Wine tourism thriving in Central

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By YVONNE O’HARA

Investment in new tasting rooms and other facilities by some Central Otago vineyards, to cater for increasing wine tourism numbers, is “exploding”, a leading tourism and wine-growing representative says.

“We have certainly seen an increase in interest and investment in wine tourism and I would estimate several million dollars [going] into new and improved facilities in recent times,” Tourism Central Otago (TCO) and Central Otago Winegrowers Association (COWA) manager Glenys Coughlan

“Also, the planted area [in the region] increased by 5.7% in the past year and we have just tipped over 2000ha [planted].”

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s recent figures showed that Central Otago had a 9.02% increase in visitor spending across all markets for the year to October.

Tourism New Zealand’s figures show about 20% of tourists arriving in the country take part in a “wine experience”, up from 13% in 2014.

Winery tourists spend, on average, $3700 during their trip to New Zealand, compared with other tourists, who spend $2800, and they stay on average four days longer than other tourists.

Most wine tourists come from Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany, although numbers from China, Japan and other Asian countries

“Domestic tourism is also strong and lot of New Zealanders have an active interest in wine tasting,” she said.

Ms Coughlan said Maori Point Vineyard, Desert Heart Vineyard, Domain Road’s Defiance Vineyard, and Wine Solutions Ltd were among those opening new tasting rooms, while Felton Road Wines had expanded.

Akarua Wines has bought Walnut Cottage at Lake Hayes, and Tarras Vineyards’ The Canyon Vineyardformer “The Nose” buildings, from Highlands Motorsport Park, as part of its new development at Bendigo.

Wooing Tree, in Cromwell, is also planning an expansive development, while Over The Top Helicopters has a steady demand for its flights to vineyard cellar doors.

Other wineries, including Wild Earth, were experiencing significant growth in the group tour market, particularly from China, she said.

Although local visitor number statistics were not available, Ms Coughlan said COWA produced the Central Otago Wine Map, which was distributed throughout New Zealand.

“We printed 60,000 maps earlier in the year and demand for the map has been so strong that we are having to do a reprint 12 months in.”

In previous years, the 60,000 maps had lasted about 18 months.

Many wineries were also promoting repeat purchases through wine clubs, which she said provided ongoing connections and selling opportunities.

Some vineyards were starting to get good interest from visitors who wanted to do a little bit of work during the harvest.

Domain Road owner Graeme Crosbie is building a new tasting facility on his Defiance vineyard on Felton Rd.

He is converting two shipping containers into a wine-tasting area.

“We do get a lot of tour groups and self-drives and a lot of domestic and Australian visitors,” Mr Crosbie said.

“International tours for cellar doors tend not to be for big sales but are good for raising our profile internationally.”

Tarras Vineyards’ Canyon Vineyard owner Hayden Johnston is renovating The Nose cellar door and cinema buildings on his Bendigo site.

“Central Otago has got a lot to offer visitors, and I do see numbers increasing, no doubt about that,” Mr Johnston said.

Destination Queenstown chief executive Graham Buddwine tourism had been really important for Queenstown for many years and the wider Central Otago region’s wine and food was known internationally as world-class.

“Without question, there is more investment [taking place],” Mr Budd said.

“There is no doubt there are some very clever, entrepreneurial and dedicated winemakers and people in the wine business who come up with new ideas and new investment.”