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Thursday, 14 April 2022 15:25

A rich story at Seifried

Written by  Maike van der Heide
From left, Anna, Chris and Heidi From left, Anna, Chris and Heidi

Splitting firewood before school, placing plastic caps over 1,000 corked bottles an hour, afternoons on the tractor, and pruning instead of playdates were all part of growing up in Nelson wine pioneer family, the Seifrieds.

Youngest sibling Anna says those hours, when “other kids were probably watching telly”, ingrained in them a hardworking, focussed lifestyle modelled by parents Hermann and Agnes, who first planted vines in the Moutere Valley in 1973. Now, all three children have been drawn in to continue that legacy, Heidi and Chris as winemakers and Anna as Sales and Marketing Manager.

They remember dinner table discussions, always about wine, sometimes shared with Austrian or German winemaking interns or an English importer staying in the family home. “You’re surrounded
by this chatter about, ‘what are we harvesting in the morning? How’s the Sauvignon Blanc looking? Has that bird netting gone on yet?’... So you’re always kind of in the conversation but not,”
recalls Anna.

As teens, during trips to the London Wine Fair, the trio poured wine for buyers and sales reps, seeding relationships that continue today. “Some of these people... we’ve known since we were children. It’s probably quite strange for them,” says Anna.

As winemakers, Chris says he and Heidi – a trained dentist who still works at a Motueka clinic one day a week – are “at quite opposite ends of the spectrum, which I think is a healthy balance. Heidi has a completely different winemaking style, she’s very technical, she likes the numbers, whereas I’m a bit more like…” Chris begins, “taste it”, Anna finishes.

Hermann, 75, is no longer winemaking but continues to be “the man on the ground coordinating”, while Agnes juggles labour logistics from home, says Chris. “Dad’s as interested in anything - about filtration, spraying and tractors and leaf plucking and packaging, and all these things - as a person in their 20s,” says Chris.

He and Heidi each have three young children, who are soaking in knowledge during regular visits to the winery and vineyard, though Chris reflects their experience of growing up in the family business is quite different. “The business now is a lot larger, a lot more professional, health and safety is a big issue, there’s a lot of hi-vis, so we can’t have the kids wandering around to the extent that we did when I was a boy.”

Grown it has, but while Chris has watched and admired other businesses expand through mergers, acquisitions and consolidations, he says Seifried’s business plan remains “moderate”, with an eye on the long-term future. Without pressure of “shareholders breathing down our neck”, Chris says they can more easily accept that nature serves up perfect vintage weather one year, then hail, frost and drought the next.

“I think there’s something to be said for these family wineries. In 20 to 25 years’ time, family wineries will certainly still be there and in a very similar fashion to what they are today. We’ll be older and greyer and wrinklier, but I think we’ve got a richer story.