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“There was no country on the face of the earth which produced better Burgundy grapes than were produced in Central Otago” –Romeo Bragato, 1895
  • Wine in Central Otago has been grown and made in the region since the 1860s Gold Rush. Jean Desire Feraud (1820 – 1898), a French goldminer purchased land near the township of Clyde and erected a small stone building on the site at Monte Christo. It was here the first Central Otago wines were made. Feraud’s wine went on to win the region's first gold medal for 'Burgundy', in Sydney, in 1881.

    In the late 19th century the government appointed Romeo Bragato to survey the country to assess & identify regions with great wine-growing potential. Bragato was astonished when he came to Central Otago, stating “there does not appear to me any stateable limit to the productiveness of that magnificent territory”. He identified that cool-climate loving varieties would thrive in Central Otago, including Pinot Noir & Riesling which now predominate in the region.

    However, despite Bragato’s foresight and optimism, stone fruit plantings dominated until the 1980s when a renewed interest and commitment by Central Otago’s winemaking pioneers, saw their dreams become reality, with the first modern commercial production of Pinot Noir in 1987.

  • The 1980s saw a renewed interest in growing grapes in New Zealand and a few visionaries disregarded advice telling them Central Otago was “too cold, too high and too far south” to grow wine. Rolfe and Lois Mills at Wānaka’s Rippon Vineyard, Alan Brady in Gibbston Valley, Anne Pinkney in Whakatipu, and Sue Edwards and Verdun Burgess at Black Ridge near Alexandra all planted grapes and began their winemaking journey with almost serendipitous simultaneity in the early 1980s.

    Far removed from the rest of the country’s budding wine industry and lacking a manual for making it work in this extreme environment, these early pioneers shared their knowledge, experiences and winemaking equipment as they grew the nascent industry from barren land to fields of (the new) gold. This spirit of collaboration helped lubricate the burgeoning industry and remains central to its character to this day.

    The first commercial release of Pinot Noir was from Gibbston Valley Winery in 1987 and by the end of the ‘80s, word was spreading, attracting fresh blood such Chard Farm founders Rob and Greg Hay.

    Having returned from Germany where he studied wine, Hay fell in love with Chard Farm, an orchard perched high on a ledge above the Kawarau River in Gibbston. By the time Brady was popping the cork on his first vintage, Rob and his brother Greg were clearing trees for grapes. Down the local pub, the brothers had their doubters. “A waste of bloody good merino [sheep] country!” they were heard to say.

In this land of extremes, where mountains meet lakes, and shield our deep valleys from the rain picked up in the Roaring Forties, daring pioneers have braved the elements for generations to produce the worlds best fruit. Off the back of a lucrative gold rush in the 1860s Central Otago’s agriculture and horticulture boomed. Owing to the semi-arid landscape, where temperatures can reach 35C during the day and drop to freezing at night, we have the perfect conditions to ripen stone fruits, cherries, apples & especially Pinot Noir grapes. 

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