Where Is Central Otago?
Central Otago is one of New Zealand most scenic wine region located in the south island of New Zealand, near Queenstown. It is also world southernmost wine producing region.
How To Get There?
Fly to Queenstown airport, then drive to Cromwell (55 min drive) and stay a night,
or day trip from Queenstown (nearest winery: 20-minute drive)
From our own experience:
We spent 3 nights in Queenstown and drove to Gibbston for a day trip, and then spent a night in Cromwell, and another 2 nights in Wanaka to explore the nearby subregions.
Wine Facts Of Central Otago
Climate: Cool continental climate, but with high UV level
Grape varieties: 75% Pinot Noir, 12% Pinot Gris, 4%Riesling, 3% Sauvignon Blanc, 3% Chardonnay, 1% Gewurztraminer, 2% others
Soils: Light, fast-draining loess with gravel over schist
Latitude: 45 º South (latitude similar to Bordeaux, but climate is similar to Burgundy)
First commercial release of wine: 1987 (Pinot Noir from Gibbston Valley Wines)
Grapes first planted: 1864
Number of vineyards in Central Otago: 175
(as of 2018)
Subregions Of Central Otago
1. Gibbston Valley (also known as “Valley of the Vines”)
- Approximately 30 minutes drive from Queenstown.
- Situated east of Queenstown along Kawarau Gorge (where the original bungee jump is)
- The highest sub-region in Central Otago
- Cooler climate and grapes ripen later than the other sub-regions.
- Gibbston Wine Style: lighter but still intense.
Wineries in Gibbston Valley: Amisfield, Brennan Wines, Chard Farm, Gibbston Valley, Hawkshead, Mount Edward, Mt Rossa, Peregrine, Stoneridge Estate, Valli Vineyard
2. Bannockburn （”Heart Of The Desert”)
- One of the warmest, driest sites in the region
- Harvest can be up to a month ahead of other sub-regions
- Bannockburn Wine Style: highly distinctive and complex
Wineries in Bannockburn: Akarua, Bald Hills, Bannock Brae, Carrick, Ceres, Desert Heart, Domaine Road, Felton Road, Gate 20 Two, George Town, Mt Difficulty, Terra Sancta, Wild Earth.
- 50 minutes drive from Queenstown
- Located at the heart of Central Otago
- The old town was flooded under Lake Dunstan in the 1990s to construct the Clyde Dam. Some of the historic buildings dating back to the gold rush of the 1860’s were rebuilt on higher ground, creating the Cromwell Heritage Precinct (one of the must-visit attraction in Cromwell).
- Today Cromwell town is a busy service centre with farming, stone fruit and grape growing area.
- Wine Style: Can be very different due to the soil variability and micro-climates between vineyards
Wineries in Cromwell/ Lowburn: Aurum, Burn Cottage, Domaine Thomson, Lowburn Ferry, Quartz Reef, Rockburn, Space At The Base, Wooing Tree
4. Pisa & Bendigo
- Most plantings in Pisa are situated on the lower terraces and valley floor running parallel to the snow-capped Pisa mountain range.
- Pisa Wine Style: silky seductive wines
- The sunniest of all the sub-regions
- Vines planted on gentle north facing slopes.
- Stony soils, extreme climates of hot summer sun and cold clear nights.
- Bendigo Wine Style: intensely flavoured wines
Wineries in Pisa & Bendigo: Folding Hill Wine Company, Locharburn Estate, Misha’s Vineyard, Mondillo, Pisa Range Estate, Poplar Estate, Prophet’s Rock, Rock Ferry, Tarras, TOSQ
- A popular tourist town, just 1 hour 8 minutes drive from Queenstown
- Lake Wanaka helps reflect radiation and mitigate frosts
- Wine style: vivid and delicate
Wineries in Wanaka: Aitken’s Folly, The Lazy Dog, Maori Point, Maude Wines, Two Degrees Vineyard, Rippon
- The most southerly sub-region in Central Otago
- Climate: dry and relatively cool. Extreme weather in both summer and winter. High daily diurnal temperature shift.
- Wine style: Aromatic, finely structured
Wineries in Alexandra: Barrington Wine, Drumsara Wines, Grey Ridge, Grasshopper Rock, Hawkdun Rise, Hinton Estate, Judge Rock, Perseverance Estate, Shaky Bridge, Three Miners, Two Paddocks
We Visited 11 Central Otago Wineries in 5 Days (Self-Drive Itinerary)
We did a month-long self-driving trip to New Zealand to explore all the major wine regions. We started from South Island and work our way up north. Central Otago was our first wine region.
We used Queenstown, Cromwell and Wanaka as our base while visiting Central Otago. Below shows our 5-day itinerary.
- See: Arrow Town (A historic gold mine town)
- Wine Tasting 1: Amisfied Winery & Bistro (great place for lunch)
- Wine Tasting 2: Chard Farm (single vineyard Pinot Noirs)
- Wine Tasting 3: Gibbston Valley (NZ’s largest wine cave with tour)
- See: Kawarau Bungee Jump (bungee jump from the historic suspension bridge)
Day 1 Central Otago Wine Trip – Day Trip To Gibbston Valley.
Full blog post on day 1, click here to read more.
- Wine Tasting 4: Peregrine Wines (Award-winning winery, beautiful cellar door)
- Wine Tasting 5: Valli Wine (won “Best Pinot Noir” 4 times in wine competition in London)
- See: Roaring Meg Lookout (watch the turbulent stream that drives a hydro-electric power station)
- Wine Tasting 6: Misha’s Vineyard Tasting Room
- Spend a night in Cromwell
To read the full details of day 2 itinerary & the wineries visited, click here to read more.
- Wine Tasting 7: Felton Road (Make appointment 1-2 days prior visit)
- Wine Tasting 8: Mt Difficulty (Lunch with a view)
- See: Cromwell Fruit Sculpture (Icon of Cromwell / Central Otago)
- See: The junction lookout (Where the old city was flooded under Lake Dunstan)
- See: Cromwell Heritage Precinct (The rebuilt old town on the shore of Lake Dunstan)
Click here to read about day 3 in details.
- Wine Tasting 9: Domaine Thomson (A biodynamic Pinot Noir producer that also makes wine in Gevrey Chambertin in Burgundy, France)
- Wine Tasting 10: Aurum Wines (Family owned, certified organic vineyard)
- Hike – 45th Parallel South (a short hike to the top, to burn off all the calories you drink in the past few days)
- Drive – to Wanaka and stay a night
- See: That Wanaka tree (The most photographed tree in New Zealand)
Click here to read the full post on our day 4 trip to Domaine Thomson – a biodynamic vineyard.
- See: Wanaka town (Scenic hike, kayak, cycling, skiing, skydiving)
- See: Wanaka artisan market (Thursday 3pm – 6pm)
- Wine Tasting 11: Rippon Winery (Most beautiful winery in New Zealand)
- See: Cardrona Bra Fence (Why people hang their bras on this special fence beside the road)
- Taste: Cardrona Distillery (spirits, liqueurs and cocktails)
- See: Cardrona Hotel (Historic old hotel beside the main road, great place for a drink)
- See: Cardrona Ski Field (Go skiing during winter or just simply drive up for the view during summer)
Click here to read the full post about Wanaka, Rippon Winery and Cardrona.
【Day 6】 Drive To Mount Cook
Stay tuned for the coming Mount Cook post.
– Helicopter landing on Tasman Glacier
– Easy hike at Mount Cook
Disclaimer: This post has no intention to promote drink driving. Please note that driving in Central Otago can be dangerous if you are not familiar with the local road. If you plan to self-drive to Central Otago for wine tasting, please make sure you have a designated driver who doesn’t drink. For our case (2 of us), we shared one tasting and the driver has to spit (can’t swallow) during the whole tasting! Please drive responsibly for yourself and the other road users. This post is written for readers to better understanding Central Otago wines and serves as a guide for wineries to visit.
Do you know?
Central Otago is regarded as one of the top 3 regions in the world for Pinot Noir along with Burgundy in France and Oregon in the USA.
Which Are Your Favourite Wineries?
Have you been to any of the wineries in Central Otago? Which are your favourite wineries in Central Otago?
Please let me know by commenting below. Thanks 🙂
- New Zealand Wine (https://www.nzwine.com/en/our-regions/central-otago/)
- Decanter (http://www.decanter.com/features/new-zealand-a-pinot-noir-paradise-245743/)
- Central Otago Winegrowers Association (http://www.cowa.org.nz)
- The World Atlas of Wine (7th Edition) – Hugh Johnson & Jancis Robinson