Despite the fact that New Zealand has really only been producing wine for export for around twenty years, some regions have already become world-renowned for the quality of their output. Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough and Pinot Noir from Central Otago have both earned well-deserved reputations, and command high prices in the wine shops of the world. On the North Island, Hawkes Bay produces excellent Syrah (aka Shiraz across the ditch), Cabernet Sauvignon, and Viognier, which also have become sought after by wine lovers around the world.
The beautiful Waitaki Valley, located just up the road from Oamaru, is New Zealand’s newest wine-producing area, or appellation, having been planted within the last ten years or so. But already this region, which is distinguished by cool winters and warm summers, has begun to draw attention for the extraordinary quality of its wines. In particular, Ostler Wines, founded by Dr Jim Jerram and his brother-in-law Jeff Sinnott in 1998, has won a number of awards for its wines, for their exceptional Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Pinot Noir. Most recently, Australian Gourmet Traveller Wine awarded their Audrey’s Pinot Gris 95 points. Ostler has recently released a new rose wine that looks set to bring them even more acclaim.
Waitaki Valley is also home to multiple-award winner Kurow Village and Pasquale wineries, the former producing a wide range of approachable wines that run the gamut from Riesling and Pinot Gris to several Pinot Noirs, and the latter producing a premium range that includes Italian-style Pinot Grigio and Gewurtztraminer, and even a Limoncello made from owner Antonio Pasquale’s lemons grown on the North Island.
The wines of the Waitaki can be sampled at the Vintner’s Drop, a tasting room set up by Jim Jerram in the village of Kurow along the Waitaki Valley, or at Birdlands Wine Bar in Oamaru’s Historic Precinct, as well as at Pen-y-bryn Lodge.