Winestate Magazine

OTAGO Central Otago & Waitaki Valley



Central Otago (together with the Waitaki Valley, in North Otago) is New Zealand’s second best-known wine region – behind only Marlborough – on the world stage, but accounts for just five per cent of the country’s planted vineyard area. Its high profile reflects the eye-catching success of the region’s enticingly perfumed, increasingly complex and ageworthy pinot noirs.

After a warm spring, record mid-summer heat and a wet end to the season, 2018 yielded a record harvest in Central Otago, both in terms of crop size and early-ripening. The region’s 2018 whites and pinot noirs offer delicious, early drinking. The major finding of this tasting, however, was the outstanding quality of the reds from the low-cropping, very cool and late-ripening 2017 vintage.

These aren’t cheap wines (there’s nothing here, white or red, below $NZ20), but their overall standard was exceptional.

Prices shown are approximate New Zealand retail. Wines available in export markets are shown as (A) Australia; (UK) and (US).




Chardonnay trails pinot gris and riesling in Otago, in terms of its planted vineyard area, but the quality of the latest releases suggests chardonnay has a strong future in the deep south.

Brennan Gibbston Central Otago Chardonnay 2018

Full of youthful drive, this tightly structured, estate-grown wine was barrel-fermented and lees-aged. Bright, light yellow/green, it is full-bodied, with ripe stonefruit and toasty oak flavours, showing impressive complexity and depth, fresh acidity, and a finely balanced, lengthy finish. Best drinking 2021+. $33

Wild Earth Central Otago Chardonnay 2018

This extroverted but ageworthy wine was grown at Pisa and Bendigo - districts of the Cromwell Basin – and fermented with indigenous yeasts in French oak casks (15% new). Fragrant and full-bodied, it has strong, vibrant, peachy flavours, slightly toasty and creamy notes adding complexity, and fresh acidity. Already highly approachable, it should be at its best 2021+. $32

Carrick Bannockburn Central Otago Chardonnay 2017

Certified organic, this hand-picked wine was barrel-fermented with indigenous yeasts and

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