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Central Otago making ‘some of the best wines anywhere’

Pinot Noir from Central Otago in New Zealand has come of age, and producers in the region are making “some of the best wines anywhere”, according to Jasper Morris MW.

Central Otago has come of age and its producers are making “some of the best wines anywhere”, says Jasper Morris MW

Speaking at the Central Otago Pinot Celebration in Queenstown, Morris said how far the wines had come since he first visited the New Zealand region in the 90s.

I first came to Central Otago in the late ‘90s. Back then there used to be too much shepherding in winemaking – acidifying at the beginning then de-acidifying at the end, which I was slightly shocked by.

“Now there is a move towards letting the Pinot come to you. The wines used to fade fast, which had a lot to do with the young age of the vines. It’s much less the case now.

Jasper Morris MW is a fan of the Pinot Noirs from Central Otago

“The region is making Pinots capable of ageing for much longer now, including some I wouldn’t want to drink for at least three to four years until everything is in place. It’s not about emulating Burgundy; it’s about exciting new ideas and an understanding of the land.

“Central Otago’s top winemakers aren’t leaving for other regions, quite the reverse, as you seem to be successfully sucking in new young blood and are making some of the best wines I see anywhere.”

New Zealand native Emma Jenkins MW, believes Central Otago has become a “shining light” in the country’s wine scene.

“Central Otago is a shining light in the NZ wine scene and something to take pride in.

“The region is now making Pinots with the potential to age and turn into something even more interesting, rather than simply getting older.

“Ever more interesting wines with a sense of place are coming out of the region. The Pinots have a signature silkiness and vibrancy with a red fruit profile and sappiness in the tannins,” she said.

At the conference Jenkins also spoke of the need to embrace the inherent fruitiness of the Pinots made in the South Island region.

“Sometimes the pejorative fruit bomb term gets used with regards to Central Otago Pinot, but who doesn’t like fruity wines?

The next chapter for Central Otago lies in telling the stories of its different sub-regions

“We shouldn’t be afraid of making fruity wines – people need a bit of hedonism every now and then. Some people like to drink austere wines just to feel superior,” she said.

Prophet’s Rock winemaker Paul Pujol, who chaired the conference, told attendees that the style of the Pinots being made in Central Otago had evolved in recent years.

“The older style of Central Otago Pinot was more opulent and powerful with higher alcohol. The wines we’re making are lighter in alcohol now. It feels right to pick earlier and capture a brightness and energy in the wines,” he said.

As for the next step for the region, Andy Crozier of Burn Cottage believes the future lies in highlighting the different styles of Pinot that are emerging from Central Otago’s main sub-regions.

“The next story that we need to tell in Central Otago is the story of our sub-regions – Wanaka, Gibbston, Bannockburn, Alexandra, Bendigo and Cromwell – but the question is, are people ready to hear it?

“We’ve had a lot of interest from sommeliers in the UK and Australia who want to delve deeper into Central Otago’s sub-regional differences.

“There is a coming of age in the region at the moment. Both the vines and the winemakers are growing up, and we’re learning what works where,” he said.

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