Nelson winemakers Hermann and Agnes Seifried have been made Fellows of the New Zealand Winegrowers. Photo: Simon Bloomberg.

Nelson wine pioneers honoured by industry


Wine industry pioneers, Agnes and Hermann Seifried, have been honoured by their peers, being inducted as Fellows of New Zealand Winegrowers 41 years after they planted their first  vineyard in Upper Moutere.

Herman and Agnes received the honour at the annual Bragato Conference and Wine Awards, held in Blenheim on August 28.  It is the first time either a couple or a female has been inducted into the fellowship which started in 1982, and Agnes says she is humbled by the honour.

“After forty years of wine production, we are so very proud to be acknowledged in this way,” she says. “It is humbling to be part of such an amazing group, many of whom we have worked with and respected over the years.”

Agnes and Hermann first planted grapes on two hectares of land in Upper Moutere in 1973, making Seifried Estate the first commercial vineyard, not only in the Nelson region, but anywhere in the South Island. It was a bold decision at a time when many people, including Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries advisors, thought that the South Island was unsuitable for wine growing.

“We went to the bank for a loan but they didn’t want to know us,” Agnes says. “Everyone told us we were mad planting in Upper Moutere, but we did it anyway.”

Seifrieds produced their first vintage in 1976, selling the wine through the cellar door and mail orders to friends and family who had heard about the wines. They planted a further 16 hectares in Redwood Valley and continued to expand, today employing about 40 full-time staff and growing over 200 hectares of grapes across eight vineyards. “I still have the old address book with all the names of the people who ordered our wine,” Agnes says. “I used to hand address 4000 mail orders each year and put them on the old Newmans bus that came by the winery.”

Today, Agnes and Hermann’s  three children also work at Seifried Estate, with Chris and Heidi involved in viticulture and winemaking and Anna taking a role in sales and marketing. All three have gained tertiary qualifications in the wine industry.

Although Hermann has stepped back from the winemaking and marketing, he is still busy in the vineyard and says he really enjoys the hands-on aspects of the work. “I enjoy the whole process and it’s satisfying being involved with everything that goes into making the end result. It’s also very rewarding when someone says ‘that is a very good wine’.”