Lonely Planet ranks Central Otago in Top 10 most intriguing wine regions

Lonely Planet ranks Central Otago in Top 10 most intriguing wine regions

Central Otago has topped the list of Lonely Planet's 10 most intriguing regions to visit ....

Central is famed for sublime alpine scenery, the energetic resort town of Queenstown and, since the 1990s, some world-class winemaking. Its wild landscapes make up the world’s southernmost wine region with vineyards spread throughout the deep valleys and basins of six sub-regions – Gibbston, Bannockburn, Cromwell Basin, Wanaka, Bendigo and Alexandra.

The local soils have proved excellent for Pinot Noir and Central Otago is lauded as one of the best places outside Burgundy for cultivating this notoriously fickle grape. It would take a good two days’ touring to get a comprehensive taste of the place, with around 30 wineries regularly open to visitors, and many more by appointment (the scene remains largely in the hands of friendly boutique enterprises). Visitors short on time could focus on the Gibbston Valley (with cycle touring a possibility).

Of course all wine lovers should also visit us at The Winery!

Check out the other Top 10 regions here.

Central Otago Pinot Noir glass by Riedel

Central Otago Pinot Noir glass by Riedel

The Winery team were fortunate to get front row seats at the launch event for the Reidel’s new Central Otago Pinot Noir glass.

Chris Keys and Mark Baulderstone   (Image supplied by COWA)

Hosted by Mark Baulderstone who is Riedel’s Australia and New Zealand Managing Director and Gibbston Valley winemaker Chris Keys, the event was structured to taste four Pinot Noir’s from the sub-regions of Central Otago – each wine being specifically selected to present quite different styles of Pinot Noir.

The wines were presented in five different shaped Riedel glasses, four of which were designed for Pinot Noir.  The fifth glass was for Cabernet Sauvignon, a glass best described as a “bucket” capable of holding more than a full bottle of wine.  It served its purpose to show just how poorly the wrong glass presents a wine (Mark says it is a great water glass).

Five Riedel tasting glasses, with #1 on the left.

Those who have been fortunate to have attend a Riedel Sensory Workshop will have experienced the significant differences of using a glass that is specific to the wine variety being tasted.  Riedel are widely recognised as the world’s leading wine glass producer and this is how they built their reputation, by creating varietal specific glasses (this is an important point to note)

The glass shape affects where the layers of aroma molecules accumulate within the bowl and where the lip of the glass delivers the wine into your mouth.   In simple terms, that affects how you can get your nose in the glass to smell and what aspects of the wine are highlighted on your palate as you taste it.  The correct glass does not make a wine better, but it can absolutely make it smell and taste better.

So why have Riedel done this?   It seems the answer lies with Georg Riedel who is the 10th generation head of the 250 year old family company.  Georg is a self-confessed Pinot Noir fanatic and throughout his lifetime of wine travel across the world Georg has always sought out Pinot Noir - travelling with Georg was described as being “on a Pinot Noir orgy”.  

Two years ago Georg led a workshop in Queenstown where winemakers tasted their own Pinot Noir from 14 different glasses.   

Two glasses stood out and the Central Otago Wine Growers Association (COWA) have worked closely with Riedel  since then.  Riedel developed 6 different prototypes and invested nearly €250,000 (NZ$375,000) in the project.  

The most interesting aspect of the event was lining up the 4 glasses to see and understand the evolution that Riedel went through in creating the perfect glass for Central Otago Pinot Noir.

The physical differences between the glasses are obvious when you line them up.  Glasses #2 and #4 are extensions of glasses #1 and #3 respectively.  

The same wine smelt and tasted different in every glass – so with 4 wines tasted in 4 different Pinot Noir glasses, we had 16 unique experiences.  Whilst each wine was obviously different, the attributes that each glass shape highlighted in those wine was very consistent.  This is what we found:

#1 –  Restaurant Pinot Noir Glass

Developed in 1986 the aromas highlighted by this glass were predominantly the floral, sweet fruit and alcohol characteristics.  I personally found those very appealing and at times I favoured this glass - if only aroma was being considered.  However the wines tasted shorter on the palate, with more acid and they lacked the depth of character that other glasses showed for the same wine.

#2 – Vinum XL Pinot Noir Glass

This glass was developed in 2006 when Riedel worked in conjunction with Oregon Pinot Noir producers.   As can be seen from the profile photo, it is an evolution of glass #1 with an extended lip added.  This changes the point to where you nose can enter the glass and as a result I smelt more of the herbal, mushroom and savoury characters that good Pinot Noir displays, particularly as they age.  This glass definitely showed the more complex aromas and on the palate the lip shape added more body to the wine, than glass #1.  This is the glass we have historically been using at The Winery for Pinot Noir tastings, it’s a good glass.

#3 – Extreme Restaurant Pinot Noir Glass

Designed in 2003 as part of a more angular glass collection we all found that this glass initially concealed the aromas that were so freely given in glasses #1 and #2.  With time the wine began to be revealed, particularly the herbal, mushroom and savoury notes, but not as overwhelming as in glass #2.  On the palate the wines were more fully structured and there was quite a firm tannin feel in the mouth, the alcohol presented a little too strongly.  This glass shape was not the most pleasant to put to my mouth, I found it too angular and it placed the wine at the front of my tongue.

#4 – Extreme Restaurant Central Otago Pinot Noir Glass

Here we have it, OUR glass for Central Otago Pinot.  For the photo we raised the base of the glass so the profile shows the evolution of the design, because the stem is not as long as glass #3.  In this way you can clearly see the difference of the extension with the elegant tulip lip (as with glass #2). 

The majority consensus was clear across the 30+ local winemakers and restaurateurs who attended the event.  The larger bowl and this shape combines the best features to showcase the unique aromas and flavours of Central Otago Pinot Noir. 

The aromas are perhaps not so easily accessible but they are more balanced with both the floral (glass #1) and savoury (glass #2) components displaying a wonderful harmony that showcases the fruit weight.  The addition of the lip delivers the wine more elegantly into the mouth and the palate depth and structure that glass #3 showcased is evident in this glass, without the alcohol coming to the fore.   That gives a fuller mouth feel, with more texture and flavour.   Each wine was more interesting in this glass - you keep coming back to see how it is evolving.  I’m one of those people who enjoys smelling the glass even 15 minutes after it has been emptied,  I find that tells me how good the wine is and how it will develop in the cellar.

CONCLUSION

The creation of this glass is a serious investment by Riedel.  It is also a bold move to attach a region to the glass name - I am picking that not too many French wine producers are going to be promoting the "Central Otago" glass for their Pinot Noir.   And that is what makes this story even more remarkable because this is the first regional and varietal specific wine glass that Riedel have ever created – this is a world first!

That is a hugely significant endorsement of the future of this region’s wines.  It is now the duty of everyone associated with Central Otago Pinot Noir to take this gift and showcase it to every Pinot Noir lover - let the orgy continue!