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Episode 22: Family Vineyard

Screened 18 August at 7pm on TV ONE

Family Vineyard 

When Hermann Seifried told people about his dream to make wine in Nelson, everyone told him he was crazy.

But 40 years on, the second generation of his family are winemakers and their product is exported to more than 18 countries.

Hermann, an Austrian winemaker, was brought to Nelson in 1970 to make fruit wine for the apple industry. 

He soon fell in love - first with his New Zealand-born wife Agnes and then with the region's climate and lifestyle - and wanted to grow his own grapes. 

The South Island wine industry was in its infancy in the early 1970s and Hermann and Agnes struggled to get financial backing to plant a vineyard. 

"They told me I was mad to think we could grow grapes here," Hermann says.

But the couple refused to give up and in 1973 they bought land in Upper Moutere and started preparing it for vines.

Hermann says the initial idea was to "grow grapes on Saturday and drink wine with a few friends on Sunday".

Getting the vineyard established was tough.  The Seifrieds had to borrow heavily to fund the venture and they did the development work on a shoestring.

Hermann made much of the equipment himself, including the fledgling winery's first press and tanks. He even built a mechanical harvester from scratch using the hydraulics from an old tobacco picker.

The couple started a family at the same time and their daughter Heidi was three months old when the first grapes were ready to pick in 1976. A year later, their son Chris had arrived and the children went to the vineyard every day during the grape harvest, sleeping in backpacks while their parents worked.

Today the Seifrieds have 240 hectares of grapes planted around Nelson and a large winery at Appleby, near Richmond.

Although they're now well established, the Seifrieds say growing grapes is still stressful. This year they were hit by a bad storm in January and faced a long wait till sunshine finally ripened the grapes late in the season.

All three of Agnes and Hermann's children are involved in the business. Heidi and Chris have trained as winemakers and younger sister Anna is in the sales and marketing team.

The business employs about 30 permanent staff, as well as young winemakers from Europe who come during the harvest to experience a New Zealand vintage.

To find out more visit

To find out more about the Nelson region visit

Historic footage thanks to Henry Materna

Barrington West

Field sound
Kevin Hill

Offline editor
Brent Whitwell

Online editor
Alex Wright

Sound mixers
Ian Leslie

Vivienne Jeffs

Network executive
Jude Callen

Consultant producer
Frank Torley

Associate producer
Dan Henry

Production manager
Robyn Best

Jerome Cvitanovich

Julian O'Brien