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He added the following:
As vines do not normally come into growth before October only the last half of the frost fighting season would be a worry. In many seasons there would be no damaging frosts within this period, and in fact there were none in the season just past. Apples are at their most frost tender over the same period and it is not often necessary to light frost pots in an apple block.
Central Otago residents who knew the history of the region could also point to successful cultivation of the vine in the past. Even during the growing seasons of these debates, fruit from small parcels of vines in the region were being successfully ripened. As Scott implied, local winegrowers were likely to treat the debate as a challenge to prove the North Islanders wrong. Rolfe and Lois Mills of Rippon Vineyard certainly adopted this stance by planting a kaleidoscope of varieties before recognising that in their environment, a few kilometres from Wanaka, Pinot Noir performed best.
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The mix of varieties in Central Otago has changed dramatically in the two decades from 1989 when the New Zealand Wine Institute collected the first reliable information on the varietal mix of regions. Pinot Noir has always been the dominant variety in this region. Its dominance has increased decade by decade and most noticeably in the twenty-first century. In 1990, Pinot Noir made up 22 per cent of the Central Otago vineyard; by 2000 it was 49 per cent; and by 2010 it was 78 per cent. Marlborough, with 76 per cent of its vineyard planted in Sauvignon Blanc, is the only other region where a single variety is almost as dominant.
Two other varieties, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, have always been among the top five varieties in Central Otago during the last 20 years. Pinot Gris appeared as one of the five main varieties in the late 1990s and has since become the second most important variety, although, at just 9 per cent of the regional vineyard, well behind
Pinot Noir. It looks destined to remain the second most-planted variety and the most important white variety for some time. Riesling is a possible challenger as several of the Central winemakers, including Blair Walters of Felton Road, are intensely interested in vinifying Riesling to achieve a wine of intense aromas and flavours but with low alcohol. In 2000, Chardonnay made up 22 per cent of the Central Otago vineyard but by 2010 it was just 4 per cent. It seems fated to remain a lesser variety except for those enterprises making sparkling wine.
Central Otago’s aspiring winegrowers stared down the scepticism of the ill-informed North Islanders by encouraging scientists to study the weather and climate of the region more thoroughly. Gordon Cossens, a scientist at MAFTech’s Invermay research station in Mosgiel, investigated the temperature regimes of this climatically complicated region and provided winegrowers with reliable information to supplement their empirical experiments. The outcome of these efforts was the creation of one of New Zealand’s most vibrant and exciting wine regions.