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Touring the Central Otago and Queenstown Wine regions
Finding great Pinot Noir is one of the Holy Grail’s for wine fans. Central Otago is a wine region that has proven it self capable of producing such wines. Tours in the wine region can be done by self driving, armed with the excellent local wine map. Alternatively join a local expert on one of Appellation Central’s Queenstown Wine Tours and discover some of the lesser known vineyard gems.
Central Otago Location
Central Otago is located in the southern half of the South Island of New Zealand. The 45th parallel south runs directly through the heart of the region. It is a stunningly beautiful region with rugged, snow capped mountains, clear blue rivers, deep gorges and picturesque alpine lakes. The nearest major towns are Queenstown, Wanaka, Crowell and Alexandra.
Commercial vineyard development began in 1981; an important step in the development of the Central Otago wine region was the identification of classical French and German grape varieties that suited the 'terroir' and climate. The principal varieties are Pinot Noir, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay, all producing excellent wines.
Geography of the South Island, Queenstown and Central Otago
The South Island landscape is dominated by the Southern Alps Mountains which run from Fiordland in the South-West to Marlborough in the far North-East. These rugged mountains have a significant influence on South Island weather patterns with distinctly wetter conditions in the west and significantly drier and hotter in the east. The vineyards lie in the semi-arid valley floors of Central Otago. The nearby resort towns of Wanaka and Queenstown lie on the shores of two of New Zealand's largest and deepest glacial carved lakes with Lake Wakatipu the 3rd deepest in New Zealand at 380m deep. The regions soils are typically a mix of schist gravels and sandy loam, relatively infertile and free draining. The majority of the prime vineyard sites are located on north facing, sunny slopes. Many are also close to rivers or lakes, offsetting some of the high frost risks in spring and autumn time.
These conditions lend themselves to producing world-class wines in what is the southern-most wine region in the world. This important New Zealand wine region bears many weather and climatic similarities to other great cool-climate wine regions such as Burgundy, Alsace, the Mosel and Oregon.
Access and activities
Queenstown is the closest international gateway to the lower South Island, Central Otago, Wanaka, Fiordland and Milford Sound. Queenstown is also famous for a myriad of adventure activities from bungy jumping, mountain biking, jetboating to sky diving. What is less known is the wide selection of non-adventure Queenstown activities and attractions that are available. We highly recommend taking time to plan Queenstown holidays to not only include adventure options and a wine tour but to also consider allowing time to:
- Enjoy one of the great walks in the region
- Take a spectacular helicopter flight
- Try your hand at fly fishing
- Picnic on the shores of Lake Wakatipu
- Play golf at one of the six stunning golf courses
- Ski in winter
Philip Green has owned and managed Queenstown wine tour company Appellation Central Wine Tours since 1999.
UK WSET Diploma of Wine
Queenstown Wine Tours
Small group wine tours designed for the discerning traveller. Enjoy a fun day out tasting fine wine, sightseeing and enjoying local cuisine host by one of experienced local guides.
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