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Self-Guided Wine Tour of Central Otago New Zealand

Self-Guided Wine Tour of Central Otago New Zealand

Self-Guided Wine Tour of Central Otago, New Zealand

In this edition of our self-guided wine tours, we look at wine tour of Central Otago options (or, if you are a fan of The Lord of the Rings… the land of Rohan!)

Some of the best Pinot Noir in the world, as well as remarkable, vivid white wines, can be found in this stunning region, which also boasts a sophisticated tourist industry. With the varied hilly terrain providing each with a different temperature, aspect, and altitude, all of the major wine-growing sub-regions are easily accessible. In the many sub-regions of Central Otago, Pinot Noir thrives and is produced in a wide range of beautiful expressions. Additionally, the area is recognized for producing top-notch Chardonnay and Aromatics. The region won its first Gold Medal for “Burgundy” in Sydney in 1881, according to its historical reputation as being “pre-eminently ideal” for winemaking.


Large mountains, scenic lakes, and stunning skies may be found in Central Otago, the southernmost wine area of New Zealand. Any time of year is a good time to explore Central Otago due to its easy access via Queenstown Airport. After a day on the slopes, cozy up to the fire with a glass of Pinot Noir, or ride your bike to the wineries in the summer for a well-deserved treat.

A view of the Central Otago wine region

A view of the Central Otago wine region

What is the Overview of Central Otago New Zealand?

On the southernmost tip of New Zealand’s South Island sits the Central Otago wine region, which produces the country’s finest wines. One of the southernmost wine-producing regions in the world is Central Otago. Not only are the Otago wines from the Central Otago wine region highly recognized but also the region’s breathtakingly beautiful scenery. Mountains with snow-capped summits, rivers, and valleys make up the Central Otago wine region’s topography. The Central Otago wine area produces wines that are distinct from those made in other parts of New Zealand due to its distinctive semi-continental climate. Excellent Pinot Noir wines can be produced in this environment because of their ideal climate. For anyone who enjoys both wine and nature, the Central Otago wine region is the ideal destination.

What is the Best Time to Visit Central Otago New Zealand?

Any season is a fantastic time to explore Central Otago because it is easily accessible through Queenstown Airport.

Central Otago Map

What is the History of Central Otago New Zealand?

Romeo Bragato, an Italian viticulture specialist who was evaluating the prospects for wine growing throughout New Zealand, made a speech to the Chamber of Commerce of Otago on May 2, 1895, persuading his audience that Central Otago was the best location for growing wine grapes. He was astounded by how well Burgundy-type grapes thrived in this area.

It would take almost additional 100 years before anyone in business was willing to make a serious attempt. The pioneers of the early 1980s and 1990s were undoubtedly up to the task. Due to their common love of the area, Alan Brady Gibbston Valley, Rolfe Mills Rippon, Verdun Burgess Black Ridge, Ann Pinckney Taramea, and a brave few more untrained individuals were driven to try something new. The business owes a great deal to these first-generation pioneer winemakers who fought valiantly against challenging circumstances to develop a budding industry and helped it earn recognition in the global arena in the mid-1990s.

The region is increasingly being renowned in wine awards and food service networks around the world thanks to the second generation of investors and winemakers who have introduced international talents to the area. The region benefits from a sizable, well-established tourism business, whose Queenstown gateway offers travelers one of the most picturesque grape excursions in the entire globe.

What are the Subregions to Visit on a Wine Tour of Central Otago?

There are six wine sub-regions in Central Otago. It might be hard to do all of them on a self-guided tour, but you can certainly try!

  1. Gibbston

Gibbston is the highest sub-region, located east of Queenstown along the breathtaking Kawarau Gorge. Gibbston’s colder climate and north-facing hillside vines ripen later than those in neighboring sub-regions, producing lighter but still strong wines.

  1. Bannockburn

The vineyards are located in one of the warmest and driest areas of the area, on the south bank of the Kawarau River, at the southern end of the Cromwell Valley. The wines produced are extremely distinctive and nuanced, and harvest can occur up to a month earlier than in other sub-regions.

  1. Pisa, Lowburn, and Cromwell

This region is situated on the western shore of Lake Dunstan, about 25 kilometers north of Cromwell Township. The majority of plantings are located on the valley floor and lower terraces that run parallel to the Pisa mountain range, which produces attractive wines.

  1. Bendigo

Bendigo, which is northeast of Cromwell, features gently sloping north-facing slopes covered in vineyards. Huge crops made on stony soils are able to withstand the harsh winters and scorching summers.

  1. Wanaka

Beautiful Wanaka is located 80 kilometers north of Queenstown and is a little bit cooler and wetter than the rest of the area. The lake offers welcome reflected sunlight and reduces frost, resulting in delicate and vibrant wines.

  1. Alexandra

The climate is dry and can be harsh in both the summer and the winter in this most southern sub-region. Up to harvest, there were noticeable daily climate changes that resulted in intensely varietal, fragrant and finely structured wines.

What are the Best Wine Grapes Grown in Central Otago?

With almost 80% of plantings, Pinot Noir is the dominant grape variety in Central Otago. Although Pinot Gris ranks second in terms of plantings, Central Otago also makes some stunning other cold-climate wines, including Chardonnay, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc.

If you are doing a self-guided tour of Central Otago, you might want to expect mainly Pinot Noir unless you call ahead and determine what other wines a given winery produces or is pouring in their tasting room.

What are Historical Sites in Central Otago?

The following are some of the best historical sites you should visit in Central Otago:

  1. Cromwell Heritage Precinct

The best-kept secret in Central Otago, this free tourist attraction has something for everyone. Cromwell’s main street vanished beneath Lake Dunstan after the Clyde dam was finished in 1990. The Cromwell Heritage Precinct is made up of some of the old structures from the 1860s gold rush that were carefully preserved or rebuilt on a higher level. Take a trip back in time to the gold rush as you explore historic structures on the bank of lovely Lake Dunstan, many of which are home to artisan businesses.

  1. Shaky Bridge

This suspension bridge was previously used by wagons and horses, but it is now just for people. Prior to its construction, punting was the only means of crossing the Manuherikia River, which might be dangerous when the river was high. The bridge was constructed in 1879 at a cost of £974 ($1,949), and two settlers who lived across the river later purchased it for $1 ($2) each. A specially constituted group eventually rebuilt the bridge after it had fallen into disrepair. The bridge was currently only wide enough for foot traffic.

  1. Historic Mitchells Cottage

Mitchells Cottage, which is recognized as a Category I Historic site, is a superb illustration of craftsmanship. It is one of New Zealand’s best remaining examples of the stonemason’s trade. For his brother John and sister-in-law Jessie, gold miner Andrew Mitchell erected it. Using local stone and the stone masonry skills he had learned from his father back home in the Shetland Islands, Andrew started the project in 1880 and erected the cottage. Additionally, Andrew constructed a number of other structures in the Fruitlands neighborhood, once known as Speargrass Flat and then Bald Hill Flat.

  1. Alexandra Bridges

The historic and modern bridges that span the Clutha River in Alexandra, New Zealand, are collectively referred to as the “Alexandria Bridges.” The Clutha River/Mata-au River and the Manuherikia River converge here, where the bridges are located.

What are the Best Wineries?

  1. Grey Ridge Vineyard and Accommodation

Grey Ridge is a small vineyard with lodging in Alexandra, Central Otago, and has breathtaking views of the highlands beyond the estate. They provide casual wine tastings, bottle sales from the Cellar Door, wine by the glass, and platters at Grey Ridge. Only Pinot Noir vines are present in the vineyard, and they produce four distinct wines from them: a White Pinot Noir, a Pinot Rosé, and two traditional Pinot Noirs.

  1. Weaver Estate Wines

Weaver Estate Wines

Weaver Estate Wines

Weaver Estate Wines is a family-run vineyard with 4 acres in the Alexandra Basin in Central Otago. They have planted the Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Blanc grape varietals in an effort to make the greatest quality wines possible. Additionally, they make Pinot Noir Rose and Autumn Gris (a unique orange wine). The winemakers are Jess Weaver and Kilian, who work together. It is open every day from September until Easter.

  1. Black Ridge Vineyard

Black Ridge, which was established in 1981, was one of the earliest grape growers in the Central Otago region and is renowned for having one of the world’s southernmost vineyards and wineries. They are a tiny boutique vineyard and winery located in Conroys Gully, which has hills and rocky outcrops covered in thyme and overlooks the Alexandra basin. Nine hectares of vines are planted throughout the distinctive rocky landscape. They produce wines with particular terroir-based characters because some of them, like Pinot Noir, is almost 40 years old.

Where Should I Eat in Central Otago New Zealand?

  1. Bannockburn Hotel – Wine Country Restaurant and Bar

Just across the bridge from Cromwell, a vibrant hamlet in Central Otago, is the Bannockburn Hotel – Wine Country Restaurant. The hotel enjoys views of some of the world’s most beautiful wineries, landscapes, and mountain settings. They have survived the 1860s Gold Rush, Chinese villages that came and went floods in the valley, and the construction of dams while still providing excellent food and wine.

  1. Armando’s Kitchen

They take great delight in serving high-quality, regionally-sourced food at Armando’s Kitchen Italian Cafe. The cuisine of Armando, who is from Northern Italy, contains European influences. Before moving to New Zealand in 2009, he spent many years working as a chef in London. He became the chef-owner of Armando’s Kitchen in the spring of 2011 and has loved the incredible community support throughout the last few years.

Where Should I Stay in Central Otago New Zealand?

  1. Pitches Store

Pitches Store offers luxurious lodging with all the charm and unique amenities you desire in the small, historic gold-mining town of Ophir in New Zealand’s Central Otago. This location is ideal for visitors on the Otago Central Rail Trail, foodies, romantic getaways, and business travelers. With six rooms and a restaurant on-site, this accommodation in Central Otago elegantly combines modern comfort with nods to its special 135-year history.

  1. Wisteria Lodge – Close to Lake and Cromwell Old Town

37 kilometers from the Kawarau Suspension Bridge, Wisteria Lodge – Close to Lake and Cromwell Old Town provides lodging in Cromwell. The hotel offers free WiFi and on-site private parking for guests and is 1.4 kilometers from the Central Otago District Council. Three bedrooms, a kitchen with a dishwasher and a microwave, and two bathrooms with showers, hair dryers, and washing machines are all included in the holiday home’s amenities.

  1. Cromwell Safari Bach

This detached vacation property is located in Cromwell, Central Otago, 2 kilometers from Highlands Motorsport Park. 800 meters separate Cromwell Safari Bach from Quartz Reef Wines Cellar Door, 3.4 kilometers separate Scott Base Vineyard and the Wooing Tree Vineyard, and 10 kilometers separate Carrick Wines and Mt Difficulty Wines. There is free WiFi and private parking available. A kitchen, dining, and living space are all open to one another. In this vacation home, there are towels and bed linens available. Golf, racing, jet boating, and beautiful helicopter trips are all popular in the area. 50 kilometers away from the property, Queenstown Airport is the closest airport.

How Can I Save Money in Central Otago New Zealand?

Given that there are numerous wineries, restaurants, and accommodations within the same locality, it is good to select your destination within close proximity to avoid unnecessary traveling. This will help you save money.

Additionally, you might want to plan to focus your efforts on either the North or South Island of New Zealand to minimize travel time–especially if a wine tour of Central Otago is your primary goal.

Wine Tours of Central Otago Final Thoughts

There is still gold to be found here from the 1860s among the remnants of the mine’s machinery, stone houses, and ancient mine trails. But in Central Otago today, wine is the real gold. The most erratic grape variety, Pinot Noir, thrives in these southernmost vineyards, and the majority of the wineries provide tours and tastings. Many tourists to Central Otago rent a motorhome or a mountain bike to tour the area at their own pace. In this manner, you can visit some of the area’s more distant locations, sample the regional cuisine, and take in the breathtaking landscape that you frequently will have to yourself.

The vibe: Three of New Zealand’s Great Rides, award-winning vineyards, the history of the gold rush, and striking landscapes can all be found in Central Otago.


  • Wine Tourism’s official website

Want to read more on wine tours of Central Otago? Try these books!

The wines of New Zealand (Classic Wine Library) Port Wine Portugal- Demarcated Region of the Douro Valley in Portugal (Food & Beverage European Culture- Exploring the Culinary Traditions of...

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