Despite its infancy, Central Otago is one of the most renowned wine regions in the world, making a name for itself with world-class pinot noirs that stand right up next to the finest French Burgundys or pinots of the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Tourists and visitors eagerly come and depart with armfuls or case-fulls of the stuff and they could not be happier.
But for us locals, we get a bit tired of the grape, having had it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for as long as we’ve been here. I myself often grimace when asked to try yet another vintage of yet another producer’s pinot. And when I have always been used to the ABC customers (anything but chardonnay), when serving a fellow Queenstown resident, I more often hear ABP, anything but pinot.
So for those like me, who want to explore beyond the obvious, here are a few of my picks for Central Otago wines that aren’t pinot:
NV GIBBSTON VALLEY EXTRA BRUT METHODE TRADICIONELLE
This smooth, creamy, and bone dry first release sparkling wine from Gibbston Valley is beautifully complex. Warm, toast and brioche notes lead to a creamy and savoury palate, with a hint of acitidy. 70% chardonnay from the China Terrace vineyard, and 30% pinot noir from the Gibbston vineyard, this wine is partially fermented in oak barrells and then fully bottle fermented. Where French Champagnes are legally required 15 months secondary fermentation, this wine is left on lees for over 27 months, giving it unsurpassed depth and richness.
2015 WOOING TREE BLONDIE
Ok, so this is technically a pinot, but in a way you’ve never had it. This is a blanc de noir, or a wine made in the style of a white wine, but with pinot noir grapes. The grapes are gently pressed immediately after harvest and only the preliminary juices with no color are used for this wine (the secondary juices are used for their rose wine). The juice is then fermented in stainless steel and bottled. The Blondie is refreshing and balanced with peach, pear, red fruit and stonefruit characteristics. The perfect wine to drink chilled on a sunny day.
2014 PEREGRINE SAUVIGNON BLANC
I, like most bartenders, tend to shy away from sauv blanc. Most of it is just sweet and boring and tastes like passionfruit juice. But our friends at Peregrine winery have found the sweet spot (and by that I mean quite dry). Crisp and fresh, loads of minerality with hints of lime, lemongrass, and grapefruit.
– by Jake Page