almost 20 years ago, my friend poured us each a glass of sauvignon blanc and, sounding thoroughly impressed with her purchase, she exclaimed: “How fabulous - a woman making wine in New Zealand!”
She was triumphant on behalf of the trail-blazing winemaker – a woman named Kim, she explained, making in-roads into what was very much a man’s world. We chinked our wine glasses in a toast to the impressive Kim Crawford.
Due to embarrassment, I’ve never forgotten the incident. A few years went by before we cottoned on; Kim was a Mister.
What we also had not realised was, for many years before Mr Crawford made his mark, women had been quietly and steadily making in-roads in New Zealand’s wine industry right across the Nelson Plains and ‘up country’ in the valleys of the Moutere and Tasman.
They’d been digging holes, planting grape-vine saplings, picking grapes and pruning vines, hosting tastings at their cellar doors and filling their car-boots with boxes of their newest vintages to proudly call on restaurants, wine stores and supermarkets.
Fast-forward to 2018 and when tasked with writing profile pieces about women in Nelson’s wine industry, I assumed the list of names would most-likely be quite short, their stories likely to be a little ‘same, same,’ blurred together from one woman’s wine producing story to the next.
The list duly arrived in my inbox. It was three times longer than I’d expected and as I sat down with each woman over the following weeks, it quickly became apparent every interview would be quite different from the last.
Agnes Seifried is considered the matriarch of the Nelson wine industry. With her husband Hermann, she launched Seifried Wines more than 45 years ago. Every day and with every vintage, their children, Chris, Heidi and Anna, prove this is a solid second-generation family business. Between them, they’ve studied wine business, marketing, viticulture and oenology and now work alongside their parents and travel internationally to service and grow the label. Four years ago, Agnes and Hermann were acknowledged for their tremendous contribution to New Zealand’s wine industry by being inducted as Fellows of New Zealand Winegrowers. They’re New Zealand’s first husband and wife team to be recognised this way, and Agnes is the first woman to be bestowed with this title.
The family’s ‘women in wine’ cover all aspects of the business. Heidi Seifried, along with her brother Chris, tends the vines with her father and creates the wines. Her younger sister, Anna, looks after the round the world marketing role. Anna tells the story of sitting in the Seifried office beside her mother, Agnes, for six months, learning the ropes by observing and listening and “being delegated little jobs.” Nowadays, seven Seifried staff around New Zealand report to Anna.
In 1978, deep in the Upper Moutere valley, Judy Finn planted Neudorf Vineyards alongside her husband Tim. She was the first woman to chair the New Zealand wine producers’ board of ‘The Family of Twelve’ and has been involved in the annual ‘Pinot Celebrations’ event several times. She has tirelessly worked with Wine Nelson since its inauguration.
The Finns’ daughter, Rosie, has now taken over her mother’s role in the family business. She travels around New Zealand and overseas to market Neudorf Wines – despite once declaring she had no intention of ever becoming entrenched in the family business.
“I honestly had no interest in the wine industry and my parents knew there was no point in waiting for me – it just wasn’t going to happen,” Rosie laughs. On graduating with a design and photography degree at the end of 2014, Rosie bought a one-way ticket to London, intent on building a career there. Within days, she was offered work – ironically, in marketing New Zealand’s wines. She put her design skills into on-line digital management and launched a kick-starter campaign to open The New Zealand Cellar – a wine-bar in a shipping container in Brixton. Rosie’s employer, Melanie Brown (another New Zealand woman in the wine industry), then worked with Rosie to launch The Wine Shop in London, which now regularly hosts tastings for visiting New Zealand wine producers.
“I came home for Christmas in 2016 and knew I had to eat my words about working in the family business. I love that there are so many aspects to this industry and I’m so proud of my parents for what they’ve created and built here.”
Not too far along the Upper Moutere highway, Emmanuelle David is a winemaker at Kahurangi Wines. Having studied viticulture and oenology and trained ‘on the job’ in a vineyard winery in her home-country of France, Emmanuelle is probably the only woman in Nelson’s wine industry who had to argue and debate her way into the world of wine-making. The wine industry in France is vehemently-traditional and conservative, she says, and it’s staunchly male-dominated. As a 20-year-old, she endured many doors being closed on her and was scornfully rejected from interviews with the words “but, you’re a woman” and “you’re not from a family of winemakers.”
But, she persevered, earned her university degree in viticulture and oenology, and has many years of experience as a winemaker.
Emmanuelle is also the winemaker for Kina Cliffs Vineyard in nearby Tasman, where another ‘woman in wine,’ Julie Ashcroft, established her own vineyard 14 years ago.
Julie recently launched a pinot noir rosé in celebration of the all-female team producing Kina Cliffs’ wines. Labelling the rosé ‘Three Girls’ Blush,’ the 2018 vintage is a proud nod to Emmanuelle, to Rhi Jones, who Julie considers her righthand-woman on the vineyard, and to Julie, herself.
Julie established her vineyard in 2004. After completing a viticulture course and recruiting family and friends to help her dig more than 8000 holes. She hand-planted vines across land which was once a vast market garden of spring onions. Today, Kina Cliffs’ wines are only available at its cellar door and in 25 cafes and restaurants in the Nelson region.
Tranja Fry of Fossil Ridge Vineyard and Beth Eggers of Himmelsfeld Vineyard have also done their fair share of digging holes, planting grape vines and learning the art of pruning.
Several Nelson ‘women in wine’ have been instrumental in converting their vineyards to organically-grown produce. Jenny Wheeler established Greenhough Wines with her partner Andrew Greenhough in the 1970s. The vineyard, which has trebled in size, earned its ‘certified organic’ status 10 years ago.
Kaimira Estates on the Waimea Plains, where co-owner June Hamilton can usually be found passionately marketing the wines, turned to organic grape-growing in 2010.
At nearby Middle-Earth Wines, where Trudy Sheild is considered a learned and well experienced winemaker, the grape-growing and wine-making business is very much about sustainability and mindfulness for the environment. This year, Trudy has produced a vegan vintage of Middle-Earth’s rosé and sauvignon blanc.
Brightwater Vineyards’ co-owner and marketing maven, Valley Neale, says of the 25-year-old business she founded with her husband, Gary, “we’re very big on sustainability and caring for our environment when producing wine.”
Women in Nelson’s wine industry are not all to be found in the vineyards, wineries and cellar doors, though. The entrepreneurial founder of the wholesale seafood company, Yellow Brick Road, and the first female CEO of Kono, is Rachel Taulelei. Kono owns Aronui Wine, Tohu and Kono and is one of New Zealand’s largest food and beverage exporters. Passionate about sustainability, Rachel is a Director of New Zealand Winegrowers, where she gets to play a regional influence at a National level.
And among those promoting the wines lovingly produced in Nelson, are viticulture and oenology degree graduate and winemaker, Jane Docherty, now based at Wine Nelson.
Now, I think that call’s for a toast to the impressive Women in Wine in Nelson!
© - 2018 Victoria Clark
Names from left to right along the rows are:
Emmanuelle David - Kahurangi Wine; Rosie Finn - Neudorf Vineyards; Valley Neale - Brightwater Vineyards; Trudy Sheild - Middle-Earth Wines
Ursula Schwarzenbach - Blackenbrook Wines; June Hamilton - Kaimira Estates; Rachel Taulelei - Kono; Jenny Wheeler - Greenhough Wines
Jane Docherty - Nelson Winegrowers; Beth Eggers - Himmelsfeld Vineyard; Anna Seifried - Seifried Estate; Tranja Fry - Fossil Ridge
Jennifer Dunbar - Dunbar Estates; Jeanne Schaub - Oldhouse Vineyards; Patricia Anderson - Flaxmore Vineyards; Julie Ashcroft - Kina Cliffs Vineyard