Bannockburn winemakers had much to celebrate this month, when they welcomed a prominent French wine family as the newest neighbour, and belatedly celebrated the registration of the region as a geographical indication (GI).
Bordeaux-based Edmond de Rothschild Heritage Wines (EDRH) purchased Akarua in October from the Skeggs group. Akarua was founded in 1996 by former Dunedin mayor Sir Clifford Skeggs.
EDRH is a family-owned international lifestyle brand, combining luxury hotels and restaurants, wines and farming expertise. Akarua is the company’s second acquisition in New Zealand, 10 years after the founding of Edmond de Rothschild’s Rimapere Estate in the Marlborough Valley.
Felton Road winemaker Blair Walter welcomed Bordeaux-based EDRH managing director Boris Breau and Rimapere general manager Anne Escalle on behalf of the local winemakers, saying the region had been growing wines for only 30-35 years and looked forward to learning from EDRH’s more than 150 years’ experience.
Mr Breau said EDRH was very proud to move into Central Otago.
‘‘We were looking for exceptional terroir with exceptional potential and visited many places over New Zealand to identify which one was the best. ‘‘We decided to come here.’’
He said EDRH planned to learn from the locals rather than teach them.
‘‘You are the experts of Bannockburn, so we will learn from you and be very attentive to Bannockburn.’’
Viticulturalist Robin Dicey, a founder of Bannockburn’s vineyards and wine industry, amused those gathered with tales of the early days and anecdotes about Sir Clifford, and those present provided wines from their cellars for tasting.
Bannockburn was registered as a GI in February but harvest, Covid regulations and illnesses prevented a celebration until now, Mr Walter said.
The Central Otago GI covers a very large area, and the Bannockburn GI gives formal recognition of the boundaries of the Bannockburn sub-region.
‘‘We now have a legal protection of what it means to say you come from Bannockburn.’’