Gibbston has been at the forefront of the modern Central Otago wine industry for the past 35 years. Some of the first vines were planted here in 1981 and in 2012, Gibbston Valley Wines Ltd celebrated the 25th anniversary of the release of the region’s first Pinot Noir in 1987.
The small beginnings of Gibbston Valley Wines were soon followed by plantings at Chard Farm in the late 1980’s. The region’s first purpose-built winery was opened by Gibbston Valley Wines in 1990 and quickly became a national leader in wine tourism.
The Chard Farm winery was constructed in 1993 and by then the fledgling Central Otago industry was beginning to find its feet. Vines began to spread down the narrow strip of land on the south bank of the Kawarau towards Cromwell changing the character of the former sheep farming area for ever.
In the first half of the 1990’s grapes were planted on parts of three former sheep properties – Glenlee, Wentworth and Waitiri Stations. Higher up on the Gibbston Back Road, movie celebrities Sam Neil and Roger Donaldson, Bungy entrepreneur Henry van Asch, leading surgeon Richard Bunton and others planted vineyards as the new era for the valley took hold.
By 2000, Gibbston – on Queenstown’s front door – had become the most visible part of the rapidly expanding Central Otago wine industry. New production facilities were built for Mount Edward in 1998, Peregrine in 2003, Gypsy Dancer (now Valli) in 2005, Brennan in 2006 and Coal Pit in 2007.
Today, most if not all of the suitable grape-growing land in Gibbston is planted. With about 250 hectares of vines, the valley has long since been superseded as the largest sub-region in Central Otago and now represents about 12% of the region’s total plantings.
Altitude: vines growing to almost 500 metres above sea level, and a long cool ripening period, gives Gibbston its character, delivering wines defined by their delicacy, suppleness and elegance.