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-4-Todd Stevens(left), Rosie Finn&Tim FinnQ. You joined Neudorf in July 2011. How do you come into a winery that the rst generation have set up and built over many years? I came in from Felton Road in Central Otago so I bought in a different viewpoint from my experience down there. I think initially, more than anything you sit on the side line and do some listening. And once you’ve had time to listen, look, and get a feel for a few changes you can make, go ahead with making them in conjunction with Tim, once you’ve laid out your ideas and the reasons for it. So it takes time and you do it with a bit of courtesy. They are just tweaks and modifications which come back to the way you view wine and the way you understand the raw material you are getting from this place. So it isn’t a huge transition, we just made a few changes. At the same time, we respond to what each season brings us, to the market trends a little bit, and also your ever-increasing understanding of what you are getting from the sites. In my early days we spent a lot of time on Pinot. I had to be careful I didn’t apply my Central Otago palate to the Upper Moutere, because they are basically different. It took a bit of recalibration to consider what was coming off the sites here, and the way the wine was being made. I started to make a few changes because in your mind its right, and ultimately I get paid to make those decisions and you have to stand by them and pursue it. The biggest change we made with Pinot Noir is we felt it was getting a little bit heavy, rustic and tannic at times, and the Moutere had this long-living tradition of it being a structured wine that benefited from aging. However, not many people are aging wine, and with a screw cap on it, it is not going to age quickly. We are not keeping them 5 or 6 years and then going to market ‒ we are selling it as a current release and so how does that work with a sommelier selling it in a restaurant tonight? It was joining the dots and saying we have a lot better raw material, and I think we can make a more finessed wine, that rolls off the tongue very easily now, but that is with 7 years of experience under the belt. However, at the time, for the first year and a half it was coming to grips with everything, and deciding whether it made sense to go down that track or not. Tim and Judy are amazing in that they allow you to say ‘this is what we should do and the reasons why’, and they will think about it. Tim was the winemaker for 25+ years and still involved, but he is such a great man he will hand over the reins to you, and say he’s got to go off and explore this new approach. He doesn’t just say no even though he has the right to do that.Q. What were the major differences for you between Central Otago and Nelson?Climate is the single biggest variable. Central Otago is a bit of an anomaly in New Zealand terms with its pseudo-continental climate, so very dry during the day and cold during the night. Coming to a more moderate temperate climate, where it can rain at times, requires understanding how that impacts fruit and what is ripe and not ripe takes time. You just can’t apply the blanket rules from Central Otago here in Nelson. Central has a shorter but more extreme growing season, whereas in Nelson it is slightly longer, but more temperate and moderate. We don’t have the highs, peaks and troughs that Central does. As a result, we don’t see the higher sugars but we don’t have frosts either, and we have to jump in and out of rain events a little. You can’t wait for that perfect picking moment, I don’t think it exists in Nelson ‒ there is always something to consider. Down on the plains and the low-lying parts of the valleys we might get a frost event, but nothing significant like Central Otago and Marlborough. Q. What quantities are you producing of the dierent varietals?We are approximately 40 per cent Chardonnay, 30 per cent Sauvignon Blanc, 20-25 per cent Pinot Noir, with the rest in aromatics ‒ Pinot Gris, Riesling, Albarino. From a profile point of view the Pinot and the Chardonnay dominate our brand recognition. Q. Do you dry farm all the vineyards and how did they handle the drought-like conditions this year?We’ve been dry framing for a very long time. We get sufficient rainfall in Nelson, in between the long dry sunny spells, but on the Moutere clay gravels we have great water-holding capacity, so dry farming is a natural fit for us at Neudorf. But in a season like this, with our conversion to organics with more competition by way of grass cover, there is always a little concern about how you fare. I was quite surprised how everything stood up, probably because of the vine age. We’ve got a good chunk of old vines that have had a long time to establish their roots, so they are not seeing it up the near the surface where the drought is really affecting you, their roots are further down where there is more regulated moisture. The conversion to organics has been about six years now, so they have got over their little sulking period as they adjusted to competition. If there was a year to test dry-farming this was it, it was very dry and the canopies looked good all the way through. Yields are ultimately affected by flowering initially, which was relatively solid. At the point when you aren’t getting a lot of moisture, the berries are going for a more natural cell division rather than being influenced by water, so bunches and berry sizes were a lot smaller than you would get in a wetter season, bunch weights were moderate to low, everything you would want as a winemaker.Q. Tell us about the conversion process to organics?Around 2009 our viticulturalist, Richard Flatman, had come from an organic vineyard and was quite keen on taking Neudorf in that direction. Tim had spent several years as a conventional farmer, is a scientist by trade and inquisitive by nature, so he needed some prodding initially to do it ‒ ‘Where was the science?’ was the crux of it. He started off with a couple of trial blocks to get a feel for it. Once the initial dipping of the toes period was over, it was a case of rolling it out over 2-3 years and making the final commitment to go into the certification process. It doesn’t take long, and once we realized what was required, 90 per cent of the work was already being done by way of our canopy management. The biggest issue was how do we deal with the weeds and competition with the vines. That has been the learning curve.Q Do you see significant difference in the quality of the fruit?That’s a tough one because there are so many other variables that can blur the lines ‒ the season itself can have a massive impact on the fruit. What I do see in a challenging year like this year, the vines seem very settled, a bit more in tune with the environment. A general trend we have seen over the last 3-4 years is better ripeness at lower sugars than previously and lower alcohol, although that may also be impacted by the seasons. The old 14-14.5 per cent alcohol days are gone, and we are now down to 13.5 and sometimes 13 per cent, which is a welcome change. If there was ever a season to challenge the vines, it was this summer.The Nelson region is close to New Zealand’s largest and most well-known wine region of Marlborough in the north of South Island, but produces just 2.5% of the country’s wine, from predominantly small-scale winemakers. Neudorf, founded by Tim & Judy Finn in 1978 has made the region famous, wowing domestic and international wine critics including Bob Campbell and Jancis Robinson. Tim and Judy were recognized for their achievements with the Sir George Fistonich Medal Legends of the New Zealand Wine Medal in January this year. All current Neudorf wines are produced from dry-farmed, biodynamic vineyards, fermented with wild yeast, and classified vegan in their clarification. We talked to winemaker Todd Stevens about the evolution and maturing of the vineyard, winery and business at Neudorf. 〈Interviewer:Dion Lenting(Kiwi Copy) April 2019〉Our feature story ー Part 10  Generation change ―― taking over from the pioneer founders to develop                 the next generation of wine styles.   Todd Stevens, winemaker at Neudorf Vineyards in Nelson, New Zealand

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