Winemakers are predicting the 2012 vintage could be one of the best in a quarter of a century of production in Central Otago.
A stunning summer and autumn has produced high quality fruit.
Pioneering wine company Gibbston Valley Winery has already picked 300 tonnes and expects it to make an outstanding vintage.
Winemaker Christopher Keys says: “In Central Otago, we enjoyed a long warm summer, which makes such a difference to the quality of the pinot noir.
“Although in February and early March there were cool patches, the long dry autumn and great weather through March and April meant we picked really lovely fruit, with really balanced sugar levels, great flavour and good acid levels.
“We’re very happy with 2012’s quality. Smaller bunches have given welcome intensity and flavours are excellent.”
Keys says this year’s pinot noir is sweet fruit with excellent balance and ripeness, while the pinot gris, chardonnay and Riesling are as good as he’s seen.
“What is setting them apart is their amazing clarity and fresh intensity. They will give great drinking for years.”
Gibbston Valley Winery founder Alan Brady was the first to plant and commercially produce wines in the valley – harvesting pinot noir, pinot gris and a ‘dry white’ blend in 1987.
Brady says the pinot noir ‘heartbreak’ grape – for which the region has become famous – was simply the most successful.
“In those early days we experimented by planting everything under the sun,” Brady says.
“And pinot noir chose us, we didn’t choose it.
“It ripened more consistently than any other variety and from that moment on we were in on the ground floor of what became the pinot noir phenomenon.
“Over the years we attracted some of the best winemakers in New Zealand to come and work with pinot noir, known as the ‘heartbreak grape’ because it’s difficult to do but winemakers love the challenge.”
To celebrate the 25th anniversary, Brady returned to the multi-award winning winery to help harvest grapes in the original block he planted.
The reds are now currently being pressed and put to barrel, while the whites are finishing their fermentation process.
The Central Otago region now has about 2000 hectares of vines and more than 100 producers. This year’s total harvest is expected to be about 7000 tonnes.