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New Zealand Blog: Part 4 - Central Otago Valley, South Island

By Conor Delaney

There are a couple of places in the world only which serve as suitable hunting grounds for the very best of the most delicate and peculiar grape of them all. Pinot Noir. Notoriously difficult to grow, this temperamental grape is susceptible to any form of harsh conditions, particularly temperature fluctuation and high levels of sunshine can really damage the grape as its got a very thin skin. Like most things in life, the more difficult it is to produce, the more one can expect high levels of quality, sublity and complexity. Oregon, Burgundy, Champagne and Central Otago in New Zealand are the four best places in the world for this grape, and that's why I'm here.

You may know that we at Global Dream Travel have a wealth of wine experience under our belts, having visited the major wine regions of the world: Hunter, Swan and Yarra Valley in Australia, Champagne and Alsace in France, Napa in California, Niagara in Canada, Rioja in Spain, Sussex in the South of England and now Otago in New Zealand. We have been organising wine trips for over 10 years for various clients from different parts of the world. Today was no different, we were working "in the field" to establish relationships with the very best producers, accommodations, activity partners and restaurants in New Zealand so our clients can experience only the very best of what this country has to offer from a gastronomical perspective. Here's what was surprising, I had the best pizza in my life in the famous wine region of Otago Valley!

Italians and New Yorkers will be scoffing by now but I promise you, I was overwhelmed with flavour, crustiness, tender dough, fresh tomato sauce and the highest quality toppings known to humankind. Pay a visit to Kinross Destination Wines and you'll know what I'm talking about. It's a cellar door, bistro and boutique hotel. Let me tell you, the food is the outstanding, not to mention the wines they taste in the tasting rooms. I was lucky to meet a Chilean wine expert working for the company who ran me through an expansive flight of wines. I very much like the Coal Pit Wines, very much a premium producer run by trailblazing female winemakers. Why does wine and food always taste better when there's a special message behind the product? I think it warms your heart to know that good people made what you're consuming and that opportunity has been shared with all elements of society. After all, what is society but a mixture of people of different backgrounds and inclusivity makes our world richer. Rosie Dunphy is the owner and Anika Wilner is the wine maker. It's a bit cliche but Pinot Noir is a sensitive grape and it seems to do well in the bottle, on the nose and on the palette whenever there's a lady behind the process. If you think I'm being silly, start researching the female influence in Burgundy winemaking. Ladies are present nearly always as part of family run businesses going back generations. Thankfully, the wine industry is a place of inclusion and I've always enjoyed the openness of everyone working in it.

So, to get back to the story, go to Kinross, drink all the wines in the flight (or use their spitoon if you're the designated driver) and figure out your favourite. For me, what I enjoyed most at the tasting centre was that they had such an international team. Staff members from France, Chile, Finland, UK, New Zealand and more really lit up my day. I just loved the inclusiveness, celebration of difference and joy in togetherness. That's why Kinross is a must do, a must visit place where you have a coffee, grab lunch and do a flight of wine tasting with a pro. It was one of the highlights in my New Zealand Trip:

There's barely space left to talk about some of the best wines I've ever had, but you must book in advance to go where I was going next: Felton Road. I'm not going to lie to you, this place blew my mind:

It's not that I'm lucky in life, it's that I just don't give up easily and that's gotten me into a lot of places that I really shouldn't have. I mean, on Christmas eve, I was the last person tasting the best Pinot Noir in the world without a booking. A big shout out goes to the team at Kinross for making the recommendation. How nice of them to consider sending me to the competition. That's New Zealand and that's the wine business. Nobody is the enemy, nobody is better than anyone else, there's modesty, sharing of information and together, everyone is stronger.

So, I tried a couple of super premium wines and I loved the lady presenting the wines there. She'd lived in London, got my European quirkiness and was generous with the poring. I bought a bottle of wine for the value of our conversation and left the place feeling special, included and unique. Thank you to Central Otago and its people for their openness, friendliness and hospitality, I will be doing my all to send our clients to this wonderful wine destination:

So what came next after all the wining, dining and exchanging stories in Queenstown, Fiordland and Central Otago? Christchurch of course.

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