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Central Otago’s Pinot Noir Has Come Of Age

Central Otago winegrowers believe their region, following 25 years of intensive viticulture, has “come of age.”

This month they’re hosting an influential group of French winegrowers from Burgundy and will demonstrate to them their knowledge, skill and passion for growing the Pinot Noir grape.

The Climats of Burgundy delegation, spearheaded by one of the world’s most respected winegrowers, Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, is presenting a case to our government to support a nomination for their Burgundy region to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Central Otago Winegrowers Association supports the nomination because it’s learned from and adopted many aspects of the Burgundian winegrowing model. The delegation’s visit will endorse Central Otago’s burgeoning reputation as an international producer of quality Pinot Noir.

The delegation, following a meeting with government leaders in Wellington on January 27, will fly to Queenstown for five days of education and exchange with local winegrowers and culminating in the Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration 2014.

Wanaka winegrower, Nick Mills, organiser of the visit, says the five days will be a sharing of two cultures and will include a winegrowers’ Q and A seminar, a masterclass tasting for growers, specialist wine media and collectors, a grand tasting where Central Otago winegrowers present their 2012 Pinot Noir vintage and a formal tasting and discussion of six wines sent by the Climats of Burgundy delegation.

Interspersed will be lunches at a range of wineries and restaurants, a Grand Dinner and charity auction at Skyline Restaurant and an opportunity to visit Central Otago tourist locations, the Fiordland World Heritage Area and the Otago Polytechnic’s Cromwell campus, which is the region’s viticultural institute.

Aubert de Villaine will also share with delegates the importance of Burgundy achieving UNESCO World Heritage status, the benefits to New Zealand and the reaction from government leaders.

Nick Mills explains there’s been a long and important connection between Burgundy and Central Otago which has seen about 40 interns – the next generation of winemakers from Burgundy – study here and return to France with fresh and progressive ideas.

“An educational and cultural exchange was established in 2006 and, through the joint exchanges, the two regions have shared tradition and experience,” he says. “Both regions have clearly benefited from this relationship.”

The chair of the Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration 2014, Jen Parr, believes that sharing cultures coupled with 25 years of Pinot Noir output and creativity has helped foster a very real “sense of place” in Central Otago’s wine. “The coming of age in the glass means we’re moving from a Pinot Noir dominated by fruit exuberance to a wine that also has maturity, structure and texture to it,” she says.

“The greater understanding of our unique climate and our vineyards gained from increased knowledge and experience over this period has helped Central Otago achieve great consistency of character and quality in our wines. These views will be discussed at the four day celebration and shared with the Burgundian delegation.”

The 10th Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration is a special time to share this achievement she says.


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