Waimea Estate Vineyards are a family-owned winery based in Nelson, New Zealand. Founded 21 years ago, it’s grown from just a few hectares to 150, with many grape varieties. In this time, their wines have racked up over 100 Gold Medals and almost two-dozen trophies in national and international competitions.
We talked to Trudy Shield, winemaker at Waimea Estate for 10 years.
What’s so special about Nelson as a wine region?
It’s small yet perfectly formed! Our sun-drenched region of Nelson is found in Tasman Bay, at the top of the South Island. Visitors can enjoy a fabulous landscape including bush-clad national parks, rugged and golden sand beaches and mountain lakes.
Originally known for fabulous Chardonnays and Pinot Noir, the region has amassed a strong reputation for the aromatic varieties (including its own distinctive take on Sauvignon Blanc) and hosts the International Aromatics Symposium. Nelson vine plantings represent a small yet very special 2% of New Zealand’s wine production.
The region is lucky enough to be sheltered from strong winds by mountains on three sides, which combined with its proximity to the sea results in milder temperatures than more southern regions.
There’s less risk of frost and we have a longer, warmer autumn and ripening season. As New Zealand’s sunniest region, clear days result in good diurnal variation (the fluctuations that occur each day), helping to emphasise varietal character and fruit purity.
What’s unique about the Waimea Estate’s Vineyards?
The name Waimea sums up the sub-region beautifully, as it is Maori for ‘river garden’. All of our Estate vineyards are situated on the Waimea Plains, which historically were a riverbed. With its stony fertile soils and a moderate maritime influence, our wines tend to be bright and fruit-driven. All our wines stay true to their varietal character, anchored by a flinty, mineral undercurrent. Expect perfumed Pinot Noir and full-bodied yet crisp Grüner Veltliner, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer.
Why opt for aromatic grape varieties?
It’s all the result of our lush micro-climate. Our sheltered position, free-draining, mineral-rich soils, protracted ripening season and good diurnal variation is what makes these varieties so expressive.
How is this reflected in your wines?
Our wines offer great fruit concentration and purity, and are sometimes compared with the great aromatics of Alsace. I think this is not only because of good physiological ripeness and varietal expression but also due to similar winemaking techniques being employed to eke out the best of each variety.
Our pick of the wines is the new Grüner Veltliner – it’s lean and fresh with an enticing floral character, spice, ripe apple and green cardamon. It’s a stunning drop with delicately spiced thai food and a great option with shellfish!