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New Zealand Wine Regions - Central Otago
© Sue Courtney
First published 20th February 2001
Updated 16 April 2005

[History] [Today] [The Vineyard List] [Links]

Otago has to be New Zealand's fastest growing wine regions of the current era. It has a remarkable history, not least because of its rich gold mining heritage of the 'rush' years that started with the discovery of gold in 1861 by Gabriel Read. Where there is the lure of gold, there are thirsty miners so it is no wonder than Central Otago's first vineyard was planted shortly thereafter.

Jean Desire Feraud, the first Mayor of Clyde, established his winery, which he called Monte Christo, in 1864. The building still stands today and grapes are being re-established nearby. Awards for his wines were won at exhibitions in Sydney and Melbourne, as reported in the House (of Parliament) by the goldfields M.P., Vincent Pyke, in 1881.

The Regions first winery building
Central Otago's first winery near Clyde, built from the local schist rock, still stands today

It was Romeo Bragato, the Italian viticulturist based in Sydney, who is accredited as first recognising the potential of this area when he visited the country in 1895. Starting his tour at Bluff he tasted his first glass of NZ wine at Arrowtown a few days later. He observed many vines growing at Cromwell and Clyde, planted by the miners as they panned out in their search for gold. Bragato decided that Central Otago was "pre-eminently suitable" and there was "no statable limit to the productiveness of that magnificent territory". But perhaps the quote that most excites today's producers is Bragato's "There is no better country on the face of the earth for the production of Burgundy grapes than Central Otago...". The quality of the wines produced today is proving that statement true.

Despite Bragato's enthusiasm, the industry died during the early part of the twentieth century. A revival came with grape growing trials during the 1960's and 70's and the 'second wave' of serious viticulture began in earnest in 1981 with planting's at Black Ridge in Alexandra, Gibbston Valley Vineyards in the Gibbston Valley and Rippon Vineyards in Wanaka in full swing.

[History] [Today] [The Vineyard List] [Links]

In 2001, over 700 hectares of land was planted in grapevines Map of Central Otago Region and 70% of those vines were Pinot Noir. In 2006, the vineyard area has increased to just over 1250 hectares with Pinot Noir now accounting for 77% of production.

Visitors marvel at the fact that grapevines grow in this rugged but beautiful landscape of mountains, rivers and lakes in this, the most southerly wine region in the world. But although many of the vineyards are covered in snow in the winter, they enjoy long hot dry summers with cool evening temperatures allowing for a long, slow ripening period. Combine this with young, passionate viticulturists and winemakers and you have the recipe for success.

Take the middle point of the region as the town of Cromwell and you find vineyards close by in Bannockburn, as well as in Lowburn and Wanaka to the north, Clyde and Alexandra to the south and towards Queenstown to the west. Drive along any road to these locations as well as northeast to Tarras, and you will see kilometre after kilometre of new vineyards already planted or in the making.

Most visitors arrive at Queenstown, the tourist mecca that provides the airport and luxury accommodation for thousands of local and international visitors who come to taste wine, ski, bungy jump or just tour around this scenic wonderland.

However Cromwell, with its buildings and facilites left over from the building of the Clyde Dam, provides the central base for the industry. Several wineries and the Central Otago Wine Company (COWCo) and VinPro contracting winemaking facilities are based here.

Central Otago harvest tonnage by variety, 2002-2004





Pinot Noir








Pinot Gris






139 84
Sauvignon Blanc


87 56


26 14


23 10
Cabernet Sauvignon


6 1
Muller Thurgau


1 0


3 1
Muscat Varieties


6 0


0 0
Other White Vinifera


5 0
Other Red Vinifera


7 1
Hybrids 0 15 0




* Figures are rounded and may not add to the total as supplied by New Zealand Winegrowers.

About 534 hectares of producing vines contributed to the 2002 harvest but by 2004 the vine producing area had increased to an estimated 820 hectares. As 2004 was a frost-affected vintage, an increase in quantity did not ensue. The major growth variety, as it to be expected with all the planting going on in the region, is Pinot Noir, which accounts for 87 per cent of the increase in plantings.

[History] [Today] [The Vineyard List] [Links]

The Vineyard List

The number of Central Otago wineries continue to expand in such a fashion that if you blink, a new vineyard will have been planted, or a new wine label will have reached the market. As well as resident wineries, larger wine companies from outside of the Otago region, are now sourcing Central Otago grapes for their own well-known brands. Some of the wineries in this list are repeated as they have significant holdings in more than one area. When this is the case, the website link is added only for the location where the winery is based.
I list the vineyards within their sub-regions with coloured links to their websites, if known.

Domaine Jaquiery
Lochaburn Estate
Mount Maude
Otago Crown Wines

Tarras/ Ardgour
Lindis River Wines
Maori Point Wines
Tarras Vineyards Ltd

Bendigo /Northburn
Northburn Wines
Aurora Vineyards
Bendigo Station
Gibbston Valley Block
Lamont Estate
Loop Road
Mondillo Vineyard
Prophets Rock
Quartz Reef
Van Asch
Zebra NZ

Lowburn/Pisa Flats
Aurum Wines
Berridge (Drystone)
Kawarau Estate
Lowburn Ferry
Morvern Ferry
Pisa Moorings
Pisa Range Estate
Rockburn (Hays Lake)
Surveyor Thompson
Three Fires

Central Otago Wine Company
Mark II Wines
Mount Michael
Otago Polytech
Quartz Reef
Serendipity Vineyard
Wooing Tree Vineyard

Bald Hills Vineyard
Cornish Point
Desert Heart Estate
Domain Road Vineyard
Felton Road
Hawkesburn Terraces
Mt Difficulty Olssens
Pipeclay Gully
Wild Earth Wines

Queenstown / Gibbston
Amante (de Vine Creations)
Amisfield (Lake Hayes)
Chard Farm
Gibbston Highgate Estate
Gibbston Valley Wines Ltd
Gypsy Dancer (Andrus)
Hawkshead Vineyard Partnership
McIntyre Hill
Mount Edward
Mt Rosa
Nevis Bluff Vineyard Ltd
Sleeping Dogs (RD1)
Taramea Small Winemakers Centre
Three Fires
Valli Vineyards
van Asch
Wanaka Road Wines
Wentworth Estate
Waitiri Creek

Clyde & Alexandra (Springvale)
Alexandra Wine Co.
Anthony James
Hawkdun Rise
James Love
Judge Rock
Leaning Rock
McArthur Ridge
Three Miners
Thyme Hill
William Hill

Alexandra (Earnscleugh)
Black Ridge
Chapman Road
Dry Gully
Fraser River Estate
Hinton Estate
Kenley Vineyard
Rock 'n Pillar
Two Paddocks Ltd

Roxburgh (Sth of Alexandra) (south)
Margaret John Vineyard

Other Labels
Rabbit Ranch
Richardson Wines
Weston Wines

Wineries Open to the Public
Despite the number of wineries in the Central Otago wine region, veryfew are open to the public. Those that are include -
Chard Farm, Gibbston Valley, Pergrine and Waitiri Creek in the Gibbston sub-region.
Quartz Reef, Rockburn and the Central Otago Wine Company (where you can taste the wines from several wineries) in the Cromwell region.
Mt Difficulty, Felton Road, Olssens Garden Vineyard, Carrick, Akarua and Bald Hills in the Bannockburn sub-region.
Rippon in the Wanaka sub-region.
Black Ridge, William Hill and Springvale in the Alexandra sub-region.

Also highly recommended is the The Big Picture just out of Cromwell on the road to Queenstown.

[History] [Today] [The Vineyard List] [Links]

Other Links
Central Otago Wine Cellar - The best resource for information about Central Otago Wines. Includes a wine trail map for those wineries open to public. Many Central Otago wines are also available for sale, including some very rare, limited availability wines from tiny producers. Well worth a look.

Central Otago Wine Tours - daily tours, customised tours for wine lovers and specialised tours for conference groups.

Queenstown Wine Trail - Queenstown's original wine tour visiting boutique wineries and vineyards in New Zealand's southernmost wine region. Daily departures from Queenstown with wine and cheese tastings and superb scenery.

If you know of any new wineries in Central Otago, or other links that I should consider for this page, please e-mail me. A reciprocal link would be appreciated.

Historical References:
* Vines in the Valley by A.W. Bodkin (1997)
* Winemakers of NZ by Dick Scott (1964)

© Sue Courtney
The information on this page was researched by Sue Courtney and normal copyright applies, including the html code.

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