With an impressive resume, including stints at Quartz Reef, Felton Road and now Neudorf, Todd Stevens is a trusted and capable pair of hands.
Todd Stevens can’t recall why he started going to wine appreciation courses when working in London. He was an Oracle database administrator at the time, having studied business and IT. The more he learned about wine, the more he wanted a career change, so after returning to New Zealand and completing the post-graduate oenology diploma at Lincoln, he secured a job with Rudi Bauer (Quartz Reef). Three years later, he joined Blair Walter as Felton Road’s assistant winemaker. Working in Central Otago at these esteemed biodynamic wineries put him on the road to a holistic approach to wine.
He left Otago in 2012 to take on the winemaker mantle at Neudorf Winery in Nelson. His first step was converting the vineyards to organics, then he pursued greater sustainability in the winery. Stevens stepped into the role of general manager and winemaker in 2020 and now works alongside viticulturist Stef Brockly and Rosie Finn, who looks after sales and marketing.
In this position, he’s been tasked with simultaneously developing and protecting the legacy of this family-owned and operated winery. He described his role as “sailing the ship and plotting a course,” but decisions occur within a flat organisational structure.
It’s a tight-knit team that are quite willing to give things a go, and Stevens has utilised this freedom to further define the expression of their vineyard sites through deft tweaks to their wine line-up. He’s also explored new varieties, like albariño, and different vessels, like clay amphorae, as well as introducing the Tiritiri range and elevating the organic home block wines.
Stevens likes to ask what the fruit gives them and believes there is no recipe for making great wine. Although chardonnay is clearly Neudorf’s strongest variety, his changes have had a bigger impact on the pinot noir. The Moutere soil and climate produces “naturally built wines”, he says, reducing the need for hard extractions in the winery. Numerous whole bunch and extraction trials have led him towards fewer punchdowns, less time on skins and less new oak. The resulting wines are more fragrant, elegantly balanced and poised.
Wary of the fact the wine world can be all-consuming, he places great importance on downtime, spending it with his wife, Jane, and their two boys enjoying the natural beauty of this part of New Zealand. And perhaps it is exactly this broader appreciation of Nelson that allows him to express its sense of place so clearly.
Text by Stephen Wong MW
Photography courtesy of Neudorf Vineyards.
REGION | Moutere, Nelson
YEARS IN INDUSTRY | 16
STANDOUT WINES | Rosie’s Block 25 Rows Chardonnay, Home Block Moutere Chardonnay