Jean Desire Feraud is credited as being the first to produce wine near Alexandra in the 1880’s, despite the grape growing potential of the area, wine grapes were not commercially grown again until the 1970’s. Alan Brady at Gibbston Valley Winery produced the first Pinot Noir available in commercial quantities in 1987. Today, there are in excess of 2000 ha planted in wine grapes across Central Otago. In 2014, 10,000 tonnes of grapes were harvested for wine.
Within New Zealand, there are 10 major wine growing regions. Central Otago is New Zealand’s highest wine growing region with an almost continental climate where greater extremes in daily and seasonal temperatures exist compared with the other maritime regions. Central Otago has a dry climate with a rainfall of 350-800 mm/annum, which h is the driest climate in the world for growing Pinot Noir. The soil structure also varies from other wine growing regions in NZ, in that there are heavy deposits of mica and schists in silt loams and Pedogenic lime accumulations.
Central Otago is the world’s most southerly wine region at 45 S latitude. The cool climate not only produces some fabulous Pinot Noir but also stunning white wines. The hot summer days and chilly nights helps lengthen the growing season which enables the grapes to accumulate sugars slowly while retaining their acidity. This gives the wine a crisp, fresh taste.
Historical gold mining tailings near Alexandra with Leaning Rock atop the Dunstan Range.