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Notes from New Zealand, 2011

text © 2011 Tom Cannavan

These notes accompany our in-depth feature on New Zealand 2011.


Rudi Bauer Rudi Bauer is an Austrian winemaker who has been in New Zealand since 1985 off-and on, interspersed with winemaking jobs in Oregon, Germany and Burgundy. Having founded Quartz Reef back in 1996, he has observed the growth and the associated growing pains of Central Otago first hand. Central Otago is relatively isolated and is a challenging environment (at 45º South this is the world's most southerly, and one of its coldest wine regions). But Rudi says he regards that as a great strength because "the winemakers were brought close together by adversity, though we also feel part of a worldwide fraternity of Pinot Noir growers."

He also speaks about the region as a whole, particularly how the land had been stripped by grazing sheep and nibbling rabbits over the decades, so that the soil are low in organic matter. To counteract this there is a widespread shift towards organic farming, and Rudi says in five to eight years he expects to see 30% of Central Otago's vineyards being farmed organically.

As a kid in Austria Rudi wanted to be a chef, but then developed an interest in horticulture and enrolled for winemaking courses in Austria and Germany. His first full-time job as a head winemaker was with Rolf Mills at Ripon vineyard in Central Otago though he also cites Larry McKenna, currently of Escarpment Vineyards in Martinborough, as one of his greatest influences. In 1996 Quartz Reef was planted on virgin land, a 50-hectare north facing slope. And it is obvious that continuing refinement of Quartz Reef's wines is bound up in understanding each of his sites and plots better, and perhaps himself too: "Bendigo is a very masculine vineyard, my job is to introduce some femininity," he says to the amusement of the audience.

the wines

UK importer for Quartz Reef is Enotria Winecellars. See all wines on wine-searcher.

Quartz Reef, Bendigo Estate Pinot Noir 2002
A touch of minerality, perhaps a tiny bit shy on fruit now, but lovely spice and a hint of florality. On the palate firm still, quite a lot of substance here, perhaps lacking a little charm with its liquoricy concentration, but built to last for sure. 90/100.

Quartz Reef, Bendigo Estate Pinot Noir 2004
Quite earthy and brackeny, deep and muscular aromas. The palate has serious, sinewy tannins and heft - a big wine this, muscular and foursquare, and perhaps a little too solid. 89/100.

Quartz Reef, Bendigo Estate Pinot Noir 2006
A little more open, soft and charming, with glimpses of softer, earthier tones and coffeeish notes. The palate too has been tamed and opened up slightly, much to the benefit of the wine. This still has a liquoricy edge of concentration and extraction, but some more light and shade too. 91/100.

Quartz Reef, Bendigo Estate Pinot Noir 2007
The more vegetal tones here are open and expressive, a touch of smoky minerality too and firm cherry fruit. The palate has complexity and more layered charm, again the firmness is there but this seems a lot finer and more agile than the 2006 and certainly 2004. 92-93/100.

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