Finding the best wine experiences around Queenstown
Pinot Noir and Queenstown. It’s a match made in heaven.
Some of the most spectacular vineyards in New Zealand are found on the outskirts of Queenstown. Producing world-class wines and offering spectacular restaurants and cellar doors, we encourage... no, we insist you take the time to sample some local delicacies during your Queenstown holiday.
Thanks to its unique climate, Central Otago boasts its very own ‘terroir’. The distinctive flavour of the local landscape that is infused into the flavour of locally grown grapes. Mountain ranges, lakes and river gorges combine to not only make some very impressive scenery, but also some pretty impressive wines.
WHAT MAKES CENTRAL OTAGO WINES SO DISTINCT?
Here in Central Otago, we experience the coldest, the driest and the hottest temperatures in the country. Wine-growing areas close to Queenstown like Bannockburn and Cromwell are basically a semi-arid landscape. While this might sound like a tough climate to survive in, for the grapes, it’s just about perfect.
Hot summers, cold winters and long dry autumns combine to create a kind of perfect storm of soil, seasons and climate.
Queenstown is situated at a latitude of 45° south. If you were to travel into the same latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere, you’d be in places like Burgundy, France (we hear they’re not bad at making wine either). While Central Otago is prone to the occasional frost, local growers get inventive to protect their precious grapes. On a cold night before frosts strike, vineyards fire up helicopters or giant frost fans to keep the chill away.
THE FLAVOURS OF CENTRAL OTAGO WINES
Just 30 minutes from central Queenstown, you’ll find some of the region’s most picturesque vineyards like Amisfield in Arrowtown or Chard Farm. A little further down the road you’ll find the bulk of Queenstown’s local wineries in Gibbston Valley. No serious wine aficionado should visit Queenstown without making the journey to Gibbston Valley, the ‘valley of the vines’.
Another 30 minutes down the road and you’re in the Cromwell Basin, which offers an exceptional range of vineyards scattered throughout Bannockburn, Lowburn, Pisa and Bendigo.
Many of these vineyards offer a cellar door open to the public, although some are by appointment only. There are a number of vineyards with restaurants, offering the perfect way to spend a lazy afternoon. Just make sure you check ahead before heading out and book a table for lunch, particularly during the peak summer months. The Cromwell/Bannockburn area represents around 70% of all the vineyards in Central Otago, making it easy to spend a whole day here.
More than 85% of the grapes grown throughout Central Otago are the Pinot Noir variety, the rest is made up of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Riesling. If you visit Queenstown between April and May you’ll hit harvest time when vineyards are busy picking and crushing grapes.
WHERE TO GO – WINE EXPERIENCES THAT ARE UNIQUELY QUEENSTOWN
Best spot for lunch - Mt Difficulty, Bannockburn Situated in spectacular surrounds overlooking its Bannockburn vineyard, Mt Difficulty boasts a superb restaurant that matches its superb Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.
Most impressive building - Peregrine, Gibbston Valley This winery makes the list for the impressive architecture of its cellar door. The building represents a Peregrine (falcon) in flight and is a cellar door worth stopping for (as well as their Chardonnay).
Easiest way to laze away an entire afternoon - Amisfield, Lake Hayes Queenstown’s closest winery sits in a plum position overlooking Lake Hayes. With stunning Central Otago architecture and a sunny outdoor courtyard restaurant, this is a hard place to leave. Amisfield’s ‘Trust the Chef’ menu is not to be missed.
Most scenic vineyard - Rippon Vineyard, Wanaka Rippon is famous for being New Zealand’s most photographed winery (and for good reason). Overlooking Lake Wanaka, grab a cheese platter and some of their incredible Pinot Noir for the perfect afternoon.
For a unique entrance - Chard Farm, Kawarau Gorge Chard Farm is worth a visit just for the driveway. A long drive clinging to the side of a steep cliff above the Kawarau Gorge, lined with poplar trees is an impressive entry to say the least. No less impressive is Chard Farm’s beautiful Riesling and Pinot Noir.
To take the hassle out of driving, there are a number of companies who offer wine tours departing from Queenstown. For those who want to experience local wines without leaving central Queenstown, make sure you check out The Winery. Located on Beach St in the heart of Queenstown, there are over 80 New Zealand wines to sample here. This is a dangerous place!
There is no shortage of amazing wine experiences to be had in Queenstown. Make sure you leave plenty of time in your Queenstown itinerary for spending a few days amongst the vines.