Map Of New Zealand Wine Regions
Fine wines and fine wools
Fine wines are woven into the story of fine wools. The homesteads of high-country runs (stations) nestle into sheltered spots along the basins of Central Otago (Figure 8.2). These pockets of easier-sloping, sometimes irrigated land are the most productive on these properties and were often planted in lucerne or other crops. Parts of many are now in vines. Owners or traders of the traditional, large, family-owned pastoral farms of the South Island have entered grape growing or the development and selling of their land for vines. The owners of Northburn Station, one branch of the Pinckney family, first grew grapes for Peregrine. After developing their own successful vineyard in consultation with Greg Hay they then subdivided land along their road frontage on the eastern shores of Lake Dunstan and sold these parcels as vineyard land. They have also successfully diversified the sources of income from their own high-country run. Ten kilometres further north, owners of the numerous vineyard sites formerly part of Bendigo Station – of ‘Shrek’ the unshorn merino wether fame, owned by John and Heather Perriam – include Gibbston Valley and Quartz Reef as well as the Perriams and many other growers.
In 2008 the Central Otago Winegrowers Association published a map showing 42 wineries in their region. Just like the homesteads of the high-country runs, the wineries have clustered mainly in the accessible valleys and lowlands of the region. The settlement of Gibbston and the valley of the Kawarau River offer the best example.
Map Of New Zealand Wine Regions Photo Gallery
High-country runs of Central Otago
From the imposing Nevis Bluff in the east almost to Lake Hayes in the west, five high-country runs had their boundaries along the Kawarau River. From the south, three runs – Wentworth, Mount Rosa and Glenroy – fronted the Kawarau River and the parcels of freehold land along it. From the north, the two runs of Waitiri and Eastburn do the same. These former gold-mining localities have a rich history. Wine enterprises have mined this history by appropriating the names of sheep runs, settlements and features of the natural landscape. Mt Difficulty, Gibbston Valley Wines, Waitiri Creek, Mt Rosa and Coal Pit are all examples.
Maps of the vineyards and wineries of Central Otago, alone or combined, cannot yet capture the spatial organisation of the winegrowing enterprises of this region. Some wineries are still located in the industrial area of Cromwell, the settlement that housed most of the workers when the Clyde dam was being built. When the workforce left in the early 1990s, surplus industrial buildings in Cromwell were a windfall for many wine and other enterprises. They could rent or buy them at reasonable cost and concentrate on developing their vineyards while gradually purchasing winery tanks and equipment. Some new wineries, such as Rockburn, have since been built on sites in Cromwell. Resource consents for drainage and other essential requirements are often easier to obtain in such well-serviced industrial estates than for greenfield sites in the countryside.
Rolfe Mills was a scion of the Sargood family of clothiers. From 1912 to 1940, Percy Sargood ran the firm’s South Island operation out of Dunedin. He also owned over 46,000 acres of high country that included the Wanaka Station. This land was sold when Sir Percy died, although one of his daughters managed to buy back about 3000 acres of it. It was here, on the shores of Lake Wanaka, that Rolfe Mills spent many of his childhood summer holidays.
The Sargoods’ primary business was textiles, clothing and footwear. Rolfe was managing their South Island operations from Christchurch when in 1973 the company merged with a similar firm, Bing Harris. He took this opportunity to leave the trade and build a house clad with mud bricks on 85 hectares of the family land west of Wanaka. With his wife Lois, and two young children Sarah and Nick (soon to be three when a second daughter Charlie was born), the family settled in rural Central Otago. They started Rippon Farm in 1973, the same year that Frank Yukich of Montana planted vines in Marlborough.
Living on the spectacular Rippon site was Lois and Rolfe’s primary attraction to the land but they were also committed to using it productively. They were torn between breeding and grazing goats and planting vines. Rolfe initially knew more about wines than he did about vines. He had visited some of the renowned wine regions of Europe, notably Portugal, where he was intrigued by the similarities between the schist soils of the Oporto region and those of Central Otago. He was also intent on finding out which varieties of grapes would grow on their Wanaka land. Their first vines were planted in 1974. By 1981 they had about 2 hectares planted in a kaleidoscope of hybrid and vinifera varieties from Baco 22A to Pinot Noir, some of them quite unsuited to making table wines of distinction in Central Otago.
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