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We decide to stop at the highly-regarded Bacchus Wine Bar (12 The Octagon) for a drink. The place is empty (apparently, Dunedinites don’t come here for pre-dinner drinks, at least not this early), but expecting a full crowd soon, and so we sit at the bar and chat with a somewhat surly bartender and an adorable, slightly flirty manager about New Zealand wine. They seem impressed at the breadth of our contacts, not knowing the reason for it, but what impresses us is the passion they return for the subject. The wine culture here really is more developed than it is back home in the States, save perhaps in certain areas of West Coast wine country, and the penetration of knowledge is consistently surprising; maybe it shouldn’t be at a place that carries this sort of name, but I can think of hundreds of places back home where the name certainly does not reflect the knowledge.

The wine list, both by bottle and glass, is not huge but is extremely selective, and the menu looks interesting (though we don’t get to try anything). The space is clean and sparse, though a bit sound-reflective, and I suspect that the place can be a little noisy at full capacity. Wines – or at least ours – are served in flawless high-end crystal stems and at carefully-managed temperatures. (2/05)


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