A spectacular landscape and sophisticated tourist culture also home to some of the world’s best Pinot Noir, not to mention impressive, vivid white wines.
- Historically noted as ‘pre-eminently suitable’ for winemaking (Bragato, 1895); indeed, the region’s first Gold Medal was for ‘Burgundy’ in Sydney in 1881, from vines planted in 1864 by frenchman Jean Feraud. However, stonefruit prevailed until renewed interest in the 1950s and then significant commitment by the 1970s pioneers, whose efforts endure today in names such as Chard Farm, Rippon, Black Ridge and Gibbston Valley.
- Recent rapid expansion means grapes now dominate cherries and apricot orchards. The extreme climate has rewarded careful site selection with wines of great intensity and finesse and there is increasing focus on sub- regional expression.
- The main sub-regions lie within close reach but the distinctive mountainous terrain means each occupies a unique niche of climate, aspect and altitude. Soils can vary considerably within each sub-region though a stony free- draining base is common to all.
- The remarkable landscape of soaring snow-capped mountains and glittering rivers deep within ravines (this was gold rush territory in the 1800s) draws visitors from far and wide who are invariably further captivated by the excellent cellar door facilities and wine-focused tourism opportunities.
SOURCE: New Zealand Winegrower's Vineyard Register Report & Annual Report
Plantings and Styles (2014)
Pinot Noir 1,484ha
Flagship variety whose reputation increases as the region and its vines mature. Fragrant, lush fruit underpinned by taut structure, silky texture and true intensity. There are marked differences in sub-regional styles.
Pinot Gris - 226ha, Riesling - 86ha, Gewürztraminer - 18ha
Riesling stands out; plus smart Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer. Styles range from austerely dry to decadently sweet but always sparkling fruit and precise structure.
Citrus and mineral characters, tightly structured, fine-bodied and sophisticated; can
be reserved when young but unfold with great complexity and elegance.
Sauvignon Blanc 45ha
Mineral and gunflint with herbaceousness overlain by pineapple and passionfruit. Crisp linear structure, refreshing acidity and dry, stony finishes are hallmarks.
Perfumed and pretty Rosés, frequently made by saignée method make delicious aperitifs; and firm, complex yet delicate Méthode Traditionelles garner critical recognition.
This sub-region, lying 80km and a couple of mountain ranges north of Queenstown, boasts one of the world’s most picturesque vineyards. Cooler and slightly wetter than the Queenstown/Cromwell area, beautiful Lake Wanaka provides welcome reflected radiation and mitigates frost producing delicate and vivid wines.
Situated east of Queenstown along the spectacular Kawarau Gorge, Gibbston hasn’t looked back since the first commercial bottling in 1987. The highest sub-region, its cooler climate and north-facing hillside vines ripen later than neighbouring sub-regions, giving lighter though still intense wines.
On the south bank of the Kawarau River at the southern terminus of the Cromwell Valley, the vineyards occupy one of the warmest, driest sites in the region (harvest can be up to a month ahead of Gibbston) producing highly distinctive and complex wines.
Feraud’s 1864 plantings were here, and his stone winery still stands within its spectacular schist landscapes. The most southerly sub-region, the climate is dry and runs to extremes in both summer and winter but the marked diurnal variation right up to harvest gives vividly varietal, aromatic, finely structured wines.
Northeast of Cromwell, Bendigo is possibly the warmest of all the sub-regions with vines planted on gentle north facing slopes. Wide-scale plantings (in the context of the region) on stony soils are capturing the extreme climate’s hot summer sun and cold clear nights.
This area is located on the western side of Lake Dunstan stretching north for some 25km from the township of Cromwell. The majority of plantings are situated on the lower terraces and valley floor running parallel to the snow-capped Pisa mountain range producing seductive wines.
Map key Subregion Vineyard
Find Central Otago wine near you
The world’s southernmost wine region and the country’s highest, in this semi-continental climate frosts are an accepted and planned for hazard, however the marked diurnal variation, high sunshine and short, hot summers provide an eloquent, if brutal, landscape for vines: site selection is everything. dry autumns and overall low humidity are significant assets, helping to coax both amazing purity and complexity.
SOURCE: MetService Climate Summary 1971-2000
Central Otago soils are moderately old (often windblown loess) formed over successive ice ages as the glaciers ground schist rocks to a fine flour. Layers of loess at various depths are interspersed with river gravels with the addition of sandier soils formed by water erosion. Soils are therefore free draining even when heavy in texture. The low rainfall keeps leaching effects low so there is a good level of minerality present but low levels of organic matter. The result is a soil low in vigour but high in mineral richness with the ability to use irrigation to keep vines at the desired degree of controlled stress so as to provide optimum fruit quality. All of these attributes have combined to result in Central Otago standing on the world stage as a unique winegrowing terroir, from which premium quality boutique wines are made.