People: Alex Craighead
Place: Nelson, New Zealand
Grapes: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Pinot Gris, Viognier, Chardonnay, Gamay, Gewürztraminer, Muscat
Farming: Certified Organic
Production: 55.000 bottles
Scanning a wine shelf or browsing through an online shop, it’s hard not to notice the bottles of one of New Zealand’s pioneer natural winemakers - when these hotly-demanded wines are available of course. Kindeli’s kaleidoscopic wine labels that feature their signature fox in various levels of merriment immediately catch the eye and are indicative precursors to the vibrant and at times totally riveting juice found in the bottles.
When he came back from his travels, Alex started working as a yeast/enzyme/protein salesman in Perth. That obviously didn’t work for him, so he left for New Zealand to try to set up his own winery.
“When I just came to New Zealand, I could hardly find wine that I wanted to drink. Everything fell under the same exact cluster, so I went out to Martinborough to do my own thing. I started experimenting with pet-nat and skin-contact Chardonnay. I received feedback such as – ‘I never had a wine like this before’ or ‘this is the future’, so I decided to keep going.”
In 2015, Kindeli (the female fox) was born. In 2017, Alex bought his own vineyard and winery.
When it comes to farming, Kindeli is committed to organic farming, while still learning about biodynamics.
It's appealing to hear that Alex and his parents had a common goal when it comes to purchasing land – his parents wanted to live on the property and he wanted to tend to vineyards, so it was an obvious win-win.
Alex has no less than 15 (!) grape varieties planted. Some are staples, while others are still used for experimentation. Some of the staples are Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris.
Alex has such a deeply scientific approach to his wines, that it changes the end-product completely. Kindeli’s range of wines are generally insane blends of varieties one would never expect to find together. Most of the grapes undergo a combination of skin fermentation, direct pressing, carbonic maceration, and so forth. Whole clusters are used when deemed appropriate although Alex has pulled back on this. Extended skin contact has also been scaled back in pursuit of elegance and clarity. Wines are bottled exclusively by gravity, not filtered, and do not see any SO2 or any other additions.
We came to the topic of the wine community in New Zealand, touching on points of how organic/biodynamic wine is perceived here.
Well, we’re definitely going to keep drinking them for their unifying sense of freshness, irreverence and character. As production lowers, our fingers are kept crossed to stay on the top list of Alex’s distributors, because these wines keep bringing us immense joy vintage after vintage.
[Originally published in January 2023]