Nelson Mail: The hard yards to a new wine label in Upper Moutere
by Neil Hodgson
COLUMN: There is a relatively new wine label appearing on shelves and wine lists around the region.
Flaxmore Vineyards is owned by Stuart and Patricia ("call me P, everyone else does") Anderson.
Located on Flaxmore Rd in Upper Moutere, the couple established the vineyard in 2008 and have been selling their grapes primarily to Neudorf Vineyards, one of New Zealand's top wine producers, since 2011.
As their vines matured, they decided it was time to start making and selling wine under their own label, as well as the on-going supply to Neudorf.
While growing grapes was a total career change, they used their extensive business experience to ensure they set everything up the right way from the start. They sought out experts in every specialty area; finding the right piece of land, vineyard layout, grape varieties, clones and vineyard management.
An accountant by qualification, Stuart headed overseas in the mid 80's and has worked in many parts of the world, moving into the international banking sector along the way.
P on the other hand brings a range of expertise to the business. She was a Chartered Surveyor in the UK and Hong Kong, then worked in quality management across Asia before becoming communications director for a Middle East based charity.
This is a couple who have their feet on the ground, they understand the value of hard work and they knew that if they were going to turn their love of wine into actually making the stuff then they had to do it properly.
Their interest in wine was enhanced while working overseas.
In London, they were founding members of the Canterbury Wine Society, an informal gathering of London-based Kiwis tasting fine wines from around the globe.
Stuart was also a member of the Qatar Airways panel selecting wines for their economy, business and first class. This gave him even more exposure to wines of the world as well as people's attitudes to New Zealand wines.
"Why would we want a New Zealand Pinot Noir when we can get a fine red Burgundy" was often the response when he suggested something from New Zealand to the panel. This has helped them understand the place of New Zealand wines in the international market.
"In the early 2000's we were considering a vineyard project, focusing on the viticulture rather than a wine label," says Stuart. "It was important to play the long game, as there are many examples of people going to market too fast, so we wanted to take our time."
P says "we were aware of Nelson and the Moutere wine region mainly because we discovered Neudorf wines when we were overseas and have always loved them.
"The first time I came to Nelson was when we visited New Zealand after we were married," she says. "After a three-day tramp in Abel Tasman, I thought that if we were going to come to New Zealand why wouldn't we live here, it's just such a gorgeous place."
The couple spotted Flaxmore Valley, which is a stunning location, did more research on its suitability and found it had a long history of successful horticulture and land care.
"Back in Hong Kong we kept an eye on the market and in 2006 we bought an old orchard block," says Stuart. "We then worked with Dr David Jordan (Vine to Wine) who gave us great advice on clone selection, rootstock and vineyard layout.
"We opted for premium quality vines, so it was investment heavy during the vineyard setup phase.
"We brought the kids here on holiday when we were living overseas and they helped plant trees around the property and as they got older have been helping in the vineyard.
"The whole vineyard setup and operation for the first few years was all done while we were overseas with great help from local vineyard manager, Dave Adams. Dubai to Upper Moutere is a bit of a contrast, but we love it."
According to P, the kids have adapted well to life in New Zealand.
"Robbie is about to head off to Auckland to study architecture and Issy goes to Nelson College for Girls, where I am also using my skills as their part-time arts co-ordinator. It's a job that fits in well with what we are doing here."
They planted nine hectares on the rolling hillside of their Upper Moutere site in 2008, with pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot gris clones on slopes best suited to each one. As part of their long-term vision to develop a top quality vineyard, they didn't harvest any fruit from the young vines until 2011, preferring to give the vines more time to develop.
"We took the advice offered by Tim Finn at the time, who was rightly insistent that if we wanted to be a top vineyard we had to follow a regime that would set us up for the future," says Stuart.
"It's an expensive process reducing crop levels and spending a lot of time in the vineyard, ensuring the fruit is as good as it can be. Great fruit means the winemaking can be as straightforward as possible with minimal winemaker intervention."
Stuart and P started from scratch and have a very hands-on style, getting expert help when they need it.
They have done the hard yards planting in the rain and mud with the kids and even designed their eye-catching label in-house. Their no-compromise attitude and measured approach have ensured a quality product.
Flaxmore's wines reflect the couple's experience of Europe's more nuanced food-focussed wines. They are available from Fresh Choice in Nelson and Richmond and online at www.flaxmore.co.nz (with free local delivery). Their current release wines are Pinot Gris for $24 and a Pinot Noir Rosé for $21 with a Pinot Noir due for release in June this year.
They are delicious wines and you can find tasting notes on their first releases on my website www.toptastes.co.nz
Neil Hodgson, 23 January 2019