Central Otago Wine Region
Central Otago Wine Region
The Central Otago wine region, located close to Queenstown, is home to many of New Zealand’s premium and award-winning wineries. Steeped in early pioneering and gold mining history, this mountainous and rugged region has rapidly become a leading producer of high quality, cool-climate wines.
Wine Sub-Regions of Central Otago
The Central Otago region is made up of six distinct wine sub-regions. They are Wanaka, Gibbston, Bannockburn, Cromwell/ Pisa/ Lowburn, Bendigo and Alexandra.
Each sub-region has varying mountainous terrain, terroir, and climate that produces distinctive characteristics in many wine varietals.
This sub-region, lying 80 kilometres and several mountain ranges north of Queenstown, boasts some 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.
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.
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/ Pisa / Lowburn
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.
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.
In 1864, a frenchman called Jean Desire Feraud, was the first person to plant grape cuttings in the Alexander sub-region, 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.
The single most important grape variety in the region is Pinot Noir, which in Central Otago produces wines of outstanding quality. There are also fine examples of Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Central Otago’s secret is its unique microclimate and a passionate group of winemakers making wines that have an intensity of character and flavour only found in the great wine regions of the world.
Visiting Central Otago
A visit to Central Otago is a must for any traveller with an interest in discovering regional wines, local cuisine and New Zealand culture.
The area offers an incredible diversity of scenery and activities to make this a must-visit holiday destination all year round. And Queenstown, with its international airport, is the ideal launching pad to explore the region.