“Winning the title of ‘WineWorks Champion Sparkling Wine’ at New Zealand’s most prestigious wine competition for the Aotea by the Seifried Family Méthode Traditionnelle NV is an exceptional feat in its own right. But for this Nelson winery, gaining such recognition with their first endeavour at a traditional style bubbly is cause for celebration. In 2010 winemaker Chris Seifried and his new bride, Susan spent four weeks in Epernay, in the heart of Champagne where they worked with Seifried family friends at Chateau Bauget-Jouette. It was an opportunity for Chris to see and learn everything he could about making Champagne, a style he had always enjoyed but never ventured to learn.
Inspired to make his own Nelson style of Méthode Traditionnelle, Chris and Susan returned to New Zealand in time for harvest 2011, and along with his father Hermann, and sister Heidi, they identified two of the family’s own vineyards that he felt would offer the fruit characters he was after. In early March 2011, the hand-selected fruit was harvested from the family’s Brightwater and ‘Cornfield’ Vineyards, both on the Waimea Plains. Made using 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir, the stony, free-draining soils produced bright, exuberant fruit. Chris credits Hermann and his vineyard team for bringing in fruit that he could work with, “the challenge for the vineyard crew was to ensure full flavoured fruit, with all the character and texture, but without excessively high sugar levels”.
Made using traditional winemaking methods, and four years bottle ageing prior to disgorging, the wine has smooth biscuity notes and a delicate dry finish. Chris says that crafting a traditional style bubbly had its challenges. ‘The aim was to produce bright flavoursome fruit, but the trick when it comes to bubbly really is the bead – and getting a balance of a fine bead, with a rich dry doughiness.’
The Aotea by the Seifried Méthode Traditionnelle NV was released in late 2016, in time for the family’s 40 years of winemaking celebration roadshow, which took place in Dublin, London and Nelson last November. A celebration where Chris acknowledged his parents work as pioneering modern winemaking in New Zealand’s South Island. “With this wine, we celebrate Mum and Dad’s vision, and the arrival of the next generation, our children, who are growing up in the vineyard and winery. We hope that they too will share the passion for crafting great wines.”
Chris’s eldest child Amelia, was born just six weeks after the grapes for the Méthode Traditionnelle were harvested, and just 15 hours after Heidi Seifried-Houghton, Chris’s sister (who is also a winemaker in the family business) gave birth to her first child, Josef. Now recognised as Seifried’s most fruitful harvest ever, the 2011 vintage not only produced the first grandchildren, but also the grapes for this champion sparkling wine.”