A Taste of Central Otago - Health & Beauty

A Taste of Central Otago

Central Otago has long been a popular destination for foodie escapes. Known for its gorges, deep rivers and Arrowtown’s gorgeous golden hues, it draws people from all over the world.

Otago oil

Central Otago produces award-winning olive oil. Olive trees have been grown in the area since the 1990s. The olive tree is one of the world’s oldest known trees, having its origins more than 20 million years ago in the Eastern Mediterranean basin.

The Central Otago Olive Growers Group (COOG) is proud of the unique taste of their oil. The climate influences a rich, peppery taste and the green goodness of Central’s olive oil tastes nothing like the supermarket options. Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fats and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is an important part of the Mediterranean diet.

Thyme for cheese

Thyme is a health-giving herb, known for its antibacterial and antiseptic qualities. For thousands of years it has been used to treat coughs and bronchitis. The Ancient Greeks saw thyme as a symbol of strength and sacrifice. It grows wild on Central Otago hills and mountains, thriving in the harsh climate. Thyme is harvested to make tonics and teas, and thyme honey is made in this region. It has an intense, aromatic taste and is especially good when paired with a Central Otago blue cheese.

Autumnal apples

Temperature variations give Central’s apple orchards ideal growing conditions. Harvested in the autumn, varieties such as Cox’s Orange, Royal Gala and Envy are exported around the world and the ‘envy’ of overseas growers for the quality of the fruit. Apples are rich in fibre and antioxidants, and may help to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. No wonder the old saying goes, ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away.’

Preserving traditions

Augustine’s of Central uses the area’s flavourful summer fruit in their preserves, pastes, jams and chutneys. Their award-winning products are hand-made from fruit that is tree-ripened and whose private growers preserve a high-quality, authentic Central Otago taste. Augustine’s is a family business who cares about their ingredients and the traditional methods of preserving.

Central’s terroir

The word terroir comes from the French terre meaning land. It describes the environmental factors that influence a wine, such as the rich soil that has heavy mineral deposits in silt loams, Central Otago’s unique, dry climate and how the vines and grapes are farmed. The area is famous for its Pinot Noir but also produces acclaimed white wines such as Riesling and Pinot Gris.

2023 sees the 30th anniversary of the first vines planted at Two Paddocks, founded by Sir Sam Neill. There are now four vineyards in Central Otago and all the wine produced is organic, being fully under the BioGro programme. Two Paddocks also produce lavender oil which is made into a beautiful soap. As it says on the website, twopaddocks.com, the team is dedicated to making great wine, crafted with meticulous care and nurtured to bring you the best of their vineyards – the soil, slope, water and climate.

Central’s winter wonderland is striking. Icy, frosty mornings often give way to sun by midday. Snow may spread over the land, but the region’s wineries still offer wine tastings and pairings. Many will have cosy log fires to sit beside as you sip. Central Otago can certainly be proud of its produce and the flavours that are unique to this dramatic district.

-Gill Towle