Located in the South Island of New Zealand, Central Otago is the southern-most commercial wine region in the world. Significant European immigrants came here during mid-19th century for gold rush, it was that time a French gold miner started small scale planting and production of vines. However, the wine industry didn’t survive long for commercial basis. In the mid-20th century, vine planting trial began again with auspices of Agriculture Department of New Zealand Government. Till 1980s, sufficient experience and confidence had gained for small commercial vine planting.
Central Otago is famous for its Pinot Noir all over the world, and Pinot Noir occupies 70% of the whole production, others include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris etc. However, the production of Central Otago is only around 5% in whole New Zealand. The east-side mountain blocks Maritime influence, forming the only Continental climate wine region in New Zealand, with driest and warm Summer and cold Winter, and extreme day and night temperature variation. The average precipitation is 300mm. Frost can occur anytime between March and November, and snow is substantial during Winter time. The famous schist soil contributes to complex minerality and dark fruits flavors of Pinot Noir, reflects heat during daytime for the fruit maturation, and provides great drainage.
Gibbston near Queenstown is the coolest and highest (around 300m) sub-region producing enticing Pinot Noir. Vines are planted on sloping land of southern Kawarau River bank. Legend winemaker Alan Brady established his brand Mount Edward here, which is sold to the current owner and winemaker- Drunken. Mount Edward produces small amount premium wine, with delicate and nuanced style of Pinot Noir reflecting the true terror of Gibbston. Seductive Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and even Brandy and Vermouth are also made in the winery. Reservation is highly recommended if you want to visit the winery, the owner and winemaker are so nice to treat you like family members. The cute cat- Suzie is the most doggy-like cat I have even met- sticking around you all the time! Alan Brady still produces his brand- Wild Irishman is King Cross winery, the Pinot Noir is the widest one I have even tried! Without filtration and fining process, embracing oxidation, he puts all the flavors as he can into the bottle, resulting a extremely bold and wild Pinot Noir.
Rippon winery is considered the most beautiful winery in Wanaka sub-region of Central Otago. The huge open land around the lake is like heaven, and the wind blows waves of lavender accents everywhere. Biodynamic farming brings upscale quality and accents to its wines.
Other worth to visit wineries include Amisfield, Stoneridge Estate, Peregrine and King Cross.