The Bustle of Queenstown's Wine Harvest
The next time you crack open a good bottle of Central Otago wine, imagine all the skill and hard graft that went into creating it, from planting the vines, to the frantic harvest period during autumn.
Underlying both is the passion of the people who made it happen; winemakers who have spent years honing their craft and who live and die by the grape. It’s all too easy to forget about that at the other end of the process when it’s sitting there in a bottle in front of us, as good as it can be, ready for our indulgence and enjoyment.
Queenstown is the gateway to the Central Otago wine region which has 200 vineyards within a 90-minute radius. There are six sub-regions and Gibbston, 25km away from Queenstown's centre, is the closest to the city. Hot days, cool nights, and interesting soil profiles (think fine sand, heavy silt loam and rocky schist) are great for growing Pinot Noir, and this varietal makes up about 85 per cent of the region’s wine output. Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Riesling make up the majority of the rest.
Being the most southerly grape-growing region in the world, at a latitude of 45͒ south, throws up a few challenges when it comes to the annual Queenstown region grape harvest in the last week of April. It’s always a race against the seasons and means all hands on deck and then some for the vineyards as the fruit starts flowing. Contract workers are brought on board to get everything done in the time scheme planned by the winemakers so the grapes can be picked exactly when they want them, before the chilly mornings start to bite.