Central Otago, as a viticultural region, arguably more than any other New Zealand wine growing region, has rapidly gained international market and media credibility for producing pinot noir. Pioneers in the 1980's such as Alan Brady at Gibbston, Vernon & Sue Burgess at Alexandra and Rolf & Lois Mills in Wanaka, had defied all nay-sayers by producing serious wines under the most challenging circumstances and this activated a surge of enthusiasm and investment in the industry over the next two decades.
Scientific temperature data that had been collated by engineers that were building the nearby Clyde dam in the 1980's identified Bannockburn in particular as possessing seasonal temperatures and weather characteristics that were akin to Burgundy. The Skeggs family had a long association with Central Otago after holidaying there since the 1970's and in the mid 1990's. Sir Clifford Skeggs was in the first cluster of people to commit to this region on a large scale and therefore managed to secure one of the finest elevated North facing sites in Bannockburn.
Vines at Akarua were first planted in 1996 and further vineyard development has progressed in the intervening period. In 2014, Akarua purchased a further 50 hectares in Felton Road and Lowburn, bringing their total vineyard acreage to approximately 100 hectares.
A small vintage was produced in 1999 from the new Akarua winery and over time as vine age increased along with knowledge of the site, quality has been on the rise year by year. Since Akarua Pinot Noir’s first trophy awarded in 2002 by Air New Zealand Wine Awards, a Trophy has been awarded for each vintage since 2009 to date, proving the continuing consistency and quality of our flagship pinot noir.
Akarua has never been in such a strong position as it is today under second generation family leadership of David Skeggs, at the helm of the business, with award winning winemaker Andrew Keenleyside heading the winemaking team. The complete Akarua portfolio now consists of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Rosé, Riesling and Sparkling Wine. Akarua released their Sparkling Wine range in 2011 under the supervision of renowned sparkling wine specialist ‘Tony Jordan’. Since their release, the Akarua Sparkling Wine range has been awarded numerous trophies and awards in both New Zealand and abroad.
To celebrate the next generation of the family management of Akarua, a complete overhaul of the Labeling and packaging of Akarua wines has been instigated by David Skeggs. Sir Clifford, David's father, was adamant that any re-branding work still retain the emblematic Alpine Mountain Daisy, Celmisia Semicordata as a symbol that fragile beauty is still achievable in harsh climates such as those in Central Otago.
Historically the local New Zealand market has consumed the major portion of Akarua's production but increasing demand from overseas markets has seen healthy growth. This is complemented by Akarua's on-site Cellar Door, which is now even busier with the growing wine tourism trade that has arisen from the region's international recognition.
One of Pinot Noir's more telling features is its transparent nature: any fault or failing in the site, climate, farming or winemaking will be painfully obvious in the final wine and no amount of talent or science can make up for what is already lost. Often it is referred to as a "Winemaker's wine" which reflects the complexity in not only growing and making fine Pinot Noir, but the almost cult-like revere and respect the variety garners from its own instigators. The next decade will see the vines of Akarua reach twenty plus years of age, comparative to increased levels of understanding of the site (or terroir) and of course under the helm of strong family leadership.