Alex Craighead and Josefina Venturino are establishing a reputation in the natural wine world. They have settled in Upper Moutere in Nelson and make wines that are bottled under two labels; Kindeli and The Don. The latter label is, named after Josefina’s grandfather, Don Ramon, a homage to family, honesty and simplicity. Don Ramon, a native of Concepcion del Uruguay in Argentina, is an avid wine lover with a lifelong fascination with farming. The idea originally here was 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. 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. The Kindeli labels (and the labels are exotic!) have proliferated and Alex now makes around 8 iterations per vintage.
How do you like them grapes: Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah are grown here.
In the vineyard: The organic regime (certified Biogro) 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 crops (particularly clover) that help to fix the nitrogen in the soil. Prep 500 is used in the vineyard and tisanes (such as comfrey) are made. 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. There is a small parcel of the main vineyard that naturally crops lower and has much more balanced fruit from which the single block wines are made. It is also from the oldest vines they have on the property – 1993 plantings.
In the winery: The harvest is manual. Yields are between 20 (for The Don) and 40 hl/ha (Kindeli). The Kindeli whites are destemmed and undergo a short or partial maceration in a mixture of amphora and stainless steel, the reds are usually destemmed although some cuvees have some whole bunches and are under part carbonic maceration. All ferments are native, ambient with nothing added. The Don wines are all cluster ferments; The whites are straight-pressed and fermented and aged in a mix of steel, amphorae and puncheons; the reds ferment for around 14-days in amphora and are aged in tank or amphora depending. The Chardonnay is bottled without sulphur; the others have 10 ppm added before bottling, which is done by gravity.
QI: Alex creates a starter culture by crushing several buckets worth of grapes and letting them naturally ferment. By adding small amounts of this to the must he can ensure healthy and vigorous fermentations.
The Key Wines:
2020 Kindeli Blanco
2020 Kindeli Luna Nueva
2020 Kindeli Tinto
2020 Kindeli Luna Llena
2019 The Don Chardonnay
2018 The Don Barn Block Chardonnay
2019 The Don Pinot Noir
2018 The Don Barn Block Pinot Noir
Food match: The juicy Kindeli whites are a good match with Japanese food or anything with a bit of spice. The snappy reds would work well with Mediterranean food such as caponata. The Don Chardonnays would be excellent with oysters, grilled prawns and goat’s cheese, whereas the elegant Pinots would classically accompany roast chicken and bavette steak.
Philosophy: To make energetic, precise and supremely drinkable natural wines.
Interested in trying the wines of Kindeli and The Don? Contact us directly: