From small beginnings in 1973, when Hermann Seifried and his New Zealand wife Agnes first planted grapes in the Moutere Valley near Nelson, this is a family business with a focus and passion for beautifully crafted wines.
2016 marked 40 years since the family's first grape harvest, and with all three Seifried children now fully involved in the business, over 320 hectares of sustainably accredited Estate owned vineyards, and exports to over 25 countries around the globe, there is indeed reason to celebrate.
Seifried is a family business sharing their wines with the world and is home to the fabulous 'Sweet Agnes' Riesling - NZ's most awarded dessert wine.
The Seifried story begins in 1973 when Austrian born Hermann Seifried and his New Zealand wife Agnes had a dream of making wines in New Zealand's sunshine capital – Nelson.
From small and modest beginnings when Hermann and Agnes grafted new plants late into the night, until today when all three Seifried children have returned home to play their part in growing the family business, Seifried Estate is a company devoted to sustainable winegrowing and producing the very best Nelson has to offer.
Hermann Seifried came to New Zealand to take up an apple winemaking job with the New Zealand Apple and Pear Board at New Year in 1971.
Growing up with five brothers on an apple orchard in Styria (south-eastern Austria), Hermann always had an interest in viticulture and oenology and went on to study winemaking at Weinsberg in Germany. After completing his initial tertiary studies at Silberberg in Austria, Hermann gained experience working for the KWV in South Africa before heading to New Zealand to take up his new role.
Agnes, who was teaching at the local secondary school in Nelson in the early 1970's, was born and raised on a Southland sheep farm and was fresh out of teachers college when she met Hermann.
Shortly after meeting Agnes, Hermann decided New Zealand was where he wanted to stay. They married at the end of December in 1971 and with little more than a dream, the young couple purchased land in the Moutere Valley between Nelson and Motueka. There they began the long process of hand grafting phylloxera resistant rootstock onto vinifera scion wood to propagate plants for their first vineyard. In 1973 on the gently northward sloping clay loam soils these first vines were planted. With 14 vinifera varieties, on two hectares of land, the South Island's modern commercial wine industry began. Hermann and Agnes were true pioneers, experimenting with what classical European varieties may do well in this untested climate and terroir.
Located at the top of New Zealand's South Island, Nelson is surrounded by mountains to the east, west and south (Richmond and Western Ranges), with the cool clear waters of the Tasman Sea out to the north. The gentle sea breezes give a moderated temperate climate throughout the year.
It is sunshine which is the real drawcard however, with an average of over 2,400 hours of sunshine a year, Nelson is often referred to as the 'Sunshine Capital of New Zealand'.
In summer, the daytime temperature can reach 30°C (86°F) on a very warm day, but generally stays around 25° C (77°F) – just perfect for growing richly varietal, elegant wines. The warm days and cool nights during the critical summer and autumn ripening period helps produce wines with intense varietal characters, brilliantly bright aromas and well balanced natural acidity thanks to the diurnal temperature range.
The afternoon sea breezes help moderate the temperature and give a temperate climate to the region.
Even winter is pleasant, with ground frosts occasionally as low as -10°C (14°F), followed by warm sunny, blue sky days. Nelson's annual rainfall is generally concentrated in the winter months but is always a welcome relief following the dry summers and autumns experienced in the top of the South.
In the 1960’s and 1970’s Nelson was well known for its horticulture, with hops, tobacco and apples being key to the region's economy. Hermann recognised that this was the perfect location to plant vines. It was also a region of artisans and is still regarded the art capital of New Zealand today with potters, painters, jewellers, glass blowers, winemakers and brewers making the region their home.
1976 saw Hermann and Agnes’ first harvest with five distinctive varietal wines being made that first vintage – Riesling, Sylvaner, Chardonnay, Müller-Thurgau and Refosco.
Wine sales were entirely through the tiny cellar door at the front of the winery and via mail-order to friends and family who had heard about the wines in those first years.
By 1980, with a new and quickly growing business, the family too had grown – now there were three small children in tow. Heidi, Christopher and Anna slept on rugs or in carry cots beneath the vines, or in a cot in the quiet corner of the winery tucked behind some tanks, while Hermann and Agnes worked. Obviously, time spent in the vineyard from such a young age stirred an interest and today all three children are part of the family business.
In 1993, Seifried Vineyard Restaurant and Function Centre opened at the Rabbit Island Vineyard site. Since then it has hosted many weddings, seminars and other corporate and family events in a serene, rural environment - the perfect spot for a wine and food to be celebrated together!
Today the venue, ‘Harvest Kitchen at Seifrieds’ offers brunch and lunch throughout the year from the sunny dining room and vineyard garden, as well as private events for up to 200 guests.
As demand for Seifried’s award-winning wines was steadily growing both in New Zealand and overseas, vineyard plantings were expanding and the need for a larger winery could no longer be ignored. It made sense to build the large, purpose-built building on the same site as the restaurant. With vintage looming, the final work was completed just in time for the 1996 harvest.
Opportunities offered by the large and modern winery made for an exciting time for the family; opening doors for future growth of the business as the Seifried children began showing interest in carrying on their parents’ legacy.
It appears there very well could be wine in the Seifried children’s blood, with all three adult children now back and fully involved in the business. Each family member has their own area of interest and expertise within the business and they all manage different areas, with frequent discussion to seek advice or ideas from each other.
Although still actively involved in the winemaking (especially during harvest and blending of the wines), Hermann has taken a step back from winemaking duties to focus on the viticulture and management side of the business. Agnes’ role has changed somewhat too, with the majority of her days spent liaising with new customers, particularly in developing new export markets, and leading the administration team.
In 2014 Agnes and Hermann were recognised for their contribution to the New Zealand grape and wine industry by being inducted as Fellows of New Zealand Winegrowers, one of the New Zealand wine industry’s greatest acknowledgements. This is the first time in its history that a husband and wife team have been recognised, and the first time a female has been honoured.
“In 2014 Agnes and Hermann were recognised for their contribution to the New Zealand grape and wine industry by being inducted as Fellows of New Zealand Winegrowers, one of the New Zealand wine industry’s greatest acknowledgements.”
The day-to-day cellar duties are now managed by winemaker and son Chris Seifried who completed a Bachelor of Wine Science at Charles Sturt University in Australia during the mid-1990’s. Before returning home to work in 2002, Chris travelled extensively, working in wineries in Australia, Oregon, and Europe, as well as going on to complete a Post Graduate Diploma in Commerce at Lincoln University. In addition to his focus on the winemaking, Chris is also heavily involved with export customers, particularly in the UK, Europe and Asia, and he is the busy Dad of three energetic children – Amelia, Daniel and Benjamin.
After graduating from the University of Otago in New Zealand in 2000 with a Bachelor of Commerce, youngest daughter Anna moved to Australia to do a Post Graduate Diploma in Wine Marketing at Adelaide University. On completion of this, she spent time gaining valuable market experience working in the Australian Wine Industry. In 2003 Anna also returned home to the family business to take up the role of Sales and Marketing Manager. Today Anna focuses on the company's New Zealand and US markets.
Oldest daughter Heidi returned home to take up the role of Assistant Winemaker, alongside Chris in 2004. Experience gained from vintages worked in Oregon, as well as an internship at Weinsberg University in 2004 (where Hermann studied back in the 1960's) has proved invaluable. Although also a Dentist by profession, Heidi went back to study viticulture and oenology at Lincoln University in New Zealand in 2001 and achieved a Post Graduate Diploma in Viticulture & Oenology with Distinction. She now divides her time between the cellar, surgery and being mother of her three young children – Josef, Gabriele and Anton.
Although all tertiary trained in separate areas, roles played by the Seifried family members tend to merge, particularly as export markets open up and the necessity for travel increases. It really helps to personify the brands and show the face (or faces) behind the wines. Market visits also allow for a better understanding of the various markets these Nelson wines are being sold in. A huge amount of time is spent travelling to all corners of the globe each year to attend trade fairs, wine tastings and other promotional events in an endeavour to support valued agents and build Seifried brands.
In 2011 Marie O’Riordan, Seifried’s first offshore employee, joined the team as European Sales Manager.
Marie shares her time between her office just outside of London and trade events, tastings, wine dinners and presentations all around Europe. As well as working with new importers and distributors, Marie supports Seifried Estate’s most established distributors who have been selling the wines for many years with promotions and activities with the brands.
Exports are a major focus for Seifried brands with around 65% of the annual harvest now being distributed in over 25 countries. For a full list of overseas distributors see International Agents (in Find Us).
As you will see, the Seifried portfolio is broad and varied. Nelson is a region that offers amazing diversity in the vineyards with many styles and grape varieties performing consistently well – and as they say, variety really is the spice of life! Look out for Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah – and with just a few rows of the Austrian classics, Grüner Veltliner and Zweigelt, and Würzer (a German aromatic), there certainly is plenty to choose from.
Nelson is now home to 25 wine producers, many of which are family owned and operated. The region has gained international recognition for the bright aromatic varietals being made here and is now considered by many to be the home of New Zealand's aromatics.