Decanting: Kindeli Wines, by Alex Craighead

by blog on May 22, 2020

(Photo credit @HopsBurnsBlack)

Alex Craighead and Josefina Venturino are establishing a reputation in the natural wine world. They have settled on a new vineyard located in Upper Moutere in Nelson. This particular vineyard has been certified organic since 1997 and as such is one of the oldest organic vineyards in New Zealand.

Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah are grown here. The organic regime involves using sulphur, seaweed, compost, bat guano, and copper (only when absolutely necessary) to maintain the health of their vines, there are trees in the vineyard, a creek that runs by it and wild cover crop (particularly clover) that help to fix the nitrogen in the soil. Early in the season neighbouring sheep are allowed to roam the vines, mow the grass and nibble the stray shoots. Alex also purchases fruit from a couple of organic growers in the region including old vines (for New Zealand) Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

This particular vineyard has been certified organic since 1997 and as such is one of the oldest organic vineyards in New Zealand.

There is another label called The Don. The idea with these wines is to illustrate the difference of the terroir from Nelson and Martinborough, the Nelson soils being all Moutere clays which are the oldest and poorest soils in New Zealand, whereas the Martinborough vineyards are from old free-draining river gravels. The wines are made the same way with just the sites changing.

The Nelson wines are now made from Alex Craighead’s organically certified home block in the Upper Moutere valley. The rolling hills where the vines are planted help to create more variability and complexity in the grapes. The region has the highest sunshine hours in New Zealand and has in excess of 1000mm of rain per annum. Being closer to the sea creates a temperature buffering effect with less range in temperature resulting in more pronounced fruit in the wines.

Alex has been focusing on his vineyards ensuring maximal biodiversity. Winemaking is equally exacting. Alex may be making natural wines, but his approach is anything but laissez-faire. He creates a pied de cuve which he can start the ferments with. He allows plenty of oxygenation during fermentation to prevent reduction, and then uses CO2 to protect the wine from unwanted bacteria. He occasionally racks the juice off the solids and then returns it.

In an age of manipulation and science these wines are a product of the “unlearning” of much of what Alex was taught in his studies and work experiences. These are “living” wines and will evolve from every tasting.

Although fruit is to the fore, Alex also wants to celebrate the age of the vines and the quality of the Moutere clay soils.

The Kindeli labels (and the labels are exotic!) have proliferated and Alex now makes around eight cuvees per vintage.

The Kindeli Blanco is Chardonnay (40%) and Sauvignon (60%) from three parcels in Nelson. A tiny amount is fermented carbonically, the rest is destemmed and a portion is fermented on skins for 10 days. Fermentation is with native yeasts and ambient in a mixture of amphora and stainless tanks and aged in same for a further nine months on the lees, whereupon it is bottled by gravity without filtration or fining or any added sulphur.

The Kindeli Tinto is an intriguing mix of 90% Pinot Noir and 5% Syrah and 5% Petit Verdot. The Pinot Noir comes from a couple of vineyards, the Syrah from Moutere clay. There is skin contact – 5-12 days, carbonic maceration and whole bunch pressing employed in the winemaking. Really fun cloudy red wine prickling with juicy fruit – reminds one of youthful Crozes-Hermitage. This is all done in tank.

Luna Neueva is a new wine, being a field blend of 40% Viognier, 30% Pinot Blanc, 30% Pinot Gris. The grapes are destemmed, macerated for 12 hours and fermented naturally in amphora and aged for nine months. As with his other wines, no sulphur is added.

Luna Llena is made from a field blend of Cabernet Franc (40%), Syrah (50%), and Petit Verdot (10%). The grapes receive only a four-day maceration and are mostly destemmed for fermentation in amphora. The wine is then pressed off for élevage in amphora.

The styles are the wines are evolving. Although fruit is to the fore, Alex also wants to celebrate the age of the vines and the quality of the Moutere clay soils. He is reducing the carbonic, whole bunch element, but equally ensuring that there is no unnecessary extraction. The wines have a gentle phenolic quality and texture from skin contact and natural malolactic.

2019 Kindeli Bianco

2019 Kindeli Luna Nueva

2019 Kindeli Tinto

2019 Kindeli Luna Llena

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Interested in finding more about the wines mentioned? Contact us directly:

[email protected] |  [email protected] | 01483 538820

*Note: We are still open for business, doing deliveries, and keen to help everyone with their booze needs in this difficult time. Natural wine lovers can visit our online shop and order online!

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