Scouting Central Otago Wines

People are drawn to New Zealand for the natural beauty and the adventure that awaits them.  As an added bonus, the appeal of local Kiwi food and drink is something else to enjoy whilst visiting.  This sector of New Zealand tourism has been growing steadily and become better-known over the past 20 years; particularly the wine industry.  Several key regions are becoming household names in the wine world: Marlborough, Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne and Central Otago are among the most recognized.

The Central Otago region is a farmer’s dream.  It has a continental climate and boasts incredibly fertile soil.  Finicky crops can thrive in the region.  Now, I’m no oenophile, but I do appreciate quality and good taste, both of which are factors that can be encountered sampling the wines produced in the Central Otago region. For vineyard owners, the bulk of productivity from the region comes from the Pinot Noir grape, but you can also find other varietals such as Pinot Gris and Riesling.

While traversing the region you can stop at several vineyards to brighten up an afternoon drive with a wine break (as long as you’re not driving).  If you take part in a tasting, expect to pay 5 NZD for a 3 glass sample.  There are some vineyards that are milking the tourist industry for all its worth and have set up elaborate tasting halls and adjacent restaurants that are ready to receive busloads of tourists.  The two vineyards I visited in the region were the antithesis of this.  Both were small operations where we got to know the producers as well as the wine.

The first vineyard I visited was Swallow’s Crossing, found on the way between Wanaka and Queenstown.  This is a mom and pop vineyard making small batches of top quality wine.  We were greeted first by friendly dogs as the owners came trailing behind them.  In the homey tasting room  we sat down to learn about the story behind the bottle. I loved their Pinot Noir, it was delightfully light and didn’t need heavy meals to pair with it; an eaters’ wine.  The Pinot Gris was bright and crisp and although, I’m not a fan of sweet wine, I found myself being talked into sampling (and enjoying) the Riesling which was not too sweet.

On another equally beautiful New Zealand spring.  I found myself (by accident) at Stoneridge Estate, on the outskirts of Queenstown.  Stoneridge is a stunning property which functions as luxury accommodation, special events venue and boutique vineyard.  They produce Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Rosé and, although this isn’t their main business, we were welcomed to come in and try their wines.  The tasting couldn’t have been more atmospheric.  You enjoy the wines while looking down over Lake Hayes and strolling around the perfectly manicured gardens and grounds.

New Zealand Wine (5)

The wines in New Zealand have everything going for them; climate, fertile land, and dedicated producers.  If you find yourself in Central Otago, or anywhere in New Zealand, treat yourself  after a tiring day of adventuring with some local wine, fruit, and maybe some cheese.

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