The recipient of the 2019 Leadership Award is Rudi Bauer who has been a tireless promoter of the Central Otago region and a figurehead of New Zealand wine in general the world over.
Rudi Bauer is a tireless enthusiast who will put up his hand to help with anything he feels passionate about. His passions include biodynamic viticulture, pinot noir, pinot gris, Champagne and, of course, Central Otago.
Bauer was born in the Austrian town of Hallein, near Salzburg. When he was 10 years old his family moved to wine country, south of Vienna. He gained a qualification in viticulture and winemaking after a rigorous seven years of practical and classroom tuition in Austria before completing a two-year course in wine management in Germany. Bauer accepted a six-month position working a vintage for Mission Estate in Hawke’s Bay but gained an extension after meeting his future wife, Sue Ellen. He worked five vintages at Mission, while spending the off-season at wineries in California and Oregon, then joined Rippon Vineyard as winemaker in 1991. He later spent five years at Giesen before returning to Central Otago in 1996 to establish Quartz Reef.
In addition to producing wines under his own label, Bauer contracted for many other brands. He was involved in producing the first vintages for Two Paddocks, Nevis Bluff, Maude Wines, Dry Gully, Peregrine, Pisa Range Estate, and Hay’s Lake (now Rockburn). He has also made wine under contract for Mondillo, Black Ridge Estate and William Hill. Since 2007, Bauer has been making wine for the Otago Polytechnic/Cromwell Campus from grapes grown by students.
Bauer joined forces with Alan Brady and Grant Taylor with an offer to host the first NZ Pinot Noir Celebration. He teamed up with Alan Brady to launch the first Pinot Noir Central Otago Celebration in 2000. In 2002, he became a director of Central Otago Pinot Noir Limited (COPNL), an organisation that actively promotes Central Otago pinot noir. Bauer was a director of COPNL for 12 years and chairperson for four years. He was awarded Champion Winemaker of the Year by the Royal Agricultural Society of NZ Easter Wine Show in 1999 and again in 2010. Bauer was also nominated for German magazine Der Feinschmecker's Winemaker of the Year in 2010 (one of six chosen worldwide; he was the first ever New Zealand candidate).
A speaker and presenter at numerous national and international events and masterclasses, Bauer is a tireless promoter of Central Otago and has demonstrated the importance of regional unity to the rapid growth in status that Central Otago has achieved in a relatively short length of time.
“My local mentors include Rolfe Mills (Rippon Vineyard), James Healy (Dog Point Vineyard), Larry McKenna (Escarpment Vineyard) and James Millton, while my overseas mentors are Bob McRitchie at Sokol Blosser, Oregon, and Zelma Long at Simi Winery, California.” Bauer also credits the Southern Pinot Noir Workshop and the “generosity and open-mindedness of New Zealand viticulturists and winemakers” for the development and refinement of his winemaking skills.
Bauer has won many medals and trophy awards for his wines although he is most proud of earning the first of Central Otago’s gold medals and trophies for pinot noir, pinot gris and sauvignon blanc.
Text by Bob Campbell MW
Photography courtesy of Rudi Bauer