Nelson can be described as Marlborough’s shy neighbour. Without the burgeoning acreage of Marlborough and much less wine tourism, what Nelson lacks in worldwide fame is made up for in charm and a style of wines that is just that bit gentler.
The best producers here make the most of a climate that is more open to the tempering effects of the Tasman Sea giving conditions more akin to the Loire. Top of the tree is Greenhough, a perfectly sized producer that is owner-run and has been a long-time proponent of organic methods.
A discreet Greenhough sign at the end of a short drive marks one of New Zealand’s top wine addresses. The welcome is in a light, terracotta-floored, Mediterranean style tasting room separated by a beautiful garden from a beautiful, ‘Grand Designs’ type house. The winery is a short distance across a vineyard. Drew and Jenny Greenhough are genial hosts and well respected in the industry for their carefully crafted organic wines whose hallmark is gloriously pure fruit.
They’ve been honing their skills for quite some time, since 1990 in fact when, inspired by a spell overseas, they upped sticks and left their careers in Auckland. Jenny was in marketing and Drew had a restaurant with his brother and they came down to Nelson to live their dream. Standing on a hillside, overlooking their winery and vineyards – the Moutere Hills and Tasman Bay sweeping round to the Abel Tasman National Park beyond – Drew says: “As small as we are, we very much reflect the seasons and it’s better to pick a day early than a day too late, because we’re looking for more elegance and less alcohol in our wines.”
The Greenhough’s original Hope Vineyard covers almost 9ha. Add another 4ha in the nearby Morison Vineyard, and that makes 13ha of principally Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Then they provide further intrigue with small plantings of Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Gewurztraminer.
With a gentle New Zealand lilt, Drew summarises their philosophy: “One thing we do here is please ourselves. We’re kind of answerable to the market but we’ve made the choice not to be bigger, so we can be experimental if we like. We’re such a far cry from the containerised bladders coming out of the port of Nelson.” In that, he was referring to Marlborough’s huge bulk shipments of Sauvignon Blanc, which of course have their place, but we prefer to champion the dedicated, smaller producers of New Zealand which Greenhough epitomises so well.