A photo of The Best Wine Tasting Tours in Central Otago

Central Otago
wine tasting tours and winery visits

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Why Visit Central Otago?

Central Otago resides in quiet natural splendour at the heart of New Zealand’s South Island. It’s notable on both a national and global scale, for all kinds of reasons; it’s the most southerly wine producing region in the world, for a start, and enjoys a climate completely unique to New Zealand. By rights, it should have the maritime conditions common to every single other wine region in New Zealand, but in reality, its central location and protection from various mountain ranges give a continental feel, with warm, dry summers and significant temperature variation between day and night which allow this region to produce some of the most exciting wines in the entire country.

However, wine isn’t the only attraction here. Central Otago is quite simply one of the most breath-taking and beautiful places on the entire planet – which, with the rest of New Zealand offering stiff competition, is no mean feat. One of the filming locations for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, it’s an unforgettable land of towering snow-capped mountains, endless skies and undulating, tussock-studded plains which attract tourists in their thousands. There is nowhere better to forget everyday life and immerse yourself in natural beauty and fascinating culture – accompanied, of course, by great gastronomy and some of the most up-and-coming wines in the world!

New Zealand is a true Mecca for anyone who loves the great outdoors, and Central is no exception. Cycling and mountain biking are particularly popular and a wonderful way to take in the splendour of the countryside – the region is home to three of New Zealand’s ‘23 Great Rides’ cycle trails, as well as countless others which allow you to trace historic railway lines, dramatic gorges and tumultuous rivers. Adrenaline junkies will also love taking in this scenery from a light aeroplane, helicopter or even a hang glider.

Winter is also a particularly good time for those in search of activity. The region’s climate is satisfyingly consistent and ensures fabulous changes in the seasons, with ice and snow guaranteed during the winter months. Think curling and ice skating on both commercial rinks and stunning natural lakes and dams, dog sledding and even the luge. The tiny mountain town of Naseby is particularly well-known as a centre of winter sports, boasting the only natural luge track in the Southern Hemisphere.

Queenstown, meanwhile, is not only one of the best places in the South Island to enjoy Pinot Noir (there are 200 different vineyards within a 40 minute drive of the town centre) but is a Mecca for adventure seekers, with every adrenaline-fuelled activity imaginable on offer – think white water rafting, bungee jumping, jet skiing and skydiving, to name but a few! In winter, Queenstown and neighbouring Wanaka are fantastic ski destinations, with pristine white slopes and an excellent après scene making this a great choice for those from the Northern Hemisphere in search of some summer snow.

To find out more about this amazing place, take a look at Winerist's full Central Otago Travel Guide.

Plan Your Visit

Best Known Grapes

Wine is of course one of the things that has put Central on the map in recent years. The region is a stronghold for the notoriously picky Pinot Noir grape, which accounts for about 75% of all vines planted here, and over the last 30 years has been steadily building itself a reputation as a top-class producer of wonderfully ripe, exuberantly fruity Pinot Noir. The intense summer sunlight here means that the grapes reach exceptional levels of ripeness, creating a fabulously fruity flavour profile with exuberant red fruit flavours in abundance. As a result, don’t be surprised to find local Pinot Noir on every single wine list that you come across during your time here. The region also has a great reputation for high-quality local produce, from honey and olive oil to stone fruits, and so whether you’re looking for gourmet dining to a laid-back country pub, you can expect to eat and drink extremely well. It’s possible to spend days on end touring Central’s numerous vineyards, and producers of every shape and size are always ready to welcome visitors with open arms and a complimentary tasting – try Mount Difficulty or the Akarua Winery for superb hospitality and world-beating wine.  The most prolific white grape, meanwhile, is Pinot Gris, which is used to produce refreshing, tropical-flavoured wines with great acidity and body.
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Best time to visit

Central Otago is beautiful at all times of year, but sun seekers might prefer the spring and summer months ( September-February ) when temperatures average around 20°C. If you don’t mind the cold, winter temperatures ( March-August ) range anywhere from -6°C to 15°C.
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How long to stay

Visit Central Otago as part of your ultimate Kiwi road trip - winter thrill-seekers can easily spend a week enjoying the slopes, whilst summer visitors in search of a wonderful wine experience should schedule at least 3 days to fully appreciate the unparalleled natural beauty and wonderful local produce of the region.
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How to get there

The nearest international airports to Central Otago are Christchurch , Queenstown and Dunedin . This is a remote region but there are good bus services from all the major towns, although many travellers prefer to hire a car or motorhome to get about at their own pace and reach more isolated areas with ease.
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