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Central Otago Wine Region

World’s Best Pinot Noir Wines from Central Otago

The Central Otago of New Zealand, which can be otherwise referred as the world’s southernmost wine region, is very popular for some of the world’s best Pinot Noir wines.

I am not denying the fact that this wine region is also famous for several of its white wine varietals.

But, the Pinot Noir grape variety has proven itself in the challenging terroir of Central Otago.
Lying near the bottom of the island country, this region has its vineyards clinging to the sides of the mountains and higher above the river gorges.

Wine grape varieties

Let’s have a look at the Pinot Noir wines, as well as some other important varietals of this region here…

A Look at the Central Otago’s Viticultural Zone

The viticultural zone of Central Otago is covering the mountainous region around the Queenstown.

It is to be noted here that the exact boundaries, as well as the sub-regions of Central Otago, are not officially declared, but just the geographical indications.

In the whole Central Otago wine region, we can find the wineries having scattered around the following important sub-regions:

  • Gibbston
  • Alexandra
  • Wanaka
  • Cromwell Basin
  • Bendigo
  • Bannockburn
  • Lowburn

The terroirs of all these subregions are contributed by rivers and lakes of the Central Otago. As mentioned earlier, Pinot noir variety is found to be performing well in the challenging terroirs of Central Otago and is taking up to three-fourth of the region’s total vineyard area.

Pinot Noir – the Flagship Grape Variety

Are you wondering why Pinot Noir is continuing to dominate in the Central Otago region? The reason is quite simple.

It appears that this variety requires only a small number of key requirements. A narrow range of heat summation (850-1100) during the growing season in Central Otago appears to be more favorable for Pinot noir.

Also, the large diurnal shifts, that is, hot days and cool nights, are favoring the development of flavor complexity. In addition to these, hang time and longer, cooler, and drier autumns appear to enhance the Pinot noirs pretty well.

The microclimate here is ripening the fruit which would then cool off and let it hang for a short duration. This appears to add the much-needed depth to the Pinot Noir wines.

Moreover, as Pinot Noir is much susceptible to Botrytis, lower amounts of humidity and rainfall experienced by the Central Otago during the autumns is favoring these vines to a greater extent.

Apart from all these, there is another important factor which favors the growth of Pinot noir, which is soil. The soils of Central Otago are free draining as they are containing heavy loess interspersed with gravels.

Therefore, the roots would have heavy soil with lots of mineral contents, but with less organic matter thus favoring the Pinot noirs very well.

We can say that all the above-mentioned factors put together are responsible for the popularity of world’s best Pinot noirs from Central Otago. But, it is to be noted here that, although the key requirements for Pinot noir are not many, we cannot find any other region like Central Otago in the Southern Hemisphere that is perfectly suitable for the Pinot noir cultivation.

A typical Pinot Noir from Central Otago would be more intense with deep color and would give the flavors of plum, sweet spice, and bramble to the wines.

Other Grape Varieties of Central Otago:

The remaining part of Central Otago’s viticultural zone is concentrated towards the cultivation of the following grape varieties:

  • Chardonnay
  • Sauvignon blanc
  • Riesling
  • Pinot Gris
  • Gewürztraminer

Sparkling Wines from Central Otago:

In the Central Otago, the sparkling wines are being produced following the méthode traditionnelle style. In these wines again, the Pinot noir and Chardonnay grape varieties will be taking the lead role.

Alcohol and Distilleries



Tharani Rajamanickam

Tharani Rajamanickam


I am Tharani, I have Bachelors degree in Biotechnology. I am passionate about the wine industry and continue to explore, learn and share and I bring in a wealth of knowledge and expertise to help you keep updated with best wines in the world. Stay tuned..

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