Central Otago

Central Otago







about this region

Central Otago, in New Zealand's South Island, is like a postcard come to life. It's a place where Mother Nature shows off, with dramatic mountains, deep river valleys, and lakes that sparkle under the sun. Among these natural wonders, you'll find vineyards that seem to have been painted onto the landscape, vibrant green against the golds and blues.

This region isn't just about good looks, though. It's a haven for wine lovers, famous for its unique climate. Sheltered by the Southern Alps, Central Otago has this neat trick of being both cool and sunny, perfect for growing grapes. The vineyards are dotted across different sub-regions, each with its own little weather system and soil type. That's like having lots of small wineries in one, each making its own special kind of wine.

Let's talk grapes. Central Otago's Pinot Noir is the star of the show. It's like the region was made for this grape. The Pinot Noirs here are rich, deep, and have this way of making you want just one more glass. They're a big deal among wine folks for a good reason.

Then there's Chardonnay. Here, it gets to bask in the warm days and chill during the cool nights, which gives the wine a kind of elegance and a whisper of the wild landscape it comes from. It's like drinking a bit of Central Otago itself.

Don't forget Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc. The Pinot Gris in Central Otago is full of aroma and flavor, while the Sauvignon Blanc, though it's more of a quiet character here, adds its own zest. It's like each grape is telling its own story about where it grew.

In Central Otago, wine is more than a drink; it's a tale of the land, the unique weather, and the people who pour their hearts into every bottle. It's not just grapes and vines; it's about a connection to a place that's pretty much like nowhere else on earth.


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vinerra illustration

Vineyard Hectares




growing degree days

Discover Terroir

The Central Otago wine region is nestled in the heart of New Zealand's South Island, surrounded by dramatic natural borders and characterized by stunning landscapes. It is located in the southern part of the South Island, with its geographical boundaries defined by the surrounding mountain ranges and bodies of water.

To the west, the region is bounded by the formidable Southern Alps, which create a natural barrier. To the east lies the rugged and picturesque Clutha River, which meanders through Central Otago's diverse subregions, offering both beauty and a source of irrigation for vineyards. To the north, the region extends towards the stunning shores of Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea, further enhancing its natural splendor.

Central Otago's landscape is a breathtaking mosaic of mountainous terrain, serene lakes, and rolling vineyards. The region's vineyards are often nestled in sheltered valleys or perched on terraces, making the most of the varying altitudes and microclimates. The striking juxtaposition of snow-capped peaks and sun-drenched vineyards is a defining feature of Central Otago, contributing to the region's unique appeal.

The remarkable landscape, with its varying elevations, diverse soils, and continental climate, plays a pivotal role in shaping the terroir of Central Otago. This landscape, framed by mountains and lakes, provides an ideal canvas for vine cultivation, allowing winemakers to craft exceptional wines that mirror the natural beauty and rugged charm of this remarkable wine region.

The climate of Central Otago, New Zealand's southernmost wine region, is a fascinating interplay of extremes and nuances, shaping the character of its wines in remarkable ways.

Central Otago is known for its continental climate, a rarity in New Zealand. This means that the region experiences distinct seasons, marked by temperature extremes. Winters in Central Otago are frosty and cold, with temperatures often dropping well below freezing. This deep chill is crucial for vine dormancy, ensuring the vines rest and gather energy for the growing season ahead.

Come spring, Central Otago awakens with vibrant energy. The region enjoys long, sunny days with clear skies, promoting healthy budburst and the onset of the growing season. However, spring can also be unpredictable, with the occasional frost posing a threat to the delicate new shoots.

Summer in Central Otago is characterized by scorching days and cool nights. The sun's intensity, due to the region's high elevation and clear air, allows for optimal ripening of the grapes. Warm daytime temperatures coax the fruit to develop rich flavors, while the cool nights preserve acidity, creating a unique balance in the wines. This diurnal temperature variation is a hallmark of Central Otago's climate and a key factor in the wines' elegance and complexity.

Autumn, or the "Indian Summer," in Central Otago extends the ripening period, allowing the grapes to achieve full phenolic ripeness. The warm, dry days and cool nights of this season contribute to the development of intense fruit flavors and the retention of crucial acidity.

Rainfall in Central Otago is relatively low, making irrigation a necessity for vineyards. The region's arid climate ensures that disease pressure is minimal, promoting healthy grapevines and reducing the need for chemical interventions.

Central Otago's subregions, each with its unique microclimate, add further complexity to the region's viticultural landscape. Bannockburn, Gibbston Valley, Alexandra, Cromwell, and Wanaka each offer slightly different climatic conditions, allowing for the cultivation of various grape varieties and wine styles.

In summary, Central Otago's climate is a captivating blend of extremes—cold winters and scorching summers, frosty springs and golden autumns. This climatic diversity, combined with the region's high elevation and unique microclimates, lends a captivating character to Central Otago wines, making them a true reflection of the region's stunning natural beauty and exceptional terroir.

Central Otago, renowned for its breathtaking landscapes and exceptional wines, owes much of its vinous diversity to its unique and varied soils. These soils, shaped by millennia of geological processes, offer a rich tapestry of terroirs that contribute to the region's winemaking excellence.

  1. Schist Soils: The ancient, weathered schist soils of Central Otago are a hallmark of the region. They impart a mineral-rich, well-drained foundation for vine roots to explore, leading to wines characterized by intensity and complexity. The schist soils excel in nurturing the region's signature grape, Pinot Noir, adding depth and character to its expression.
  2. Clay Soils: Central Otago's clay soils offer water retention benefits in this dry climate, providing essential moisture for vine health. These soils contribute to the full-bodied nature of wines, enhancing their structure and richness. While less common, clay soils add a distinctive dimension to the region's winemaking.
  3. Gravel Soils: Gravel soils, found in various subregions, are prized for their drainage properties, allowing vines to thrive in well-aerated conditions. These soils play a pivotal role in producing wines with elegance and finesse, particularly in the case of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
  4. Loess Soils: Loess soils, a fine and fertile sedimentary material, can be found in some parts of Central Otago. They contribute to the development of aromatic and expressive wines, showcasing the terroir's unique characteristics. Loess soils are particularly suitable for white grape varieties like Riesling and Pinot Gris.
  5. Alluvial Soils: Alluvial soils, originating from ancient river deposits, offer a mix of mineral-rich and fertile attributes. These soils are often found along riverbanks, where they provide excellent drainage and contribute to the region's diverse wine portfolio. Varieties like Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir thrive in these soils.
  6. Limestone Soils: Limestone soils, although less common, can be discovered in some parts of Central Otago. These soils have a significant impact on the wines, lending them a distinct minerality and freshness. Chardonnay, in particular, benefits from the influence of limestone.

In Central Otago, the harmonious interplay of these diverse soils with the region's microclimates and grape varieties creates a mosaic of flavors and styles. The soils, each with its unique attributes, contribute to the rich tapestry of Central Otago wines, making this region a treasure trove of winemaking possibilities.


Central Otago in New Zealand is a haven for some of the most celebrated grape varieties: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Sauvignon Blanc. Each of these grapes brings its unique charm to the vineyards, creating a mosaic of colors and shapes across this picturesque landscape.

  • Pinot Noir: In Central Otago, the cool climate and sunny days create an ideal setting for Pinot Noir. This grape, known for its delicate skin and clustered growth, needs careful handling due to its disease susceptibility. The cool nights are crucial in preserving its acidity. The varied soils, from schist to loam, require precise management to nurture the vines properly.
  • Chardonnay: Chardonnay flourishes in Central Otago’s cooler areas. The significant difference between day and night temperatures here plays a vital role in adding complexity to the grape. The vines do well in the region’s well-drained sandy loam and schist soils. However, protecting them from the intense sun and ensuring uniform ripening is key, demanding skillful canopy management.
  • Pinot Gris: Thriving in the region's cooler microclimates, Pinot Gris in Central Otago enjoys the balance of sunshine and cool air. It's less disease-prone compared to Pinot Noir but needs careful monitoring to prevent overcropping. The grape prefers well-drained soils with moderate fertility, ensuring balanced ripening and good acidity.
  • Sauvignon Blanc: Though not as prevalent as in other parts of New Zealand, Sauvignon Blanc finds its niche in Central Otago. It favors cooler locations and requires a longer growth period. Effective vine management is essential to control vigor and enhance the grape’s intensity. The gravelly, well-drained soils of the region encourage deep root growth, vital for the grape’s development.

In Central Otago, these grape varieties not only reflect the region's diverse soil and climate conditions but also embody the unique character of this extraordinary wine-producing area.

Central Otago, tucked away in New Zealand's scenic South Island, is a bit like an artist's palette when it comes to its wines. Here, you'll find wines that are as rich and full of life in color as they are in taste. Think of deep, warm hues and robust, yet elegantly structured bodies – these wines are like a hearty embrace for your senses.

  • Pinot Noir: The Pinot Noir from Central Otago is something special. Picture a glass filled with the vibrant colors of rubies. When you take a sniff, it's like diving into a basket of ripe cherries and plums, with a sprinkle of spices like clove or cinnamon. Tasting it is an adventure – the fruits are bold and inviting, mixed with a touch of earthiness and smooth tannins that just gently hang around in your mouth.
  • Chardonnay: The Chardonnay here is a golden delight, shining bright in your glass. It greets your nose with the sweetness of summer fruits – think peaches and nectarines – with a zesty twist of citrus and a whisper of oak. Sipping it feels like a smooth, creamy dream, where the fruity flavors dance perfectly with a hint of oak, ending in a finish that just makes you want more.
  • Pinot Gris: Central Otago’s Pinot Gris looks like liquid gold. It’s as if you're smelling a fresh, ripe pear or apple, with a backdrop of floral scents – imagine a springtime stroll through an orchard. When you taste it, it's fresh and lively, a perfect balance of sweet fruit and zingy acidity that's both refreshing and intriguing, leaving a taste that lingers pleasantly.
  • Sauvignon Blanc: The region’s Sauvignon Blanc may be a bit of an underdog, but it's a hidden treasure. It's light and bright, with a hint of green. The aroma is a burst of tropical paradise – passionfruit, lime, with a herbal hint. It tastes as lively as it smells – crisp, zesty, full of fruity flavors, with a clean, sharp acidity that makes it wonderfully versatile with food.

In Central Otago, wine is more than just a drink; it's a sensory journey. Each sip tells a story of the lush landscapes, the passionate winemakers, and the art of winemaking that this region is so proud of. These wines aren't just about taste; they're about experience and emotion.


200-400 m


450 mm


schist, clay, gravel

top varietal

Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc

History of wine

Central Otago's remarkable wine story traces its roots back to the days of the 1860s Gold Rush. Amidst the feverish pursuit of gold, a French gold miner by the name of Jean Desire Feraud, who hailed from a winemaking heritage, saw potential in this rugged land. Feraud purchased land near Clyde and, in a small stone building at Monte Christo, produced the region's first wines. In a remarkable turn of events, Feraud's wine achieved the distinction of winning Central Otago's inaugural gold medal for 'Burgundy' in Sydney, 1881.

Towards the late 19th century, the government appointed Romeo Bragato to survey New Zealand's landscape, seeking regions with exceptional wine-growing potential. Central Otago, with its breathtaking scenery, left Bragato astonished, who proclaimed that there seemed to be no limit to the productivity of this magnificent territory. His keen insight identified that cool-climate-loving varieties, such as Pinot Noir and Riesling, would thrive in this extraordinary region, setting the stage for its future as a renowned wine destination.

Fast forward to the 1980s, a decade that witnessed a resurgence of interest in grape growing in New Zealand. Visionaries who were undeterred by skeptics' warnings that Central Otago was "too cold, too high, and too far south" for winemaking embarked on a journey of innovation. Names like Rolfe and Lois Mills at Rippon Vineyard in Wānaka, Alan Brady in Gibbston Valley, Anne Pinkney in Whakatipu, and Sue Edwards and Verdun Burgess at Black Ridge near Alexandra became synonymous with pioneering winemaking in this region.

Separated from the rest of New Zealand's burgeoning wine industry and lacking a manual for success in this extreme environment, these early trailblazers shared knowledge, experiences, and equipment, nurturing the nascent industry from barren landscapes to fields of vinous gold. This spirit of collaboration became the cornerstone of Central Otago's winemaking character.

In 1987, the first commercially released Pinot Noir emerged from Gibbston Valley Winery, marking a significant milestone. By the end of the '80s, Central Otago's reputation for Pinot Noir was on the rise, attracting fresh faces like Chard Farm founders Rob and Greg Hay.

Rob Hay, who had returned from studying wine in Germany, fell in love with Chard Farm, perched above the Kawarau River in Gibbston. While skeptics questioned their decision to plant grapes instead of sheep, the Hays were resolute. The '90s brought global recognition to Central Otago Pinot Noir, with wineries like Gibbston Valley and Rippon earning medals.

More wineries sprouted in Bannockburn, Cromwell, Bendigo, Wānaka, and Alexandra. In 1991, four vineyard owners joined forces to establish Mt Difficulty, one of the region's largest and most prominent producers.

As production and quality soared, Central Otago's desire to showcase its wines at the source grew. Cellar doors and restaurants opened, inviting visitors to savor these wines in their unique terroir. Today, Central Otago wines attract wine enthusiasts and tourists from around the world, who flock to the region to relish not only its wines but also its breathtaking landscapes and rugged beauty—a testament to the enduring spirit that continues to shape this remarkable wine destination.