Wines of Central Otago, New Zealand.

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An old Italian expression always makes me laugh out loud- Voler la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca, which translates literally asto want the barrel full and the wife drunk.’ This is a lot more colourful than the English version of ‘having your cake and eating it too.’

Barrels outside Mt Rosa Winery
Le Botti Antiche. Barrels outside Mt Rosa Winery.

I was thinking about this expression often as we travelled through the wine district of Central Otago, New Zealand. As the wifely half of this travelling roadshow, I would rather have a barrel full of Central Otago wine AND a sober husband to drive me to the next wine tasting venue.

From Mt Difficulty
From Mt Difficulty

Julie and Andrew from Toi Toi Wines armed us with a fabulous touring list of the district, which included historic villages, wineries of note and good restaurants. If we tried them all, we would still be in Central Otago, which would be rather lovely indeed. Four days touring around the area was not long enough.

A vineyard on the moon?
A vineyard on the moon? The volcanic hills around Mt Difficulty.

If you plan to do some wine touring, grab yourself a local map from the Tourist Information Centre or your accommodation, which will list the cellar doors and hours of opening. The Central Otrago area has around 5 distinct wine districts and vineyards are clustered along each route. Not all vineyards are open in May. Some charge a modest wine tasting fee which is deducted from your purchase. Even if you don’t drink wine, heaven forbid, the views along these routes are stunning. You will find yourself stopping at every bend for another photo.

last of Autum vines
Last of the Autumn colours.

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The wineries we visited included-

  • Wooing Tree, Cromwell. Expensive, cheapest Pinot Noir is $48.00. Wine tasting per person is also costly, but is deducted from the cost of a purchase. Small and cramped tasting room.
  • Mt Difficulty. Includes a restaurant with a fabulous view. Extremely expensive antipasto platter for two ($50). Excellent Pinot Gris. Taste those hills!
  • Brennan wines. Modest tasting shed, amusing and very informative host, excellent wines. Sensible pricing. We bought some Pinot Gris and Noir which were packed to bring home. We loved this place. Top pick.
  • Peregrine wines. Stunning building and setting. Not impressed with the 2015 Riesling we purchased. Extremely volatile. Think photo opportunities, old sheds, rolling valleys.
  • Chard Farm. We didn’t make it to the cellar door of this winery but wish we had as this wine is sensational, an absolute knock out! Recommended- Pinot Gris and Chardonnay.  Voler la botte piena di vino del fattoria di Chard! Magari!
  • Brennans wine, xxx
    Brennans wine, Gibbston

    In case you think I missed Toi Toi Wines, I should mention that they don’t have a cellar door in the area but market their wines widely throughout supermarkets in New Zealand and Australia ( Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc). In New Zealand, you can hunt down some of their reserve wines which are not available in Australia, such as their award-winning Marlborough Riesling 2013. Yum.

Stone shed, Peregrine wines
Stone shed, Peregrine wines

Next post- more on Central Otago, the most beautiful district in New Zealand.

16 thoughts on “Wines of Central Otago, New Zealand.”

  1. I will have to weigh up whether or not I want Don to read this post… he loves wine tasting, but hard to do when you are the driver, and at the moment he is not inclined to do a drive ourselves trip. He’s leaning toward a tour with the idea to go back to favourite places once we got the ‘lay of the land’ so to speak. Unfortunately I am very limited on the amount of alcohol I can consume, thimbleful would be an apt description, but I love taking photos at wineries. The scenery looks beautiful, but cold, has it been chilly?

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    1. The weather from May 2 to May 9 was 21c everyday, sometimes higher, and dry. As we got closer to Queenstown, the weather changed and we saw our first snow for the trip when we stayed at Lake Wanake ( near Queenstown). Then two days of very cold ( especially crossing the mountains towards Tekapo- around 9c at Tekapo, then back to 21 c for a few days up near Akaroa – a lovely French town one hours drive out of Christchurch. We were very fortunate with the weather.
      The last two trips in the North Island, the weather was 21-22 every day in May.
      Tours are very limiting: they tend to drive through places rather quickly and you end up based in big towns. I didn’t enjoy any of the larger towns on my travels, including Queenstown. Don might be able to find a tour that does some more interesting things, with a varied programme. Driving in New Zealand is much easier than in Australia- there are so few people and not much traffic.

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      1. You may have just swayed us with that second paragraph. My own preference is to drive ourselves, but since I don’t do the driving I give Don the final say on that one. But I’m thinking if we focus on the South Island for a trip of 2-3 weeks, it would be preferable than a tour of ‘everywhere’ which we do know would only stick to the main attractions and cities. I have not seen anything to make me want to visit the cities in NZ, so it’s interesting that having done so, you didn’t enjoy that aspect either. Thanks so much, the temps sound pretty good, actually, we like crisp, just not really cold!!

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        1. It is a hard call- I don’t do the driving OS either but I think I would manage NZ pretty well in a regular car with the GPS on.
          Sadly Christchurch is still a mess. Its a town with miles of suburbs and a broken centre. We only went there as we flew out from there and needed to have a spell in a motel while cleaning the van.
          Queenstown, although pretty with its lake, is all about shopping and adventure tours. We couldn’t even get a park here so after a few circuits, headed straight out to Lake Wanaka. Some large towns on the east coast looked modern and industrial. We went down to Invercargill as my ancestors landed here- I wouldn’t recommend it otherwise.
          The small towns, on the other hand are fascinating and colourful, with more chance of getting something good to eat.
          We haven’t been to the West coast- we are saving this for next year.
          We usually have one day on the road, with a trillion stops for photos and lunch and little detours, then arrive and have one day in that place or area. So Mr T only drives every second day.

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  2. I love your commentary re the winery offerings… if only everyone was so frank and refreshing ☺ Will keep an eye out from the Brennan & Toi Toi wines. Good Pinot Noir is gold.

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  3. Eccolo, the second thing I learnt from you today: “Voler la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca.” I recited it to amore immediately. But I’ve always loved the English expression, too. Thanks! And the images are astonishing!

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    1. The English one about cakes is super boring after this one. I remember in the 80s, they used to make little bad taste wall plates with this saying on it. Picture the little plate, with a man lying next to the ‘botte’ with a tube coming into his mouth from the full botte and the wife snoring on the ground next to him.

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