We get asked all the time while on our wine tasting tours – what is the style of Central Otago Pinot Noir? How do you describe it?

The Pinot Noirs of Central Otago are most famous for this “big” style, richly extracted juices, very ripe fruits and generous use of new oak. In comparison to their Burgundian uncles and aunts the wines of Central Otago are much more full bodied. As well as the use of new oak this is often created by the fermentation of whole bunches of grapes. In some ways the Pinot Noir made by Alan Brady (see our articles on the regions founding father) in the early 2000s using 100% full bunches provided the benchmark for Central Otago style.

As the number of winemakers has increased and knowledge of the wine growing influences in the region improved the range of different styles and evolved and increased also. Today, we see a raft of wines being made with a fresher and lighter style than one would have traditionally associated with Central Otago Pinot Noirs. But don’t despair the big full-bodied wines are still dominant particularly in the wine from Cromwell, Alexandra, Bendigo and Bannockburn warmer climates.

If you get a chance while on your Altitude Tour try and taste the two single vineyard wines from Wild Irishman (produced by Alan Brady). Although both are made exactly the same in the winery the Bannockburn vintages are much deeper in colour, often almost dark purple, they are heavy on the palate with noticeable tannins whereas the Gibbston Pinot Noirs are lighter with a more spicy herbal feel.