Central Otago Terroir Breakdown, Part III: Bendigo and The Alexandra Basin
This is the last of a three part series on the terroirs of New Zealand’s Central Otago. After Gibbston and Wanaka and The Cromwell Basin and Bannockburn, we are finishing with Bendigo and The Alexandra Basin, the two lowest elevation, most easterly sub-regions.
Bendigo is just east of the Cromwell Basin, on the east side of the Clutha and Manuherikia rivers, and parts of it are known for having some of the warmest growing conditions in New Zealand. There are vineyards planted on both intermediate elevation (220 metres) and higher terraces (330 to 350 metres). Tarras is right next door, essentially part of the Bendigo region.
According to the Central Otago Winegrowers’ Association, there are currently 10 producers in the area, specializing in Pinot Noir but also growing Pinot Gris, Riesling, and even some Syrah.
Mudhouse is probably the best known winery here, making award-winning, easy-drinking Pinot Noir as well as a range of other varieties, including Gewürztraminer, Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc.
On my recent visit to Central Otago I visited the Bendingo vineyard used for the Kim Crawford Central Otago Pinot Noir. It was definitely the hottest, driest vineyard we visited on the trip. The wine made from those grapes is darker than most Pinot Noir, has dark fruit aromas, almost raisined, and is juicy and warm with firm tannins, showing its terroir. It is a big Pinot.
The Alexandra Basin
About 20 km south east of Cromwell, making this the southernmost winegrowing place in the world, this basin is known for having New Zealand’s hottest summer temperatures. It is hot and arid, but there is still a wide diurnal shift, with cool nighttime temperatures. There are 14 producers here, mostly making Pinot Noir, but there are also whites including Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer and Riesling.
To find out more, you can find detailed maps of these and the other Central Otago sub-regions can be found at http://www.cowa.org.nz/. But the best way to taste the variations in terroir is to go to Central Otago yourself! You may never want to leave.