Central Otago

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.

Northburn Vineyard landscape
Northburn Vineyards

All of the main winegrowing sub-regions lie within close reach, with the distinctive mountainous terrain providing each with a unique climate, aspect and altitude.

Pinot Noir flourishes in the Central Otago, with a variety of stunning expressions being crafted in the numerous sub-regions.

The region is also renowned for producing excellent aromatics, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Historically noted as ‘pre-eminently suitable’ for winemaking (Bragato, 1895), the region’s first Gold Medal was for ‘Burgundy’ in Sydney in 1881. 

Stonefruit prevailed until a resurgence in the 1950s, followed by a significant commitment by the 1970s winegrowing pioneers, enduring today in names such as Chard Farm, Rippon, Black Ridge and Gibbston Valley.

Central Otago is a tourism stronghold, captivating visitors with a wide range of excellent cellar door facilities and wine-tourism activities. Soaring snow-capped mountains and glistening rivers nestled deep within ravines (gold rush territory in the 1800s) draw visitors from far and wide.

The extreme climate rewards careful site selection with wines of great intensity and finesse, and encourages an increased focus on sub-regional expression.

Visit Central Otago

Central Otago is New Zealand’s southernmost wine region, and is home to big mountains, pristine lakes, and dramatic skies.  Easily accessible through Queenstown Airport, any season is a good time to visit Central Otago.  Cosy up to the fire with a glass of Pinot Noir after hitting the slopes in the winter, or cycle to the wineries for some earned indulgence in the summer.  Exceptional dining options are endless in Queenstown and Central Otago, and the winery restaurants are setting the precedent in fine dining.   Each of the six sub-regions of Central Otago have unique and compelling wine tours and cellar doors, providing much to be discovered in this part of the South Island. For more information on visiting Central Otago, see www.centralotagonz.com.

Central Otago subregions

A. Wanaka

A spectacular landscape and sophisticated tourist culture make Central Otago home to some of the world’s best Pinot Noir, not to mention impressive, vivid white wines. 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 and Cromwell areas, beautiful Lake Wanaka provides welcome reflected radiation and mitigates frost producing delicate and vivid wines          

B. Gibbston

The extreme climate has rewarded careful site selection with wines of great intensity and finesse, with an increasing focus being seen into sub-regional expression. 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

C. Bannockburn    

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 other sub-regions, and the wines produced are highly distinctive and complex.

D. Alexandra

Feraud’s 1864 plantings were here, and his stone winery still stands within the spectacular schist landscape. The most southerly sub-region, the climate is dry and runs to extremes in both summer and winter. The marked daily climatic variations right up to harvest give vividly varietal, aromatic, finely structured wines.

E. Bendigo

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 capture the extreme climates hot summer sun and cold clear nights.

F. Cromwell/Lowburn/Pisa

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. 

Climate & soil

Average annual sun and rain for Central Otago in 2018.
Central Otago regional climate


This is the world’s southernmost wine region and the country’s highest. In this semi-continental climate, frosts are accepted and planned for but site selection is key. High sunshine hours and short, hot summers provide an idyllic, at times brutal, landscape for vines. The dry autumns and overall low humidity are significant assets, helping to coax both amazing purity and complexity.


Central Otago soils comprise of moderately old, windblown loess (silt) formed over successive ice ages by glaciers grinding schist rock into a fine flour. Layers of loess, at various depths, are interspersed with river gravels and sandy soils formed by water erosion. Soils are free draining, even when heavy in texture. 

Low rainfall keeps reduced leaching, maintaining a good level of minerality present, but low levels of organic matter. The result is soil low in vigour and high in mineral richness, where irrigation can be employed to control vine stress and optimise 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.

Winestyles, plantings & production information

Donut chart showing the hectares of different varieties planted in central otago
Central Otago region major plantings & styles

Pinot Noir

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.


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

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.
Infographic showing total wine production in Otago
Central Otago production statistics

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