When people outside of New Zealand think about New Zealand wines, they often think about Sauvignon Blanc, which has taken the world by storm. It may be surprising to know that the first vintage of New Zealand wine to make an impact on the world was in 1977, when winemakers in Marlborough on the northern end of the South Island produced a vintage of such quality that money started to pour into New Zealand to start wineries all over the country.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, intrepid souls began to plant grapes in Central Otago, a region of New Zealand at around the 45th parallel (approximately equivalent to the southern parts of France), where Pinot Noir proved to be particularly successful, and are now beginning to compete with Sauvignon Blanc as the most commonly-planted variety in the country.
With Central Otago producing such excellent wines, some winemakers began to look at North Otago (around the Waitaki River) as a possible viticultural area, and in the late 1990s the first plantings were made. As it turns out, the soils of this area contain substantial deposits of limestone, which causes them to produce wines remarkably similar to those of another of the world’s great Pinot Noir regions — Burgundy. There are now a number of wineries based in the Waitaki district, and wineries from other parts of New Zealand are planting vines here to use in their winemaking elsewhere. The Waitaki region is now recognised as New Zealand’s newest wine appellation, producing extraordinary Pinot Noir, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewürtztraminer.
If you’re planning a visit to the Waitaki district, you can sample our region’s wines at several locations:
- Kurow Winery, Kurow (Tasting room with Kurow and Pasquale wines, along with a dining room; wine sales);
- The Vintner’s Drop, Kurow (Tasting room with all the Waitaki district’s wines, including Ostler; wine sales);
- Birdlands Wine Company, Oamaru (Tastings of all Waitaki wines; wine sales);
- Pen-y-bryn Lodge (Lodgings and dining featuring selected Waitaki wines);
- Loan and Merc (Dining featuring selected Waitaki wines);
- Riverstone Kitchen (Dining featuring selected Waitaki wines).