What does a win at the world’s biggest wine competition mean for a tiny winery in the world’s southernmost wine region?
In a word: lots.
“The power of this win is immeasurable for us,” says Quentin Quider, the owner of the winning wine at the International Wine Challenge in London, 2006 Wild Earth Pinot Noir.
Quider has used the accolade everywhere he can to boost sales of his small-production wines. He concedes that even with the 10,000-plus wines judged at the Challenge, there are tens of thousands more that aren’t even entered. Many of them don’t need to because they’ve already forged their reputations.
The 2006 Wild Earth Pinot Noir is only the fourth vintage that Quider has produced. He employs winemaking consultants in Central Otago, while his day job is in the Australian fishing industry.
The Californian-born wine lover moved to New Zealand in the early 1990s after tiring of a busy pace of life. After a stint living on Stewart Island, Quider and his wife and business partner, Avril Quider, shifted to Australia to make their living. Their Central Otago vineyard is their passion.
Do you see your pinot noir as the best in the world now that it has won this accolade?
It was the best wine of the show rather than best in the world. Wild Earth Pinot Noir is a good wine but it’s not for everybody. It’s a fantastic accolade for Central Otago that two years in a row the region has had a wine that’s won this accolade. I fly that banner first and foremost.
What makes your pinot noir stand out?
The way we grow our grapes is the reason for our high quality wines. We take low yields of grapes from our two vineyards. We don’t buy any grapes in. We have 40 hectares on two sites; 26 hectares at the end of Felton Road and 14 in Lowburn and Pisa Flats.
We make pinot noir, riesling and pinot gris and this year for the first time we made a rose from pinot noir grapes.
What do you model your pinot noir on?
When I first started out, I modelled our wine on what I had tasted in California, which is where I lived before moving to New Zealand.
I discovered pinot noir in California. To me, pinot noir is the holy grail of red wine and I wanted to be known for making a great one.
How important are your white wines?
It doesn’t really make a lot of sense to grow white grapes. Because we grow them in the same way as pinot noir, which is very hands-on and not very profit-oriented, the return is lower than for pinot noir.
In 2007 we grew our white grapes at a loss because we hand picked them and took low yields. It meant we got less than no return, but hopefully it will rectify itself in the long run.
Who makes your wine?
Michelle Richardson contracts for us and I employ a viticultural consultant (Justin Willoughby). I also have a vineyard manager. Ours is a small business, so I hire consultants to guide the style and the vineyard. This is the most cost effective way for us.
How green are you?
The only obstacle to us being fully organic, technically, is our use of weed spray. I could stop using it, but I believe I would increase my carbon footprint with the increased tractor use we’d need to do.
The alternative to spraying is turning the soil over, which requires a tractor. We couldn’t do this by hand with 40 hectares of land to look after. It wouldn’t be viable economically.
Last year we brought in high country Otago sheep to eat the weeds, but they ate everything else too, so that didn’t work very well.
Where to in the future for Wild Earth? Size or quality?
The Wild Earth vineyards are never going to change in size. The smallest differences in climate and vineyard site can make the hugest difference to the taste of pinot noir and I think if we make too much then it would be difficult to keep the quality consistent.
My vineyard in Bannockburn is a kilometre long so there’s a wide range of elevations and we have a lot of different pinot noir clones (about 10), so we have lots of radically different flavours coming through. We are trying to determine which areas are consistently good, so that we can focus specifically on them.