Central Otago

Central Otago is New Zealand's most southerly wine region, as well as being its most inland and boasting the highest altitudes in the country. It has nailed its colours to Pinot Noir that occupies around 70% of plantings in Central Otago. Their success with the varietal seems to gain ground every year with wineries like Felton Road gaining rock star status. The first vines were planted back in 1864, but nothing serious happened until 1972, when an experimental vineyard was planted near Alexandra. This was followed with further plantings at Rippon Vineyard and Lake Wanaka in 1975. The first commercial release from the region was in 1987, a Pinot Noir from the Gibbston Valley winery. Located on the 45 parallel, the landscape of Central Otago is an untamed beast. Surrounded by mountains littered with lakes and gorges, it experiences the greatest seasonal temperature variation of any other wine region. This presents both a challenge and a gift to grape growers. Containing the sub-regions of Bendigo, Bannockburn, Wanaka, Cromwell, Alexandra and Gibbston; the climate is truly continental. The summers are hot and dry, whilst the evenings are cool and the winter months very cold. The region tends to have few disease issues due to the dry climate, and frost never seems to be a problem because most vineyards are sitting on steep slopes. The soils are dramatically different from any other region on New Zealand. The vineyards situated on steep slopes and terraces have their roots in dark schist rock, whilst others sitting on valley floors and lakes have siltier, sandy soils. Style wise, the Pinot Noirs of Central Otago are generally elegant and long-lived with intense black cherry fruit when young. Locals also claim the wines carry the aroma of the thyme that grows wild in the region. (Image supplied by Wooing Tree)