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Why you need to try Central Otago wine

Central Otago wine

Jessica-Belle Greer finds five wine trends that stem from the breathtaking Central Otago vineyards.

Nestled in the southern half of the South Island Central Otago, simply known as Central, is the Madonna of New Zealand wine. Not needing a last name the in vogue wine region is celebrated for its rugged mountains, picturesque towns and, of course, bold wine. Encompassing Queenstown, Clyde and Alexandra, this area is a must-visit destination for wine lovers.

A sticky 30-degree day can turn to a cool zero degrees overnight in Central. This means winery visitors get more wear out of their winter coats and, more importantly for the vineyards, grapes ripen slowly. A gradual ripening helps grapes retain their natural acidity, which creates the bold fruity flavour favoured in Central.

David Sutton is a winemaker for VinPro, one of the largest wineries in the region, making multiple labels under one roof. He has worked all over the world, from Spain to the Ukraine, but David is staying in Central for its welcoming wine culture.

Don’t know your Chenin Blanc from your Cabernet Franc? Spend an afternoon in Central and you will know the latest tastes without pretention, including David’s favourite five wine trends to try:

Whole bunch fermentation of reds includes the normally discarded grape stem in the winemaking process. This international and resourceful wine trend has a herbal taste and works particularly well in Central because the signature fruity style of the region is balanced with a ‘stemmy’ wine character.

Perfect for a long summer lunch, rosé is characteristically as fruity as the guest at the end of your table, but easier to swallow. Rosé is a non-confrontational drink and, as you reach for another glass, it’s easy to understand why it is growing in popularity worldwide. Central Otago Pinot Noir grapes are especially suited to rosé – with its concentrated raspberry, strawberry and cherry characters, many producers are capitalising on these flavours to make some exceptional wine.

Effervescent and vivacious, sparkling wine owes its mouth popping popularity to acidity, and in Central that’s reason to celebrate. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes are the most commonly used grapes for sparkling wine and coincidentally are the most grown grape variety in Central. There’s another reason to celebrate… with the rise in bubbly it’s any excuse to pop a bottle.

Traditionally from Burgundy, France, Chardonnay grapes have eloped to the Central climate. On everyone’s lips, Chardonnay is experiencing a whirlwind romance sparked by a global trend towards a more elegant and restrained style. No longer fat and buttery, Chardonnay uses natural acidity for mineral notes and Central Chardonnay is now the best-looking guest at a party.

Wine drinkers world over are looking for something new and Central winemakers are turning to new white wine varieties to satisfy our sense of adventure.
Chenin Blanc, traditionally from the Loire Valley, thrives in Central thanks to its high acidity and versatility. It can be dry or sweet and has a long lasting flavour profile, which we will be thankful for as it is here to stay.
Grüner Veltliner (grooner felt-leener) of Austria translates to ‘Green Wine of Veltlin’. It first grew in the lower Swiss Alps during the 1600s and with Alps of its own Central is a natural home away from home for this dry white wine. Grüner Veltliner has been heralded as an exotic alternative to Sauvignon Blanc and it tastes as interesting as it sounds, especially a few glasses in.

Between the après ski lodges and lakeshore are luxury Wanaka vineyards:

Mt Maude Pinot Noir and Archangel Chardonnay 2014

Mt Maude Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, $55.00 and Archangel Chardonnay 2014, $26.00

Grapes are the new gold for historic mining town Bannockburn:


Domain Road Vineyard Pinot Noir Rosé, $25.00 and Akarua Brut Non-Vintage, $32.9

In the heart of Central is the rich soil of Cromwell:


Wooing Tree Rosé 2015, $25.00 and Mt Difficulty Single Vineyard Long Gully Chenin Blanc 2015, $26.95

Below the impressive Mt Pisa are two flavoursome fields:


Domaine Rewa 2013 Chardonnay, $35.00 and Ata Mara Central Otago Grüner Veltliner 2014, $18.99

Either side of the aqua Lake Dunstan is Lowburn and Bendigo, the perfect patches for growing grapes:


Mount Edward Pinot Noir, Lowburn, $45.00 and Quartz Reef Methode Traditionnelle Brut NV, Bendigo, $30.00

Photos: Tourism Central Otago