Things To Do > Vineyards
Central Otago is a spectacular setting for vineyards - rugged mountains, beautiful lakes and deep river gorges - this unique terroir is world renowned for producing premium quality wines, especially Pinot Noir.
There is a long history of winemaking with the region’s industry pioneered in Clyde in 1895 by French immigrant Jean Desire Feraud. His Monte Christo wines won wide recognition.
The Alexandra Basin, with over 20 producers, lies below the southern 45th parallel and to the south of all other Central Otago sub-regions. This unique spot on the globe creates New Zealand's only continentally influenced wine growing region, providing a challenging, yet very rewarding, grape growing environment. Start at Clyde (numerous options for cycle hire available) and enjoy a day of cycling, wine tasting and a picnic somewhere along the way – a great way to experience the region and its wines. Pick up an Alexandra Basin Wine Map to see the location of all of our vineyards and producers, together with notes on the region. We can assist with arranging.
Within 30 minutes of Clyde we have a number of other well-known sub-regions. Take a guided tour or an independent drive through these areas visiting the vineyards and tasting Central Otago’s distinctive wines. We have wine maps and can assist with arranging a guided wine tour.
Bannockburn on the southern banks of the Kawarau near Cromwell is a very warm, dry district where grapes ripen early on sandy, silty loam soils. The altitude here ranges from 220 to 370 metres in an area known by miners as “the Heart of the Desert”.
The Cromwell Basin contains the largest concentration of vines in an area bounded by the Kawarau River, Lake Dunstan and the Pisa mountain range. It is a warm, early ripening district dominated by semi-arid, flat to undulating high terraces and moraines and gently sloping fans.
Bendigo, lying east of the Clutha River and Lake Dunstan, has both intermediate (220 metres) and higher terraces (330 to 350) planted in grapes. This warm area has semi-arid, variable depth, free draining soils at the lower levels with shallower soils higher up.
The Central Otago Wine Region (Source – COWA)
Terroir: The parts of the land where grapes are grown lie mainly within the semi-arid inland basins of the region and typically experience hot summers, cold winters and long dry autumns. These inland basins are part of a succession of mountains and valley floors, of old river terraces, scarps and fans. Those qualities of landscape, soil, climate and aspect combine to form a unique Central topoclimate.
Temperature: Central Otago has a distinctive semi-continental climate, found nowhere else in New Zealand. It is one of the hottest, coldest and driest regions in New Zealand. The highest recorded maximum temperature is 38.7 degrees Celsius and the lowest –21.6 degrees.
Rainfall: The Alexandra Basin has recorded the lowest annual rainfall in New Zealand - 211mm. Rainfall is spread fairly evenly during the year with a winter minimum and a summer maximum. High evapotranspiration largely negates this and severe soil moisture deficits develop during the October to April growing season. Humidity is low being about 65% in the morning falling to 30% in the afternoon.
Wind: Wind in the valley floors is strongly influenced by the surrounding mountains and tends to be northeast or southwest. Winters are calm and spring and early summer are windy.
Soils: Central Otago soils are moderately old (often windblown loess) formed over successive ice ages as the glaciers ground schist rocks to a fine flour. Layers of loess at various depths are interspersed with river gravels with the addition of sandier soils formed by water erosion. The low rainfall keeps leaching effects low so there is a good level of minerality present but low levels of organic matter.
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