At 45º south, Central Otago is the world’s most southern viticultural region. Surrounded by mountains, the region has many deep gorges and ridges, and is interlaced with lakes. It is a fairly desolate region, well suited to intensive viticulture. I heard somewhere over the last couple days that there isn’t a vineyard in Central within 200km (125 miles) of a traffic light.
In general, the the semi-continental climate of the region features very cold winters, hot summers, cool night time temperatures and very low rainfall. Soils are mainly glacially derived loess soils, with rich deposits of mica and schist. Close to 80% of vineyards are planted to Pinot Noir, though the region also produces exciting Riesling, refreshing Pinot Gris and minerally but rich Chardonnay.
Generally the wines have a vibrant and transparent fruit profile with a richness and intensity from increased luminosity of the sun combined with the hot days and cool nights in the dry, continental climate. Central Otago features the most inland location in New Zealand: a mountainous ridge just northeast of Bannockburn.
Overlooking Bannockburn from the ridge of Bannockburn Sluicings, the old gold mining gully on Felton Road. Somewhere on the ridge in the distance is unofficially the most inland location in New Zealand.
Bannockburn is currently the most intensively planted sub-region of Central Otago. Bannockburn is a North facing crescent bordering the Kawarau River as it flows across the base of the Cromwell valley to its meeting with the Clutha River. It is home to a majority of the most highly regarded vineyards and wineries in Central Otago.
Akarua is the winery where I’ll be doing my first vintage in 2011 and is located in Bannockburn. The vintage is steadily approaching and chances are we will begin work late this week, or early next week. For a bit of info on Akarua, visit my earlier post Central Otago 2011: Vintage at Akarua or visit their website http://www.akarua.com/. Stay tuned and I’ll be doing me best to keep you updated on the vintage.