There's more to Central Otago wine than pinot noir

by Michael Cooper / 09 March, 2018

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The outstanding quality of Central Otago's white wines is underappreciated.

With just 5% of the country’s total vineyard area, Central Otago is one of New Zealand’s smaller wine regions, but it enjoys a big international reputation for its softly mouthfilling, fruit-crammed, hard-to-resist pinot noirs.

From Wanaka to Alexandra, pinot noir dominates plantings, accounting for more than 75% of the vines. But there’s a lot more to Central Otago’s output than pinot noir. 

Riesling

Ceres Black Rabbit Bannockburn Central Otago Riesling 2017 •••••

This delicious Bannockburn wine was made in a medium-sweet style. Richly scented and light-bodied (10.5% alc/vol), it is lively, intense and racy, with penetrating, lemony, appley, slightly peachy flavours. $28

Gibbston Valley GV Collection Central Otago Riesling 2017 ••••

Still youthful, this single-vineyard wine was grown at Bendigo. Mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol), it has citrusy, appley flavours, lively acidity, a dryish feel, good balance, delicacy and depth. $28

Maude Mt Maude Vineyard Wanaka Dry Riesling 2016 •••••

This richly scented, medium-bodied wine (12.5% alc/vol) is refined, intense and minerally, with just a hint of sweetness, mouth-watering acidity and deep lemon, apple and spice flavours. $32

Pinot gris

Lake Hayes Central Otago Pinot Gris 2017 ••••

From Amisfield, this is a full-bodied wine (13.5% alc/vol), invitingly scented. Vibrantly fruity, it’s an off-dry style, with lively acidity woven through its strong, fresh pear, lychee and spice flavours. $20

Ostler Lakeside Vines Waitaki Valley Pinot Gris 2016 ••••½

An impressive wine that was grown in North Otago. Made in an off-dry style, it is sturdy (14.5% alc/vol), with strong pear and lychee flavours, hints of peaches, ginger and spices and a well-rounded finish. $29

Pinot blanc

Ted by Mount Edward Central Otago Pinot Blanc 2016 ••••½

From Mount Edward winery, this weighty (14% alc/vol), finely textured white has vibrant, subtle grapefruit and peach flavours, showing excellent depth, with mealy and biscuity notes adding complexity, and a dry finish. $25

Chardonnay

Carrick Bannockburn Central Otago Chardonnay 2016 ••••½

Certified organic, this barrel-fermented wine is tightly structured, with substantial body (14% alc/vol) and fresh, ripe, citrusy flavours. Concentrated, with gentle mealy, toasty notes adding complexity, it shows obvious potential. $38

Domain Road Defiance Vineyard Central Otago Chardonnay 2015 ••••

This single-vineyard Bannockburn wine was barrel-fermented. Still youthful, it has mouthfilling body (14% alc/vol) and vibrant, citrusy, slightly peachy and biscuity flavours, showing considerable complexity. $28

Felton Road Bannockburn Central Otago Chardonnay 2016 ••••½

A classy, distinctive wine that was aged in French oak barriques. Full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol), it has vibrant, subtle, grapefruit-like flavours, slightly biscuity notes adding complexity, and a long, harmonious finish. $47

Chenin blanc

Mt Difficulty Single Vineyard Long Gully Bannockburn Chenin Blanc 2016 •••••

This is a lovely wine – rich, vibrantly fruity and finely poised. Full-bodied (14% alc/vol), it has fresh, intense fruit flavours, hints of spices and honey, a splash of sweetness, mouth-watering acidity and a lasting finish. $30

Sweet white

Loop Rd Central Otago Noble Riesling 2016 •••••

From Quartz Reef winery, this sweet riesling is hard to resist. Ravishingly scented, it is medium-bodied (11.5% alc/vol), with a lovely surge of citrusy, honeyed flavours, and shows delicious vibrancy, poise and length. $32 (375ml)

Rosé

Bannock Brae Central Otago Cathy’s Rosé 2017 •••••

This softly seductive wine was made from pinot noir. Bright pink, it is fragrant and full-bodied (13% alc/vol), with lovely delicacy and depth of strawberry and watermelon flavours, hints of peaches and spices, and a basically dry, lasting finish. $25

Pinot noir

Akarua Bannockburn Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016 •••••

A lovely young red that is enticingly perfumed. Ruby hued, it is mouthfilling (14% alc/vol) and sweet-fruited, with vibrant, cherryish, plummy, spicy flavours, integrated oak and velvety tannins. $42

Aurum Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016 ••••½

Estate-grown in the Cromwell Basin, this is a generous, savoury, supple red, with mouthfilling body (13.5% alc/vol) and ripe cherry, plum and spice flavours, showing good complexity. Certified organic. $38

Bald Hills 3 Acres Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016 ••••

This youthful red was estate-grown at Bannockburn. Bright ruby, it is mouthfilling (13% alc/vol) and vibrantly fruity, with fresh cherry, plum and spice flavours, well-integrated oak and good complexity and depth. $35

Chard Farm The Tiger Lowburn Central Otago Pinot Noir 2014 ••••½

This single-vineyard red was estate-grown in the Cromwell Basin. It is a ruby-hued, elegant, silky-textured wine, full-bodied (13.8% alc/vol), with concentrated cherry, plum and spice flavours, showing excellent delicacy and complexity. $69

Grasshopper Rock Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016 •••••

This estate-grown, barrel-aged Alexandra red is great value. Richly perfumed, it is mouthfilling (13.3% alc/vol), with concentrated, youthful cherry, plum, spice and nut flavours, complex and savoury. $35

Kuru Kuru Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016 ••••½

This Bendigo red should age gracefully. Full ruby, it is mouthfilling (14% alc/vol), with strong, ripe cherry, plum, spice and nut flavours, savoury and complex, and a smooth, sustained finish. $40

Maori Point Reserve Central Otago Pinot Noir 2014 •••••

Grown at Tarras, this fragrant, velvety red is barrel-selected. It is a full-bodied (14% alc/vol), harmonious, “complete” red, currently delicious, with deep savoury and lingering ripe plum, cherry and nut flavours. $64

Misha’s Vineyard The High Note Central Otago Pinot Noir 2014 •••••

A Bendigo red that is delicious now. Full-bodied (14% alc/vol), it has strong plum, cherry, spice and nut flavours, showing excellent complexity and harmony, and a finely textured, lasting finish. $45

Peregrine Central Otago Pinot Noir 2015 •••••

This classy red was grown mostly in the Cromwell Basin. Deep ruby, with a fragrant, savoury bouquet, it is mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol), with youthful cherry, plum, spice and dried-herb flavours, complex, smooth and long. $45.

Rendition Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016 ••••½

This new label offers an enticing blend of richness and early approachability. Barrel-matured, it is sturdy (14% alc/vol), with generous, plummy, slightly spicy flavours, savoury notes adding complexity, and a smooth finish. $44

Rockburn Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016 ••••½

This is a perfumed, softly structured blend of Cromwell Basin (mostly) and Gibbston fruit. Full-coloured, with substantial body (14% alc/vol) and generous, vibrant cherry, plum and spice flavours, it’s delicious young. $45

Rock Ferry 3rd Rock Central Otago Pinot Noir 2014 •••••

Estate-grown at a high-altitude site at Bendigo, this barrel-aged red is certified organic. Deep in colour, it is mouthfilling (14% alc/vol), with rich, vibrant cherry, plum and dried-herb flavours, showing excellent complexity, and a firm finish. $45

Rocky Point Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016 ••••½

From Prophet’s Rock, this great-value red was matured in French oak casks. Deeply coloured, it is mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol), with generous, ripe, plummy, gently spicy flavours, savoury notes adding complexity and a well-rounded finish. $28

Valli Waitaki Vineyard North Otago Pinot Noir 2016 •••••

Weighty and supple, this is one of the most satisfying reds yet from North Otago. Deep ruby, it is floral and full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol), with generous, vibrant cherry, plum, dried-herb and spice flavours, fresh acidity and velvety tannins. $65

Wooing Tree Beetle Juice Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016 ••••

This good-value, barrel-aged Cromwell red is floral, mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol) and smooth, with vibrant cherry, plum, spice and dried-herb flavours, showing good complexity and harmony. $28

This article was first published in the February 17, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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