Central Otago is a wine region of New Zealand that s located towards the bottom end of the country’s South Island. This region is one of the world’s most southernmost winemaking regions. Central Otago is well known not only for its wine but also for its incredible breathtaking landscapes. The landscape of Central Otago is characterized by canyons, rivers, and snow-capped mountains. The unique semi-continental climate of the region means that it produces wines unlike others produced in New Zealand. This climate provides the perfect climate for the production of excellent Pinot Noir wines. Central Otago is the perfect location for wine and nature lovers.
Excellent Southerly and Warm Climate of Central Otago
The Central Otago region consists of a wide range of subregions, each with its own unique characteristics allowing for the production of a wide range of wines. The most famous of the Central Otago wines is the Pinot Noir but this does not mean that the others should be overlooked or missed.
Central Otago is divided into six winemaking sub-regions. These regions including the Cromwell Bason, Wanaka, Alexandra, Bendigo, Bannockburn, and Gibbston.
Sub-Regions of Central Otago
The Cromwell Basin is the largest of the sub-regions and consists mainly of vineyards planted on terraces along the low basin and valley floor. Bendigo is situated on the eastern side of Lake Dunstan where the vineyards are planted facing north for maximum light exposure. Bannockburn is the warmest of the subregions where the vines are planted at higher altitudes. In Gibbston the vines are planted along the slopes and banks of the Kawaru River. This subregion has the highest elevation and the coolest temperatures. Alexandra is home to the oldest vineyards of the Central Otago region and is also extremely small in size. Finally, in Wanaka, the vines are planted along Lake Wanaka where the lake provides a cooler climate.
The most commonly grown grape varietal in Central Otago is Pinot Noir, which accounts for approximately 70% of the plantings. These grapes along with Chardonnay grapes are also used to create excellent local sparkling wines.
The wide range of subregions and microclimates in the Central Otago region means that vines can be planted on carefully selected sites to produce only the most excellent grapes. The wines produced in this region are filled with finesse and intensity and are a true expression of the natural land.
Red Varieties: Pinot Noir
White Varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling
The Home to New Zealand’s Best Pinot Noir
By far the signature wine of the Central Otago wine region is the Pinot Noir. The fantastic strongly scented, world famous and silky Pinot Noir of Central Otago is often referred to by the locals as the “Fear of France’. Recently it has also begun to compete closely with the Pinot Noirs of the Napa Valley.
The wines of the Central Otago wine region bring together the best of the old and new worlds of wine making in New Zealand. Not only are the Pinot Noir wines a must experience for all wine lovers, but other wines such as the Central Otago Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay, dessert wines, sparkling wines and Chardonnay are becoming increasingly popular.
A trip through the Central Otago wine route provides a fantastic experience of a range of different yet equally excellent wines.
Aurum Wines is an organic, single-vineyard winery located in Central Otago. This winery is a family run business and is managed using only certified organic processes. The wines that are produced at Aurum Wines are a direct expression of nature and the land on which the vines are grown. The cellar door and tasting room at Aurum Wines are located in the original farm cottage and offer visitors wine tasting and local traditional meals. For those looking for an extended stay, there is also luxury vineyard accommodation available.
Kinross is a boutique winery and estate at the old Kinross Station in the Gibbston Valley subregion of Central Otago. This winery was established during the 1860s and is a testament to the Kinross family who has lived in the area for generations. Visitors to Kinross are welcome to visit the cellar door, the very popular Kinross restaurant, and to spend the night at the many accommodation establishments in the Gibbston valley.
Maude is a family-run winery situated on the banks of Lake Wanaka. The family vineyards were planted in 1994. The focus at Maude wines is to create excellent and high-quality Pinot Noir wines. One of the highlights of Maude Wines is the wonderful tasting room overlooking the Wanaka township and lake. This is the perfect place to experience excellent wines and enjoy the local surroundings.
Experience the life of New Zealand’s Early Gold Miners
The Goldfields Mining Centre gives visitors the chance to feel the excitement of finding gold straight from the earth. This interactive center is the place where visitors can step into a day of the life of the country’s early gold miners who worked through the harshest conditions in Central Otago. The minefields are located along the course of the Kawarau River and are a historic reserve where gold has been mined for over 100 years. Visitors to the Goldfields Mining Centre can enjoy guided tours of the minefields, the replica Chinese Village where Chinese migrants settled thanks to the gold rush and gold panning. A truly fun and exciting experience for all ages.
Ophir – The Most Charming Town of Central Otago
The town of Ophir is the perfect place to experience the rich mining history of Central Otago and to enjoy the real charm of New Zealand. Ophir is situated on the Manuherikia River along the eastern banks between the towns of Ranfurly and Alexandra. This small town is rich in history and is home to the oldest post office in New Zealand. It is also a well-known stop for cyclists who are doing the Otago Central Rail.
City of Alexandra – Where Nature and Wine Meet
The City of Alexandra is where long walking and hiking trails meet the rolling Pinot Noir vineyards of Central Otago. Alexandra also has a rich history that stretches as far back as the 1880s. Between the weathered rocks of Central Otago, one can find the oasis of Alexandra, characterized by endless green trees. During the 1880s, the town experienced rapid growth thanks to the gold rush in the area. Today, Alexandra is a center for local winemakers, particularly those specializing in Pinot Noir. Visitors to Alexandra can explore the city by car, bike, or foot and retrace the steps of the golden age miners through the beautiful hills and landscapes.
The amazing natural environment of Central Otago was made famous as it was the location for the filming of The Lord of the Rings. Besides producing excellent wines, Central Otago is a dream location for nature lovers who enjoy hiking, walking and cycling.
Lake Dunstan – New Zealand’s Newest Lake
Thanks to the Clutha River, Lake Dunstan has been formed and is the newest lake in New Zealand. This lake stretches for over 40 km in length and covers 26.4 square kilometers. Lake Dunstan is an extremely popular location for locals and visitors because of its beaches, boat ramps, and harbors. It is also popular with those who enjoy fishing and water sports. Outdoor and nature lovers should not miss the chance to enjoy the Lake Dunstan Trail which links the towns of Clyde and Cromwell. The trail is a relatively easy 55km long cycling trail through incredibly beautiful landscapes.
Poolburn Dam – The Natural Heart of Central Otago
A trip to Poolburn Dam feels like something other worldly, with its barren and never-ending landscapes. This dam was also one of the central filming locations for the Lord of the Rings movies. The best way to enjoy Poolburn Dam is to take a long and leisurely drive, enjoying the magnificent views. From the road one can see across the lake and its many small islands and houses. The lake is also a popular fishing location thanks to its abundance of trout. Poolburn Dam is the perfect place to escape from the hustle and bustle of life and enjoy untouched and unspoiled nature.
Otago Central Rail Trail – The Original Great Ride
The Otago Central Rail Trail is considered New Zealand’s original great ride by cyclists from across the globe. This cycling trail is free and open to cyclists throughout the year, winding through some of New Zealand’s most beautiful locations. The Otago Central Rail Trail was first opened in 2000 and is 152 kilometers long. It follows the path of the Otago Central railway line from Clyde to Middlemarch. Completing the trail can take as long as you desire and there are plenty of wonderful accommodation establishments along the way to relax, recharge, and enjoy a wonderful local meal. For those who do not have bikes, these can be hired at the start of the trail and for the non-cyclists, the trail can also be walked. The Otago Central Rail Trail is a wonderful way to experience the warm hospitality and natural beauty of the Central Otago wine region.
Excellent Wines and the Freshest Foods
What to Eat in Central Otago
The name Central Otago is synonymous with the best of New Zealand’s Pinot Noir wines. The climate of this region also means that it is able to produce the freshest, crispest,and tastiest fruits, vegetables, and other ingredients. Central Otago is considered a center of gastronomy in New Zealand and the local flavors please all who visit this region.
Cinnamon Scrolls – The Cinnamon Buns of Central Otago
Cinnamon scrolls are a delicious cinnamon dessert that can be enjoyed in one of the many cafes and restaurants of the Central Otago wine region. These delicious and comforting buns are made with warm water, flour, yeast, salt, milk, oil, butter, sugar-cinnamon, and finely chopped sultanas or apples. The buns are rolled to form a shape similar to a Swiss roll and are decorated with icing sugar or cream cheese before eating. For the best cinnamon scrolls, be sure to visit Central Otago.
Anzac Treats – Treats Enjoyed on Anzac Day and all Year Round
Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in New Zealand that commemorates New Zealanders who lost their lives in conflict or war. On this day, the treats enjoyed by these soldiers are eaten all across New Zealand and are known as Anzac Treats. Anzac Treats include a range of desserts such as chocolate caramel Anzac biscuit slices, traditional Anzac biscuits made with coconut and ice, lemon myrtle dampers, Anzac lemon tarts, golden syrup Anzac cheesecake, cheesy marmite pretzels, and lamington cakes.
Fig, Chevre Salad with Crispy Streaky Bacon
Taste the Freshness of Central Otago
Fig, chevre salad with crispy streaky bacon is a salad typical of the farmers of the Central Otago region. This salad is made with the freshest local figs, local goats’ cheese, local streaky bacon, rocket, balsamic vinegar, and local cold-pressed olive oil. To make the salad, first, the bacon is fried until it is perfectly crispy. Following this, the balsamic vinegar is boiled in a small pot. To put the salad together, the rocket is laid flat and covered with the sliced figs, diced goat’s cheese, and finally the bacon. For the perfect dressing, the balsamic reduction and olive oil are drizzled over the salad – the perfect summer dish paired with a local crisp white wine.