Central Otago is the most southerly wine region in the world and is
responsible for 5.5% of New
Zealand's vines (1,253ha in 2006). Central.Otago was first identified as a
site of serious Pinot potential (an SSPP!) in 1895 by italian viticulturalist
Romeo Bragato, drafted in by the government to treat the phylloxera louse;
subsequently recommending grafted rootstocks as a remedy in 1901. It had been
thought to be worth even more during the Gold Rush days of the 1860s before
being turned over to merino sheep & then apricot/fruit orchards until the
1970s. In 1976, Gibbston Valley's alluvial gravel soils were the first to be
planted in the area.
It's a measure of the success of the Central Otago `brand' and the
appeal of its full-bodied Pinot Noirs that the region has experienced a
350% increase in the vines planted and a 125% increase in the number of
wineries over the same period (to 89, or 16% of the country's total); as per Marlborough's relationship
Noir now represents approx. 75% of the Central Otago vineyards.
That the region's capital Queenstown annually plays host to the
country's Pinot Noir forum is further proof of the region's significance. More
controversially, the recent rush to secure vineyards within this now
fashionable viticultural zone has led to a rash of criticism over the
quality of some of the newcomers.
Located at the foot of the South Island, the region may be on the
45th parallel but its site among the Bannockburn Hills
of the Southern Alps at approx 200 metres above sea level ensures a
continental climate, if one dogged by frosts and marked by significant swings
in temperature (up to 40 degrees celsius at times). Soil profiles vary between
the deep silt loams of the Bannockburn sub-region, while the wider Cromwell
Basin displays both sandy loam over calcium deposits as well as alluvial loess
over schist. Vinification typically involves between french oak barrel ageing
of between 10 - 18 months.
Stylistically, the Gibbston Valley wines such as those of Peregrine Wines,
show a sweet soft red raspberry/strawberry fruitiness, while the warmer
Bannockburn/Loburn areas produce more powerful, tannic with black cherries
and thyme notes; Felton Road's range
is a prime example. Fine Riesling is also produced
among the schistous soils.
Felton Road, Peregrine Wines, Ostler Vineyard