The most Southerly wine growing region in the world.
The Alexandra Basin lies below the southern 45th parallel and is the most southerly of the Central Otago wine sub-regions. It shares geographical and climatic conditions with some of the world’s most prestigious wine producing regions. This makes the Alexandra Basin the most southerly wine growing region in the world.
A land of extremes.
The Alexandra Basin has a semi-continental climate of extremes. The climate is characterised by long hot summer days with cold nights, cool spring days (with the ever present danger of frost damage overnight), long dry autumns and often bitterly cold winters. Alexandra is regularly the nation’s hottest region in summer and the coldest in the winter.
The low rainfall and humidity means a low incidence of vine disease and grape rot. The difference between diurnal temperatures during ripening contributes to flavour intensity and varietal character, affording the grower a longer ‘hangtime’ for grapes to ripen.
Local soils are mainly derived from alluvial material deposited by the river and the weathering of local schist rock. Soils are generally free draining, forcing vines to bury deep root systems in search of water. Stressing the vines naturally in this way creates an efficient vine system that produces superior quality grapes, the essential building block of excellent wines.
The very first vineyard in Central Otago.
A French goldminer Jean Desire Feraud, struck gold in the 1860’s near Alexandra, a place still called Frenchman’s Point today. Coming from a winemaking family he was quick to realise the region’s outstanding potential for grape growing.
After making some money goldmining, he bought a parcel of land, Monte Cristo, near Clyde and became the Mayor of Clyde. Feraud planted vines, imported from Victoria, Australia, and became a pioneering orchardist, viticulturist and wine-maker. By 1870 he had planted more than 1200 vines and built a stone winery which still stands today. He exhibited wine in Sydney gaining a third class merit. However, he was ahead of his time and struggled to find a market for his wines, in this young country of beer drinkers, where sheep and cattle farming prevailed.
Feraud’s thinking was reinforced in 1895 by Italian viticulturist Romeo Bragato. Touring the country on behalf of the government he enthused over the region’s wine growing potential, recording that “there was no stateable limit to the productiveness of the magnificent territory.”
and over a century later...
The new era of commercial wine production in the Alexandra Basin didn’t begin until the 1980’s, when a new wave of planting began, with wineries such as William Hill and Black Ridge producing their first commercial vintages.