International interns drawn to Central Otago

Showing off the tools of the trade are Quartz Reef interns Julie Martin, of Switzerland, and...
Showing off the tools of the trade are Quartz Reef interns Julie Martin, of Switzerland, and Julia Bell, of the United States. PHOTO: RUBY SHAW
As the grape harvest begins this month, Central Otago is the place to be for wine industry interns, here to learn about New Zealand’s wine culture.

Julia Bell, of the United States, is one such intern, who will work at Bendigo vineyard Quartz Reef.

Ms Bell and fellow intern Julie Martin, of Switzerland, will work throughout the busy harvest season.

"We both have studied viticulture ... in school and have done other internships," Ms Bell said.

"It times out well with this being summer in the southern hemisphere, [in spring] you can go up to the northern hemisphere and do harvest somewhere else."

Ms Bell wanted to learn about the wine-making styles in Central Otago and applied to work at Quartz Reef because of its specialty sparkling wines.

She was also drawn to its emphasis on biodynamics — a way of operation with a focus on organic input into the environment.

Quartz Reef winemaker and owner Rudi Bauer said the cultural exchange the internships brought were vital for the international wine industry.

"You’re getting these experiences and you try and translate them to the winery you’re working in long term."

"The far more important part ... is to be part of the New Zealand culture, which is ... very unique."

Internships gave young people a taste of the different options available to them in the industry, he said.

Central Otago Winegrower Association general manager Carolyn Murray said Central Otago was a well-regarded place to do an internship.

"The region has a really solid reputation for quality and consistency and premium fruit producing premium wine."

New Zealand was a "new world wine country" compared to more traditional producers such as Italy or France, which was a drawcard, Ms Murray said.

"You’re coming to ... a young, vibrant industry in an emerging [wine] country."

"[Interns] can be open-minded and not as bound by tradition."

Central Otago’s main export of pinot noir was "a real art to make", but some of the pioneers of the region were still working and passing down knowledge, Ms Murray said.