Central Otago wine guide: The world's southernmost wine region
What's it like to make wine in the world's southernmost region, asks http://aroundtheworldin80harvests.com/ As wine journalist Amanda Barnes travels to 80 wine regions around the world, she interviews top winemakers in each region to paint a picture of what makes each region unique. In Central Otago she found a wine region with a rather special microclimate for 45 degrees south...
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I think Central Otago's a really special place. We are a long way south, one of the southernmost regions in the world. And so on paper it shouldn't really work, but somehow it does. The reason it works is a unique combination of things. So we have great protection from the big mountains all around us. And so it creates a small bubble of climate where you can successfully grow grapes. But if you move outside of that small area, the region is just gone over 2000 hectares only, then it is either too wet or too cold.
And what is the affinity that Central Otago has with Pinot Noir? Why is it a great Pinot land?
I think for Pinot Noir you really need to have a cool climate for it to excel. And we definitely have that here in Central Otago! The problem with a lot of cool climates is that when you go to find them they can tend to start to become wet climates and particularly in the Autumn, when you are waiting for that last degree of ripeness to occur. And in Central Otago we are the driest part of New Zealand with only 350mm of rain annually. And when we do get rain, it is always associated with wind. Being a small island in the middle of a southern ocean, it is always really windy here. So our threat of disease is extremely low. So we have very, very clean fruit that ripens in a cool climate. And with the dry climate and the low rainfall it is very conducive. We have a very, very low disease pressure. So it just makes sense to farm organically and biodynamically.
Why did people think you were crazy to be planting or working in Central Otago?
I'd read earlier articles and I'd hear about how the true pioneers - Alan Brady from Gibbston Valley, Rolfe Mills from Rippon, and Ann Pinckney from Taramea wines – how they were almost certifiably crazy thinking of planting grapes down here! It's much further south than any of the other of New Zealand's wine regions. Otago is known for being very, very cold and with cold winters, frost, snow. I think that the people criticising hadn't really looked overseas and looked at some places where wines were being grown, like in Germany and places in the Northern Hemisphere where it's -15 or -16 and they'll cover the vines up in the winter time. And here it's maybe -7 or -8. So it's beneficial. It's just a nice, cold winter!