We recently had the opportunity to retaste the Quartz Reef wines of Rudi Bauer. We previously tasted his sparkling wines in our Sparkling Wine Report and his Pinot Noirs in our New Zealand Pinot Noir Report. Our tastings of his new releases (at the end of this article) confirm that he is one of New Zealand’s premier winemakers.
After gaining degrees in viticulture and winemaking at Austria’s Gumpoldskirchen School of Oenology and a degree in wine management in Bad Kreuznach, Germany, Rudi Bauer worked in New Zealand, Oregon, California, and Burgundy before forming the Quartz Reef Winery in 1996. [Gumpoldskirchen was also the site of the Kennedy-Khrushchev summit in 1961.] In the years since, he has become one of New Zealand’s premiere winemakers, including multiple awards for New Zealand Winemaker of the Year. He has also played a pioneering role in creating and organizing the Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration; the 10th Celebration will be held in Queenstown at the end of January 2014. While Central Otago may be most famous today for its dramatic scenery portrayed in the Lord of the Rings movies, Rudi is helping ensure it is equally famous for its sparkling wines and Pinot Noir.
Rudi’s 30 ha of Demeter-Certified, biodynamically farmed vineyards and winery are located near Cromwell, Central Otago, at 45° South, the most southerly grape-growing region in the world. [For comparison, both Burgundy and Oregon’s Willamette Valley are located between 45° and 47° North.] The Quartz Reef vineyards have soils of clay, gravel, sandy loam, and quartz. New Zealand’s largest quartz deposits lies beneath the vineyards, hence the winery’s name. The vineyards are planted to several clones of Pinot Noir—115, 667, 777, Abel, and 10/5—as well as Chardonnay and Pinot Gris at a density of 3500-5000 vines/ha. The Pinot Noir yields are low, about 4 tons/ha. The Bendigo Estate Pinot Noir is destemmed, given a cold soak, and fermented with indigenous yeasts and then matured in French oak, mostly used.
In 1990, Rudi turned his attention to sparkling wine and made New Zealand’s first sparkling base wine in Central Otago. He refined his skills by working in Champagne with Champagne-maker Clotilde Chauvet and Jacques Peters of Veuve Clicquot. Clotilde partnered with Rudi to make Quartz Reef sparkling wine until 2008, when he returned to Champagne. That Rudi has learned well from his Champagne colleagues is evident in the high quality of his methode champenoise sparkling wines. We tasted over 200 wines for our recent Champagne report, and Rudi’s New Zealand sparklers fare well in comparison. Today, sparkling wines represent almost three-quarters of Quartz Reef’s total production.
Our reviews of the Quartz Reef wines follow. These are wines of very good quality, and the prices are reasonable, especially given the unfavorable New Zealand – US exchange rate. The importer is Station Imports, Colorado Springs CO
Quartz Reef 2011 Pinot Noir ($44) 90+ This wine reveals attractive cherry fruit with earth notes. It’s medium weight with a velvet texture, excellent flavor intensity and overall elegance. This is a straightforward, easy drinking wine with real purity of fruit both on the nose and palate.
Quartz Reef 2010 Pinot Noir Bendigo Estate Central Otago ($96) 92 This Pinot Noir offers spicy dark cherry fruit with some earthiness on the nose. It is soft and velvet like on the palate with very good depth of dark fruit flavors, integrated toasted oak, and firm sweet tannins on a persistent finish. Delicious. Aged in French oak, 15% new.
Quartz Reef NV Brut Central Otago ($29) 91 This Brut belongs in the list of top New World sparkling wines. It reveals an elegant texture in the mouth and the kinds of aromas and flavors found in a good Champagne, with notes of lees, the crust of a fresh baked baguette, and fresh orchard fruit. Pleasantly dry (8 g/l RS) with good acidity and a long, chalky mineral finish. A blend of 42% Chardonnay and 58% Pinot Noir aged on the lees for 24 months. Excellent value!
Quartz Reef NV Rosé Central Otago ($38) 90 Medium copper pink salmon. This Brut Rosé, shows aromas of herbs, fresh bread, and a hint of rhubarb that are mirrored on the palate. It’s very dry (just 5 g/l RS) and crisp with a creamy mouth feel. Made of 89% Pinot Noir and 11% Chardonnay from the estate vineyard and aged on the lees for 24 months.
Mike Potashnik and Don Winkler