NELSON, picturesque region on the northern tip of the South Island of New Zealand separated from the nearby Marlborough region by mountains. Nelson is known for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and white wines from aromatic varieties. Traditionally, Nelson was known for its orchards. Nelson’s first vineyards were planted in the mid-1800s by German settlers. Modern wine-growing dates to the 1970s and when wineries such as Seifried and Neudorf were founded. Nelson has a vibrant artistic and café culture, and its compact size makes it popular with tourists.

VINEYARD AREA & WINE PRODUCTION | 2016 1,135 hectares (2,803 acres) producing 10,000 tonnes (2% of the New Zealand total). Main grape varieties: Sauvignon Blanc (566 hectares/1,398 acres), Pinot Noir (220 hectares/543 acres), Pinot Gris (143 hectares/353 acres), Chardonnay (96 hectares/237 acres), Gewurztraminer (24 hectares/59 acres), Riesling (40 hectares/99 acres).

SUB-REGIONS

MOUTERE HILLS | To the west of Nelson city, the Moutere Hills is where Nelson’s early pioneers first planted. Moutere is slightly warmer and wetter than Waimea and its gravel-threaded clay soils give richness and texture to the wines. The main wines are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc.

WAIMEA PLAINS | Waimea is Maori for ‘river garden’. This traditional area for arable crops, orchards and hops has seen most of Nelson’s recent vineyard expansion. With stony alluvial soils and a moderating maritime influence, wines tend to be lighter and fresher in style than Moutere, with bright aromas. The main wines are Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay.

TERROIR

Nelson benefits from high sunshine hours, a sheltered, moderating coastal climate and free-draining, semi-fertile soil.

CLIMATE | Nelson’s sheltered topography gives protection from strong winds. Its proximity to the sea offers milder temperatures than other South Island regions, mitigating frost risk, though autumn rains can occasionally be challenging. Remarkable number of clear days, regularly the country’s sunniest region. High sunlight hours, variable temperatures.

SOIL | The Nelson region’s soils are broadly gravelly silt-loam over a clay base, allowing good water-holding capacity. The two sub-regions vary slightly in soil composition. The alluvial flat, silty soils of Waimea Plains generally produce lighter, prettier wines. In contrast the gently-rolling Moutere Hills, where weathered gravels of the ancient river system lie beneath sandy-topped heavy clay-based soils, gives wines depth and richness.

WINE STYLES

SAUVIGNON BLANC | A more elegant, restrained expression of this variety compared to Marlborough.

PINOT NOIR | From Moutere or Waimea usually.

AROMATICS | Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer. The climate allows for a variety of styles.

CHARDONNAY | Rich, elegant wines which can age.

NELSON REGION WINERIES

CERTIFIED BIODYNAMIC 

CERTIFIED ORGANIC, BIODYNAMIC PRACTICES | Woollaston. 

CERTIFIED ORGANIC |.

NO CERTIFICATION | Brightwater. / Greenhough. / Himmelsfeld. Kina Beach. / Neudorf. / Rimu Grove. / Siefried. / Waimea. 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Oz Clarke, Oz Clarke Wine A-Z (Pavilion, 2015), p186-7.