Bungy jumping, white water rafting and jet boating through the Shotover Gorge – 3 reasons for visiting Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island. But regular Bristol Wine Blog readers won’t be surprised to hear that we avoided all three during our recent visit! Instead, we took in the spectacular countryside while visiting some of the most southerly vineyards in the world: those of the Central Otago region.
As with Martinborough (see my previous blog), Central Otago specialises in Pinot Noir, but the two regions couldn’t be more different. No chance here of walking round all the vineyards in a day or so; the 80 plus estates shown on the very informative wine map are spread over more than 100km (60 miles) of wonderfully scenic (but very twisty) roads. So we were grateful to spend our time with Lance of Queenstown Wine Trial (www.queenstownwinetrail.co.nz) who guided us around, all the time sharing his infectious enthusiasm and vast local knowledge.
The Central Otago wine region is as diverse as, say, Bordeaux or the Loire. Its steep hills and deep gorges give a range of different aspects and micro-climates leading to identifiably different flavours. The Chard Farm and Gibbston Valley estates, for example, have their vineyards on the slopes and terraces of the spectacular Kawarau Gorge (the home of bungy jumping). Their Pinot Noirs, in particular, have a delicious spicy, savoury character we didn’t find elsewhere.
Continuing further east, we were just in time for a lunch stop at Wild Earth, one of many vineyards in the area with an excellent restaurant. Their beautifully presented food and wine matching platter included some pairings I wouldn’t have thought of, not least a hare confit with a dry Pinot Gris. But full marks to them as the combination worked perfectly.
The main centre of Central Otago production is around the Cromwell and Bannockburn area, home to such famous names as Felton Road and Mt Difficulty. We visited the latter where the stunning view from their terrace (pictured above) provided a great backdrop for some delightful wines including a Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay as well as a pair of excellent Pinot Noirs.
And then we had to turn for home. No time to visit the less well-known vineyards around Alexandra, to the south-east or Wanaka, to the north. But dinner at Amisfield Winery and Bistro, who hosted William and Kate a week after us, really was too good to be late for.