Unique, beautiful, wet and wild
It is the world’s southern-most wine region, and also one of the most scenic. But compared to other wine regions, its climate is one of the strangest. Central Otago sits amongst vast undulating landscapes, rugged snow-capped mountains, clear blue rivers, deep gorges and tussock-clad hills. All the main winegrowing sub-regions lie close to one another, with the mountainous terrain providing each with a unique climate, aspect and altitude.
A region of contrast
Central Otago sits just 100km west of Milford Sound which, with a staggering ten metres of rain annually, is the second wettest place on Earth. However, the Southern Alps protect the region, and almost all water is deposited in the mountains as either rain or snow. This proximity to very heavy rainfall means wineries have large amounts of water available, but not much of it comes from the sky – rainfall around the vineyards is around 250mm to 600mm per year. Overall, Central Otago weather is typically hot and sunny in summer and very cold in winter. The growing season is considered long and slow.
Pinot Noir is King
You can generally expect to pay a premium for Central Otago wines. Pinot Noir is the region’s most famous varietal. This thin-skinned berry is often called the heart-ache grape: too hot and it ripens too early, too cold and it fails to ripen at all. But in Central Otago, autumn is the region’s most settled period of weather providing a microclimate that gets the fruit nearly ripe. Then it cools letting the fruit hang for a while, adding depth and complexity to the resulting wine.
Regional Pinot flavour profiles
The world-renowned Gibbston Valley Pinot displays sweet, soft, up-front fruitiness with flavours of raspberry, strawberries and fresh herbs and spicy notes. Meanwhile, the warmer Bannockburn and Lowburn areas produce fuller, more tannic wines, with cherries and dark fruit. Undertones of dried thyme is most prevalent in Pinots from Alexandra.
Successful white varietals
While Pinot Noir is the grape upon which Central Otago has hung its hat, the sunny day/cool night weather pattern is well-suited to Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer. Many excellent Chardonnays have also been crafted by local winemakers.
Clyde Wine and Food Harvest Festival
This festival is Central Otago's biggest celebration of locally produced wines. It has grown from the original five wineries to more than 20 wine labels today. It’s held every year on Easter Sunday, just before the major grape harvest. Besides the opportunity to taste many different wines, the festival includes a local food produce market, live music, art exhibition and children's entertainment.