A good time to plant, says wine pioneer

PETER WATSON
Last updated 13:31 06/11/2012

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Hermann Seifried has been in the wine business for long enough to know when it is a good time to plant more grapes.

While many wineries are still recovering from the lingering effects of a global recession, the Seifried Estate founder and Nelson wine pioneer has been quietly expanding the family business, which now has more than 200 hectares in vineyards.

He confirmed the company intended to plant about 7 hectares of vines, mainly merlot and riesling, at Edens Rd on the Waimea Plains, on land it had owned for about 10 years. The rest of the property would hopefully be planted next year, he said.

"We are bit restrained by the number of plants the nursery had and what we could buy in."

It has also bought a block of land in Queen Victoria St, Motueka, which includes about 6ha of grapes as well as apples and kiwifruit.

Mr Seifried said they had bought the grapes from the previous owner last year and with some added attention believed the property could be expanded into a 15ha vineyard.

The apples, which had european canker, and the kiwifruit, which were an older crop that was being leased, would be removed by next year, he said.

"The land appealed to us because it is flat, has a very good water right and is a nice square block which makes it easier to cover with bird netting."

Mr Seifried said the latest expansion was in part driven by the desire to keep three of his children in the family business and in part was about grabbing opportunities when times were tough.

He also hinted it wasn't the end of it.

Although the high kiwi dollar continued to make it difficult for exporters, "you've got to be a wee bit cheerful and approach it with an eye on the future".

Seifrieds was short of wine, he said. "We are selling more than we can make. Not everyone is in that situation but we are doing OK in very difficult circumstances."

With a grape oversupply having all but evaporated after a much smaller harvest this year and with grape prices on the rise after several years in the doldrums, Kahurangi Estate managing director Greg Day is another industry stalwart who has been busy securing more from his contract growers.

With a better harvest, he is confident of processing 750 tonnes next year, up 100 tonnes on 2012.

And he says he isn't the only one chasing more grapes, with corporates Villa Maria and Matua also signing up Nelson growers. "Six months ago these guys didn't want to know Nelson."

Mr Day has also been tweaking his variety mix, pulling out some older sauvignon blanc to plant another 1.5ha of montepulciano, a red Italian wine that has proved so popular he has sold out of it.

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Next year he hopes to almost double production to 600 cases and also start making dolcetto, another Italian red, from grapes grown by Golden Hills grower Jeff Marr, and is looking at planting the Spanish white albarino.

In further proof that Nelson can make good reds other than pinot noir, Mr Day has just won another gold for his second syrah vintage, also made from Golden Hills grapes, collecting a blue gold at the recent Sydney International Wine Show.

As well as beating many Australian shirazes, the wine was also included in the top 100 - or 5 per cent - of the show wines.

Mr Day said it showed what could be produced on warmer Nelson sites.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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