Seifried Estate: Labour of love

26 Nov 2020

Seifried Estate was established by Hermann and Agnes Seifried when they planted their first vineyard in Upper Moutere in 1973.

Hermann And Agnes Seifried. Inaugural Vintage 1976

Hermann grew up on an apple orchard in Austria and studied winemaking at Weinsberg in Germany. He moved to New Zealand in 1971 to take up an apple winemaking job. Agnes was born on a Southland sheep farm and was fresh out of teacher’s college, teaching at a secondary school in Nelson when they met each other at Mount Robert Skifield.

At the time, Nelson was well known for its hops, tobacco and apples, and Hermann recognised this was a potential location to plant vines. Agnes and Hermann married at the end of 1971 and purchased land in the Moutere Valley for a vineyard before the Marlborough wine region had been established.

In 1973 they planted their hand-grafted vines, and by 1976 they had their first harvest. They made five distinctive varietal wines that vintage – Riesling, Sylvaner, Chardonnay, Müller-Thurgau and Refosco. Wine sales were entirely through the tiny cellar door at the front of the winery and via mail-order to friends who had heard about the wines.

By 1980, the business was quickly growing, and the family had too. There were now three small children - Heidi, Christopher, and Anna - playing in the vineyard and the winery while their parents worked.

Over nearly 50 years, Seifried has evolved into a successful business through ‘a labour of love’. With determination and hard work, Hermann and Agnes have created a business that slowly and steadily became profitable.

The Seifried Family

Today, all three Seifried “children” are involved in the business and their passion has been passed on to the next generation. Youngest daughter Anna says, “there is something very rewarding when you know your team have put their heart and soul in to grow and make a product which we are proud to put our name on.”

Much of their business success can be attributed to the children deciding to join the family business after going out on their own and studying. “Our growth over the past 20 or so years has been a lot do with the family “coming home” to join the business, adding confidence to what Mum and Dad started, and working to ‘take it to the next level’,” says Anna.

Chris studied winemaking and now oversees the winery operations from fruit receival to bottle.  He is also involved with export customers, particularly in the UK and Europe. Heidi is a dentist, but also studied viticulture and oenology, and joined the family business in 2004 to oversee all traceability and auditing programs, as well as managing the winery laboratory. Anna studied Wine Marketing at Adelaide University. In 2003, she moved home to take up the role of Sales and Marketing Manager.

Each family member has a specific role to play in their 24 different markets, which (until recently were strongly) supported by spending time in market. Various family members travel each year to attend trade fairs, wine tastings and other promotional events in an endeavour to support valued agents and build Seifried brands. “Working face-to-face to present and taste our wines and tell our story either at trade events or consumer tastings has been a huge part of our growth over the years,” says Anna.

Therefore, the arrival of Covid-19 made a big impact on the way Seifried business operates, with international travel off the cards.

“Each and every market we work with is important, and what we’ve learnt during this pandemic is the necessity of having a mix of retail, online and on-trade customers in various markets.”

The Seifried Siblings

Their strong relationships they have nurtured are now paying off as they switch to zoom meetings and social media communication. They have one staff member based in the United Kingdom, who continues to be their eyes and ears in Europe. “Marie, our UK/Europe Market Manager has continued to work through lock down from home… to support our distributing partners to get through these very trying times,” says Anna.

Navigating through this new normal, some parts of the business are doing well. “Obviously online has been doing well lately, but in markets where on-trade is reopening again, things are going well as diners desperate for a night out hit restaurants and bars again.”

Although other businesses may not have the strong family ties that Seifried has benefitted from, they have other useful advice for those looking to strengthen their exports. Anna says, “make (intelligent) noise whenever you have the opportunity!” She thinks New Zealand’s isolated location, ‘tucked away at the bottom of the world’ means we can be easily overlooked in the wine world.

“We don’t have the history of Europe, but we have the self-belief, innovation and freedom to make world class wine.” New Zealand businesses can experiment and adapt wine varietals, styles and vineyard practises in a way many other countries can’t.

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