Central Otago wine region, New Zealand: One of the world’s greatest

Winemaker Grant Taylor, of Valli Wines, has seen the growth of Central Otago’s wine region firsthand. Winemaker Grant Taylor, of Valli Wines, has seen the growth of Central Otago’s wine region firsthand.
Nanjing Night Net

The sun rises over Gibbston.

Winemaker Grant Taylor, of Valli Wines, has seen the growth of Central Otago’s wine region firsthand.

Winemaker Grant Taylor, of Valli Wines, has seen the growth of Central Otago’s wine region firsthand.

Peregrine is the second-largest producer of pinot noir in Central Otago.

Peregrine is the second-largest producer of pinot noir in Central Otago.

Peregrine is the second-largest producer of pinot noir in Central Otago.

Peregrine is the second-largest producer of pinot noir in Central Otago.

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“It’s pretty unusual to see a bus at a cellar door in this part of the world,” says winemaker Grant Taylor, of Valli Wines (valliwine南京夜网). Based in Gibbston, Central Otago, a 20-minute drive from Queenstown, Taylor is considered one of the finest exponents of New Zealand pinot noir. “When I was born there wasn’t a grape planted on the southern island,” he says. Today, the area is one of the most respected wine regions in the new world.

Taylor cut his teeth in the Napa Valley, returning home in 1993, he planted 20 hectares of grapes. In the years since, he was won the “Best pinot noir” trophy at London’s International Wine Competition three times, a feat never previously achieved by another winemaker.

More recently, he has pioneered grape growing in North Otago, in an emerging subregion by the ocean, Waitaki. “It is much cooler over there, so it produces more perfumed wines, with lovely minerality and low alcohol,” Taylor says. “It is an area where winemakers went in too hard and too fast years ago, they mostly failed, and then disappeared,” he says. “Now it is being regenerated by already established winemakers, and we are growing pinot noir grapes there.”

In addition to his Waitaki pinot noir, Taylor produces a riesling, a pinot gris, and two other pinot noirs, from subregions within Central Otago – Gibbston and Bannockburn. “The pinot grapes from Bannockburn, where it is slightly warmer, are bigger on the palate,” Taylor says. “They have more tannin and are suited to steak and game meats,” he says. “The pinot grown here in Gibbston will cellar for 12 years, it’s spicy with some acid,” he says. “It’s the pinot that sommeliers buy from me.”

Sommeliers also buy wine from Duncan Forsyth. The winemaker’s unassuming cellar door, just down the road from Taylor’s, is a place of pilgrimage for aficionados. “We don’t have signage on the road, we want to be a point of discovery,” Forsyth says. “When people visit, we want to be able to sit down with them, to talk about what we do one-on-one, we don’t take bus groups,” he says.

Forsyth has been making wine in these parts since 1996. First, at Chard Farm – the first vineyard established in the area, then at Peregrine. He bought Mount Edward (mountedward.co.nz) in 2004 and has been making wine here since.

His wines are highly awarded, lauded for their restraint, and elegance. “Sunshine is everything,” Forsyth says. “Central Otago is a series of villages, each with a completely different microclimate – temperature and rainfall,” he says. “Combine that with wildly varying typography – forests, tussock covered hills, and soil that ranges from rocks and platelets of schist; to river rocks just 100 metres down the hill, and you have many subregions within Central Otago itself.”

These subregions each produce different styles of wine renowned for their individuality and particularly, their diverse minerality and aromatics. “A part of the appeal of living, and growing wine here is taking the rough with the smooth. There are no smoke and mirrors in these parts; you live with the forces of nature.”

Forsyth has been making his wines in a natural, organic way for the past seven years. “We intervene as little as possible with the natural process. If we do intervene, we have to have a very good reason.” The philosophy extends to the vineyard. Pigs, their new piglets, and cattle roam among the vines. “It doesn’t look like a golf course, there are flowers, sheep, chickens, pigs and cows, who are the best manure producers,” he says. “It’s a little bit like an episode of The Good Life making wine down here.”

Last year Forsyth produced just 88 cases of his Drumlin Vineyard riesling, 200 cases of his Mount Edward rosé and 4000 cases of pinot noir, he makes four different pinots using grapes grown across three different subregions. “We try to combine all the very best elements of a Central Otago pinot,” he says. “The aim is to make silky, pretty pinot noirs, with less richness than a traditional pinot from these parts.” Delicacy is the key, he says. “It is difficult to identify which vineyard a wine is from if it is too big, and too rich.”

Lighter style white wines from the region are also in fashion. “People love pinot gris,” Forsyth says. “It is an easy wine to understand; and a good entry-level wine for someone just becoming interested.” Taylor agrees. “Pinot gris has taken over from sauvignon blanc,” he says. “It is the wine people are asking for.”

“Pinot gris is our best-selling white,” says Roz Knox, of Peregrine Wines (peregrinewines.co.nz). Chardonnay is also attracting attention. “Seven or eight years ago we took out chardonnay grapes because chardonnay was out of favour,” she says. “We’ve recently replanted them.”

Peregrine Wines, was founded by winemaker Greg Hay, a local who started his career down the road at Chard Farm. Peregrine is the second-largest producer of pinot noir in Central Otago, making some 30,000 cases per year, and is a 100 per cent organic vineyard, Knox says. “We think it’s easier to be organic here than it is in most regions, we have very dry weather and low humidity, which makes us less susceptible to bugs.”

Knox leads the Peregrine Vine to Table experience. The two-hour tour; begins among the vines. “We take guests right through the winemaking process from seeing the grapes on the vine, and explaining how we grow them to when, and how, we’ll harvest them,” she says. From there, visitors are walked through the process of the fruit being turned into juice, placed in vats, and aged in barrels. The tour ends with a tasting of a number of varietals. Limited to eight visitors at a time, many guests elect to undertake the tour exclusively. “We like small groups,” Knox says. “We are a bus-free zone.” Go Otago

Central Otago

Queenstown is the gateway to New Zealand’s Central Otago wine region, and its many subregions. queenstownnz.co.nz

At a latitude of 45 degrees south, Central Otago is the southernmost wine-growing region in the world. Two hundred vineyards lie within a 90-minute drive from Queenstown, 80 with cellar doors. Daily direct flights depart from the east coast of Australia, just three hours away.

Central Otago comes to Sydney

If you can’t get to Queenstown this autumn, experience a taste of Queenstown at Bentley Restaurant & Bar, Sydney (thebentley南京夜网.au) in March, when wineries including Mount Edward, Peregrine, Valli, Amisfield, Gibbston Valley and Two Paddocks, will showcase their exceptional wines.

On Tuesday,  March 24, Bentley Restaurant and Bar will host an Urban Vineyard menu with matching Central Otago wines. Five-course menu with matching wines $175per person. Further information and bookings: [email protected]南京夜网.au

The article brought to you in association with Destination Queenstown.

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