Central Otago Wine Region

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.

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.

Central Otago wine subregions

Regional Maps 2020, Central Otago

Gibbston

Situated east of Queenstown along the spectacular Kawarau Gorge, Gibbston is the highest sub-region, its cooler climate and north-facing hillside vines ripen later than neighbouring sub-regions, giving lighter though still intense wines.

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.

Cromwell, Lowburn and 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. 

Bendigo

Northeast of Cromwell, Bendigo has vines planted on gentle north facing slopes. Wide-scale plantings on stony soils capture the extreme climates hot summer sun and cold clear nights.

Wanaka

A couple of mountain ranges and 80km north of Queenstown, beautiful Wanaka is cooler and slightly wetter than the rest of the region. The lake provides welcome reflected radiation and mitigates frost producing delicate and vivid wines.

Alexandra

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.

Winestyles and planting information

Wine Region Plantings 2020, Central Otago

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.

Aromatics

Riesling stands out; plus smart Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer. Styles range from austerely dry to decadently sweet but always sparkling fruit and precise structure.

Chardonnay

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.

Others

Perfumed and pretty Rosé, frequently made by saignée method make delicious aperitifs; and firm, complex yet delicate Méthode Traditionelle garner critical recognition.

Visiting 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.

Find Central Otago wine near you

Learn more about Central Otago wine

New Zealand Wine Textbook
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