From Apples To...Grapes? Abel Tells Us How and Why.
Updated: Nov 30, 2021
Abel, Nelson, Tasman
Mark & Sophie McGill, Owners
The Nelson-Tasman region is famous for its generous sunshine, enviable environment, and close-knit community of talented and skilled artisans. For owners Mark & Sophie McGill, a large part of their lives has been spent either in winemaking or experimenting and perfecting with what has become Abel Méthode Cider. We caught up with Mark and Sophie in the sunny Nelson-Tasman region to learn a little more about the Abel story.
Nelson/Tasman is not commonly known as a winemaking region, and there has to be a story behind the location. Can you share with us the story on why, or how the place has come to be?
Nelson is our gateway city, however the vineyards are all situated in the Tasman region. This is very much a boutique winemaking region, it was founded by families and today virtually every winery has a family standing at the door to welcome you when you visit...so don't be a stranger!
Tell us, what does the view look like from being on the top of the South Island?
We're in middle of rolling hills in the Upper Moutere valley. From the top of our farm you can see the Marlborough Sounds on one side across the Tasman Bay, right over to the huge Mt Arthur range to the west.
Living the New Zealand dream, we're 10 minutes to the coast, and 20 minutes to the mountains, and only half an hour up the road is the beautiful Abel Tasman National Park which is where our name originates from.
Can you tell me more about the cider and chardonnay that you produce, and how the region influences its quality.
We make one Cider and one Chardonnay each vintage. Quality is our driving force and all our fruit is grown on the Moutere Clays. It's a yellow/orange clay that is quite rare in New Zealand, and it's perfect for Chardonnay, it gives the fruit an exciting level of intensity and energy that is hard to find elsewhere...that's why we've planted a vineyard dedicated solely to Chardonnay.
We ferment our Tasman Chardonnay in French oak cuves, rather than using small barrels. This allows us to showcase the unique fruit quality we have here in the Moutere by retaining purity and freshness, with the oak playing a supporting role in helping to build complexity over time.
Our Méthode Cider is very unique in the fact that we ferment the entire apple and not just the juice which gives so much more character. We also use only hand-picked fruit and carry out secondary fermentation in bottle, ala Champagne, to achieve very fine bubbles that perfectly suit the delicate flavour profile of apples and pears. It's bone dry too - zero sugar.
If you had to choose one, which would be your favourite?
Our Méthode Cider will have to be the favourite, it's been a labour of love for 14 years and as one wine writer said "it's so damn refreshing"!
Because you are situated “off the regular winery tour” route, we want our wine lovers to make a trip out of it when they visit the region, can you share with us what other exciting, new or interesting activities can be found around the vineyard?
Nelson and Tasman are amazing holiday destinations. Heaps of sunshine hours combined with lots of beautiful sandy beaches, snow capped mountains, and a handful of National Parks make this a really varied area whether you like a more chilled or action packed holiday.
The other thing that visitors can explore is the diversity of artisan producers in our region - cheeses, truffles, meats, mushrooms, black garlic, and so much more are just up the road, literally!