A seminar of Sparkling Wines and Sweet Wines on Day One of Wine New Zealand, the biggest trade show of New Zealand wines under one roof, introduced me to one of the most delicious and Champagne-like sparkling wines that I have ever tasted from New Zealand.
It was the Quartz Reef Chauvet Methode Traditionelle 2002 from Central Otago, a wine that is described as the result of a 'fruitful' partnership between the Champagne House Marc Chauvet (Rilly La Montagne) and Quartz Reef.
With a never decreasing fine bead of bubbles in the glass, even 20 minutes after the wine had been poured, this wine simply seduced me totally with its rich, bready, yeasty and classy Champagne-like aromas and its lovely roundness of flavours and texture in the full-bodied, concentrated, creamy palate. With a perfect balance of acidity to a nutty, brioche savouriness, it's smooth, savoury, bready and powerful with a salty minerally tang emerging on the lasting, persistent finish. I succumbed.
In the line-up of the four wines*, this just had a finesse about it that other wines didn't show on the day, I just kept going back to the glass and drank the aromas for as long as I could, and then I drank the wine.
What is it about Quartz Reef that has them producing sparkling wines with this degree of finesse and complexity? Perhaps it is the site at Bendigo in Central Otago, where the grapes are grown - although for this wines grapes were also sourced from the Gibbston Valley. Perhaps it is when they pick the fruit - because despite its southern location, the grapes for this wine are one of the earliest harvests in the country. Perhaps it is the pasion of winemaker Rudi Bauer and the influence of winemaker Clothilde Chauvet, whose family has been crafting Champagne since 1859.
According to the tasting notes, the Quartz Reef Chauvet Methode Traditionelle Vintage 2002 is a selected blend of 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay in the absence of malolactic fermentation. It is bottle fermented and aged for 3 years and 10 months on lees before being riddled and disgorged by hand in September 2006. The finished wine has 12.5% alcohol, a pH of 3.07, a total acidity of 9.1 grams per litre and residual sugar of 6.9 grams per litre. Quartz Reef makes a bubbles every year but 'vintage' wines are only made in exceptional years, and 2002 and Otago will always be remembered as exceptional. Perhaps of all the wines made in Central Otago this vintage, apart from some age-worthy Rieslings, this wine will be one of the ones that lasts the longest. But it's so delicious now, I would just enjoy it.
And the most amazing thing about this wine is its price. NZ$29 according to the hand out sheet. That was obviously wrong, because when I checked out the website, it's listed at NZ$37. Never mind, for the quality this wine delivers, in comparison to Champagne of the same quality, this is truly one of New Zealand's great wine buys.
Check out the www.quartzreef.co.nz to find out more. They've also got a video you can download from a segment on a business program earlier this year.
*Also in the tasting -
Cuvée No, 1 Blanc de blanc, Marlborough ($38)
Montana Brut Cuvée NV, 20% Marlborough Pinot Noir, 80% Gisborne Chardonnay ($20)
Morton Estate Black Label Methode Traditionelle 2002 - Hawkes Bay and Marlborough Pinot Noir and Chardonnay ($33)
© Sue Courtney
3 Sep 2007