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Quartz Reef in the Biodynamic World

By July 3, 2013No Comments
The highly regarded Central Otago vineyard and winery Quartz Reef gained Demeter Biodynamic certification in 2011, making a select group of six wine producers in New Zealand attaining this status, the others being Millton Vineyard, Vynfields, Richmond Plains, Seresin and Felton Road. Rudi Bauer says the process took around six years to achieve, but his thoughts on organics and biodynamics were sparked by what he saw in Austrian and German vineyards over two decades ago, but he felt he didn’t have the courage to begin the path until there was more discussion and involvement by the industry. Rudi credits Sam Jury from the U.K. for much of the support in the work.

The passion and belief in biodynamics is evident in Rudi’s persona. It’s as if he no longer harbours a secret and a burden has been lifted. I’ve never seen Rudi so at ease and ‘natural’ (excuse the pun), and life tending the vines and making the wines is even more a way of life. His team at Quartz Reef are fully committed too, and the harmony between everyone reflects the state of the vineyard with the land. Rudi is a strong advocate for the growth of organic and biodynamic viticulture in this country, seeing the day that all of New Zealand’s vineyards will be managed to these regimes. It won’t happen overnight, as Rudi admits that it has taken the last “15 years of experience, understanding the vines and the vineyard, the reading of the seasons and gaining the confidence to make decisions” to get to where Quartz Reef is today.

Quartz Reef Bendigo – reminiscent of Burgundy

The Vineyards, ‘Nerve Centre’ and Wine
The Quartz Reef vineyards are special in their own right. There are two blocks, each measuring 15 ha, on Loop Road, Bendigo, with plantings of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay (and a little Gruner Veltliner, now). The block on the steeper slopes was what drew Rudi to the district, as it was very reminiscent of Burgundy. It is indeed a special site to view, with its close-planted vines. The block on the flatter land has different soils, and offers subtle variations to add to the interest in the wines. Grant Roulston of Vinewise manages the viticulture with Rudi and his team.

A visit to Quartz Reef nowadays encompasses a tour of the ‘Nerve Centre’, where the biodynamic work is based. A small garden and shed adjacent to the lower block is the site for the making of the preparations and composting. Rudi has great delight in showing the different mixtures, the ‘CPP’ (Cow Pat Pit), cow horns and barrels where one “creates a vortex” drawing in the energy in dynamising the preparations 500 and 501.

The Quartz Reef output is small, and totally based on estate grown fruit. 5,000 cases of NV Methode Traditionnelle forms the core of the production, supported by 1,000 cases of the NV Rosé and a tiny 300 cases of a Vintage sparkling. Around 2,500 cases of Pinot Noir and 1,000 cases of Pinot Gris are produced annually, but for 2013, the yields were reduced 25% from the frosts during the growing season.

Rudi Bauer with an offering of fermented cow dung

Tasting 2013 Pinot Noir Barrel Samples
Sue and I joined a group of Quartz Reef aficionados in a tasting of barrel samples of 2013 Pinot Noir ferments. It was a pleasure to see these wines show wonderful florals and fine-grained tannins, attributes that Rudi has always seeks. The vineyard is showing its maturity, and the 2013 vintage looks to be a success. The role that biodynamics has to play is integral.

First up was the ‘Pippa’s Place’ ferment. Vibrantly floral and aromatic with fine-grained tannin textures, a touch shy and soft even, but with an attractive balance and approachability. Then from the ‘Ann’ ferment, with 40% whole bunch. Savoury dark red berry fruits showing, with a firmness to the core, drier on palate, a wine of texture rather than fruitiness, but in no way overbearing. The whole bunch input is very sensitive. This was followed by ‘George’s’ ferment, with 5-8% whole bunch. A fulsome wine, solid and broad, with ripe dark fruit flavours, densely packed, but with sufficient suppleness. Very much like the man after which it is named (George Habberjam, cellar hand from the very start).

My pick was the ‘Six-Pack’ ferment, fully destemmed 777 and 115 clone fruit, spending 23 days on skins. Beautifully fragrant and detailed in aromatics, with great finesse and linearity on palate. Still tight and promising much more. Moving up a step was ‘Saw Bones’, a mix of clones 5, 115 and 10/5, with 12% whole bunch and 28 days on skins. Concentrated raspberry fruit with savoury, complexing game notes already, backed by serious tannin structure. This will be an important component in the final wine. Then Rudi’s favourite, if he is allowed one, the ‘Assemble’, a blend of the various ferments, very even and complete in expression, with a proportioned mouthfeel and balance, lovely acidity and layers that subtly unfold, all supported by fine tannin grip.

The 2013 Pinot Noirs will be another vintage to seek out from Quartz Reef. www.quartzreef.co.nz

Rudi delivering 2013 Pinot Noir barrel samples

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