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Central Otago is a land where mountains meet lakes and protect deep valleys from rain.
The semi-arid landscape, temperatures that can reach 35 ° C during the day and drop to zero at night, allow the grapes to ripen perfectly, especially Pinot Noir grapes.
Wine in Central Otago has been grown and produced in the region since the 1860s Gold Rush.
Jean Desire Feraud (1820 – 1898), a French gold miner, bought land in Central Otago. Here, the first wines of the area were produced.
At the end of the 19th century, the government commissioned Romeo Bragato to survey the country to assess and identify regions with great wine-growing potential. Bragato was stunned when he arrived in Central Otago, stating that the climate was ideal for wine growing, including Pinot Noir and Riesling, to thrive.
The first commercial release of Pinot Noir was by the Gibbston Valley Winery in 1987.
With the increase in production and quality, the desire to expand the quality of these wines has also increased. The cellars have opened, allowing visitors to discover the wines of the region in their unique terroir. With Queenstown as its hub, Central Otago wines now attract hundreds of thousands of visitors to the area each year who come to enjoy the scenery that is home to the vineyards and the quality of specialty wines.
Natalie Wilson, Membership & Communication Central Otago Winegrowers tells us more abut this stunning region.
With what goals was your Association born and which of them were achieved?
The Central Otago Winegrowers Association was established in 1986 by a group of passionate Central Otago Winegrowing Pioneers. Initial meetings were held by the group, often over dinner and glass of wine, where stories were shared and ideas born to make Central Otago one of the best wine growing regions in the world.
Almost 35 years later, that same vision is shared by over 175 vineyards and wineries, for Central Otago to be one of the most prosperous, famous and desired wine regions in the world.
The Central Otago Winegrowers Association aims to Connect, Enrich and Promote Central Otago to strengthen our members, community, and environment for generations to come. We Connect the local wine industry and our community to create unity and build a culture of inclusion, collaboration, diversity, mutual respect and understanding amongst our members. We Enrich our members, wine producers, environment and community through proactive best practice, education and knowledge sharing, and supporting ingenuity and expertise. We Promote Central Otago to elevate the reputation, awareness and desirability of our wines, region and brand by sharing our stories and experiences with the world.
What are the peculiarities of the territory and its wines?
The Central Otago wine region is spread over 2000 hectares. Pinot Noir thrives in the region’s arid soils, surrounded by spectacular mountain ranges, rivers and lakes.
Central Otago has developed an enviable reputation for its Pinot Noir, which makes up 81% of the region’s plantings. Besides Pinot Noir, Central Otago is also becoming well known for other cool-climate varieties such as Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Riesling.
The region has four distinct seasons; winters are cold (reaching -10 degrees overnight) and summers are typically hot and dry, but there can still be a late frost. Often there can be temperature changes of up to 20 degrees, especially in autumn, allowing the grapes to ripen slowly and develop complex, concentrated flavours and depth.
Central Otago’s vineyard soils are often described as semi-arid and also contribute to the uniqueness of the region’s wines. Typically soils are formed from a mix of Schist and Greywacke parent materials, with a layer of windblown silts (loess) that have been deposited by rivers and glaciers.
Through what activities do you promote your region?
We love to share the wines and stories of our region through events, our cellar doors and a strong digital presence. Throughout the year we run a number of consumer and trade events, where we host groups of Central Otago wine enthusiasts for a short break to immerse themselves in everything great about the Central Otago wine region. Including vineyard and winery tours, beautiful lunches and dinners accompanied by world-class Central Otago wines, set amongst stunning landscape vistas. Creating life-long friendships and connections.
In Central Otago there are also over 50 Cellar Doors, which are open the majority of the year and ready to welcome visitors to the region.
For further information about Central Otago wine experiences visit www.centralotagowine.co or follow us @pinotcentral
Can you briefly describe the areas of cultural and enotourism interest of Central Otago Winegrowers?
Central Otago is a relatively small region in the wine world but our people share a commitment to producing the very best wines in the world, sustainably and ethically. Central Otago winegrowers feel a strong sense of responsibility to ensure this land is looked after for generations to come, through a commitment to regenerative viticulture and organic production. Currently 25% of Central Otago vineyards are under organic production, one of the highest percentages of any wine growing region in the world.
Central Otago winegrowers have a long history of collaboration, from our early pioneers disseminating their learnings to our top winemakers sharing their expertise with the local wine community. This strong sense of connection with people and place draws visitors to the region year after year.
What is the goal set for the near future to spread your excellence more and more internationally?
Our future goals and aspirations are to continue to enrich, connect and promote the Central Otago wine region, through our activities, promotional events and connections to be the envy of the wine world.
Why are the wines of the region so special?
Our wines tell a cumulative story of where they come from, how they were grown and the influence of the winemakers who craft world-class wines vintage after vintage, but two things stand out as unique to Central Otago. Our dry climate and long steady growing season mean we have an extended hang-time for our grapes, but we don’t get the intense disease pressure that plagues more humid climates. This gives us unparalleled consistency of quality vintage to vintage while still capturing the power of our landscape and expressing the nuances of seasonality in the wines. We are also a small wine-growing area with mostly boutique wineries making hand-crafted wines that express our vibrant landscape and our extreme climate with precision and individuality. This makes our wines hard to come by and not readily available in supermarkets, but for those who can secure a fine bottle of Central Otago Pinot Noir, their efforts are well rewarded.
The spectacular landscape, the challenging growing conditions together with the passion of our vignerons create stunning wines that are irrefutably Central Otago.