|The first wine-grapes were planted in Central Otago in 1864. Despite the district’s potential as a wine growing area being recognised by viticulturists from the 1860’s onwards, wine-grapes were not commercially grown again in Central Otago for more than a century.
Modern day wine growing began with a trial wine-grape vineyard that was planted at the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) orchard near Alexandra in 1972 and shortly followed in 1975 with experimental plantings at Rippon Vineyard, Lake Wanaka. The first commercial release of a Pinot Noir from Central Otago was the 1987 vintage from pioneer Alan Brady at Gibbston Valley Winery, on the way to Queenstown.
The following table presents statistics for the Central Otago District between 1996 and 2012. The numbers to 2010 are actuals, whereas numbers from 2011 to 2012 are projections.
In 2010, the Central Otago District produced around 6,500 tonnes of grapes derived from around 1500 hectares of land planted in grapes. There were around 89 wineries in the district, up from only 11 in 1996.
The last 2 years has seen a change in philosophy from the local industry as it looks to preserve its attention to quality rather than quantity. Accordingly, the new areas of plantings have tailed off and the harvest is now being managed to maximise top quality fruit.
Central Otago has made its name from Pinot Noir. However, several other varieties, such as Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc, are also grown and produce high quality wines.