Today, we took a tour of five wineries ("The Gourmet Wine Tour") of the Central Otago area with operator Appellation Central - who were recommended to us by our Motel Caples Court. Our tour took in the Gibbston Valley Winery, Olssens of Bannockburn, Aurum Wines, lunch at the The Big Picture and a final stop at the Peregrine Winery.
Today I learnt that:
At Gibbston Wines we visited the South Islands biggest wine cave. We learnt about the problems of growing wine at such a Southerly Latitude - frost - and about the introduced predators - such as rabbits - which Gibbston Valley and others in area have to deal with to varying degrees depending upon existing rabbit colonies and their individual terroir.
In addition to visiting the four wineries, we stopped for lunch at The Big Picture for a platter lunch (pictured.) Essentially the picture picture is a wine themed restaurant. As part of our tour, we went into "The Aroma Room" which comprises fifty scents for you to smell and identify. The scents are associated with different types of wine and it's a handy introduction before you head into see the film. The film is, essentially, a promotional video of the vineyards during which you "fly" over a selection of vineyards and are invited to sample wines from them - this time Pinot Noir wines from Gibbston Valley (2004 from Gibbston), Wild Earth (2006 from Bannockburn), Pisa Moorings (2003 from Cromwell), Kawarau (2006 from Cromwell), Locharburn (2006 from Wanaka Highway) and Mount Maude (2005 from Wanaka). Actually not a a bad idea as it's constructed in such-a-way as it gives you an idea of the varying styles from the Central Otago region.
We were six people on the tour - the maximum is 10 - which allowed us to have a highly personalised tour of the vineyards and allowed plenty of time for questions etc as we went.
Kirsty, our tour leader and driver, had an excellent knowledge of both the local area and of the wine she was taking us to taste. It is because of her excellent service and knowledge that I have no hestitation in recommending Appelation Central to readers of this page and site.
During our time in Queenstown we stayed at the Caples Court Service Apartments which we can recommend.
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Mark Sukhija is a travel and wine blogger, photographer, tourism researcher, hat-touting, white-shirt-wearing, New Zealand fantatic and eclipse chaser. Aside from at least annual visits to New Zealand, Mark has seen eclipses in South Australia (2002), Libya (2006), China (2009) and Queensland (2012). After twelve years in Switzerland, Mark moved back to London in 2012. You can follow Mark on Twitter or Facebook