Central Otago

Central Otago

In an effort to shed some light on how I study for WSET Diploma Course’s D3 exam, Le Club des Vins is running a series of posts covering wine regions. Today’s topic: Central Otago.

📍 Location

With a latitude of 46°S, Central Otago claims to be the world’s most southerly wine region. Not sure if it still holds as Argentina is also busy planting vineyards in Patagonia.

central otago

In a nutshell

  • New Zealand
  • One of the most southern wine regions of the world
  • Semi-continental climate
  • 75% pinot noir

☁️ Climate

The region is surrounded by mountains, the Southern Alps, which protects the vineyards from ocean winds. Central Otago has a semi continental climate with extreme diurnal temperature changes. Spring frosts are a big risk, as summers are short (and usually hot). If the summer’s not warm enough, wine growers can leave the grapes on the vine a little while longer as autumns are usually dry. Fungal diseases are not really an issue here.

This is what one of Central Otago top-producers told me:

“If you’ve ever been to NZ, you will know how intense the sun is here. We are under the hole in the ozone, have less air pollution, and in Central Otago we’ve also got altitude to thank. The “burn time” for people outside is very short. The grapes tan and develop thicker, darker skin in response, therefore more colour goes into the wine. Additionally, and in particular in the cooler subregions like Gibbston, the berries will be very small, so the skin to juice ratio is very high.”

@valliwine on instagram

🌋 Soils

Mostly loess, sometimes clay – with schist as parent rock. Good water retention, although irrigation is necessary. Most vineyards are planted on slopes to minimise risk of frost.

Source: Delongwines.com

🍇 Grapes & styles

Pinot noir reigns here, the world’s most sensitive grape. I’ve only tasted Central Otago Pinot Noir once and it was completely different from all the pinot noirs I’ve ever had before. It’s intense, has a much deeper color, aromas of plum, sweet spice, dark fruit and more tannins than you’d expect from pinot noir. Pinot noir makes up for 3/4 of the total plantings. There’s also some chardonnay, pinot gris and riesling.

💡 Something you didn’t know (did you?)

‘Pinot maniacs’ is how Jancis Robinson calls the wine makers from Central Otago. They are extremely passionate about the grape and Burgundy, most of them have worked in cellars and vineyards there. She also states that the pinots from Central Otago have their own style (as compared to let’s say Oregon which is more similar to Burgundy). They even have their own NZ clone, called 10/5.

Some well-known producers:

Your turn now 🙂

I always put a new region on instagram first. If you have any additions or comments on a region, please do share. You can drop a comment on instagram or on the website – see below. Your help is much appreciated 🙂


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