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JOHN ROZENTALS tastes more of New Zealand’s Central Otago and is again blown away.

July 26, 2019 Beverage No Comments Email Email

I certainly don’t pretend to be an expert on southern New Zealand’s Central Otago wine region.

In fact, my experience of the district comes from tasting wines from just three of its 100-or-so producers — Felton Road, Domaine Thomson and now Quartz Reef.

I know that the area was once considered impossible for quality wine production, simply because it was too cold, and indeed it does snow there and, yes, it can get bloody cold in winter.

But the ring of mountains around Central Otago can act as a sun trap, making it very warm in summer and autumn — and providing heat enough to ripen varieties such as pinot noir.

And talking of pinot noir, the area has rapidly become known as one of the world’s leading producers of this most fickle red grape variety — along with Burgundy, Oregon, Tasmania and southern Victoria.

Indeed so much so that Central Otago is known as a home of winemaking’s holy grail.

Quartz Reef’s founder and lover of great pinot, Austrian-born Rudi Bauer, planted his first vines there in the mid-1990s and has twice been New Zealand Winemaker of the Year.

Wines such as the meaty, gamey Quartz Reef 2017 Single-Vineyard Pinot Noir (about $55) speak volumes about the region’s natural affinity with the variety — and also about Rudi’s commitment to bio-dynamics.

The wine’s origin, Bendigo, is a sub-region of Central Otago and was given its name, incidentally, by Victorian gold miners in the 1860s.


Quartz Reef NV Brut ($39): Palate strength and definition are the highlights of this red-grape-dominant (72 per cent pinot noir, 28 per cent chardonnay) Champagne-method bubbly. It’s very much in the stonefruit flavour quarter, though age-derived breadiness and yeastiness also play their roles. Serve as an aperitif or with simple seafoods such as freshly shucked oysters.

Quartz Reef 2018 Single-Vineyard Pinot Gris ($35): Unlike most fairly simple and innocuous pinot grigio/gris on the market, this dry white brings serious gravitas into play. The palate is strong and slightly oily, the bouquet slightly of honeyed spices. It’s a wine that will suit many quite full-flavoured dishes that rely on creamy mushrooms for their main hit. In short, it’s very food-friendly.


Quartz Reef 2017 Single-Ferment Pinot Noir ($90): A beautiful silky smooth wine that simply flows across the palate introducing a manifold of earthy flavours as it goes. This red is too much for most traditional pinot suggestions of accompanying with duck, so let’s move up a notch and match its rich gaminess with venison. And if you think the price is a bit rich, check out what they’re charging for top Burgundies.

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