Central Otago wines take off

Burn Cottage Vineyard in the foothills of the Pisa Range near Cromwell. Photo supplied.
Burn Cottage Vineyard in the foothills of the Pisa Range near Cromwell. Photo supplied.

Otago wines are getting exposure to international markets thanks to airline endorsements, Rebecca Fox discovers. 

Lowburn winery Domaine-Thomson's Explorer pinot noir is the latest Otago wine to appear on the wine list of an international airline.

Last week Air New Zealand announced a Fine Wines list of 47 wines, including nine from Otago, that will be served on its business premier flights from September.

This week Domaine-Thomson was notified its Explorer pinot noir will be served in Cathay Pacific's first class cabins.

Domaine-Thomson general manager Claudio Heye said it was very pleasing given the Hong Kong-based airline was looking for an organic or biodynamic wine to serve.

"So we went up against organic pinot noirs from all over the world. That the airline is keen to push organic and biodynamic is quite cool.''

It was also surprising as the Explorer 2015 was considered by the winery to be an "entry level'' pinot noir yet they wanted to serve it in first class, he said.

Having a wine selected by any international airline to go on their wine list increased a winery's exposure to a targeted market.

"I imagine it's the only time a lot of high-flying business executives get time to relax and have a glass of wine.''

However, he was not sure if it would translate into more sales.

Felton Road winemaker Blair Walter had similar thoughts when it came to four of his company's wines being selected on the Fine Wines list.

"It's exciting. It is an endorsement of the quality of wines we achieve here.''

The wines selected were from its premium ranges, of which only a relatively small amount was made and were mostly already allocated.

"It is another premium positioning.''

His wines were selected by a panel of Masters of Wine comprising Alastair Maling, Michael Brajkovich, Sam Harrop, Simon Nash and Steve Smith, along with Master Sommelier Cameron Douglas.

Each of the panel did initial tastings and selection of one varietal before the panel made the final selection based on each wine being produced to an exceptional standard for a minimum of five consecutive years.

In the pinot noir section, four of the nine wines selected were from Central Otago, including Felton Road Block 3 2013, Burn Cottage 2014 and Valli Bannockburn 2014.

Mr Harrop, who oversaw the initial selection of pinot noirs, said it was a difficult variety to grow but each wine selected had a personality and sense of place.

He said each of the Central Otago wines chosen had achieved that sense of place, describing the Rippon Vineyards Tinkers Field as the "most elegant pinot noir in New Zealand''.

Mr Douglas was on aromatics, choosing two Felton Road rieslings and a Prophet Rock pinot gris from Otago. He described Prophet Rock as his personal favourite for its fuller, richer style.

Akarua's vintage brut 2010 made a sparkling wine list of four, with Mr Nash saying it had been made from a classic mix of chardonnay and pinot grapes, resulting in a bright, fresh wine.

Air New Zealand chief flight operations and safety officer David Morgan, who is also deputy chairman of the Sustainable Business Council, said by partnering with the Masters of Wine it was helping to lift the value perception of New Zealand's wine industry and drive higher financial returns.

"We play a significant role in taking New Zealand-made products to the world and showcasing them throughout our customer experience.''

Air New Zealand Chief Operations Officer Bruce Parton said the airline was proud to share some of the country's leading wines, many of which retail for more than $100 a bottle, with its premium customers.

"We believe we can help further build awareness and appreciation of these world class wines with international travellers and propel leading New Zealand wineries to even greater commercial success.''

The airline will be promoting the wines on board through its inflight entertainment system, at offshore events and using its contacts internationally to help open up key export markets for the wineries should they need this support, he said.

Rebecca Fox was hosted in Auckland by Air New Zealand.

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