Media Reviews / Awards


"In Maori RUA means two, so how appropriate Akarua RUA Central Otago Pinot Noir 2013 would be to emphasize it is the exchanging of vows of two people that is being celebrated. 

This gorgeous ruby-hued wine is smoky and savoury with a lush plush texture, black cherry fruit, and hints of dried rose petals, a touch of spice and a seductive, succulent, smooth, creamy mouth-filling finish.

A 2014 Air New Zealand Wine Awards Gold Medal winner, RRP: $28.50." 

A busy and exciting year for Akarua has finished on the right note with three pure gold medals at the 2014 Air New Zealand Wine Awards.

The results of the awards were announced today to the public. Akarua received three pure gold's for their Akarua Pinot Noir 2013, Akarua RUA Pinot Noir 2013 and one for their sparkling wines, Akarua Vintage Brut 2010.

Winemaker Matt Connell is delighted with the results.

"It is great for our team to be recognised at this prestigious show. It has been a particularly busy year for us with the purchase of two new vineyards and preparing for a much larger vintage because of this, so to win three gold medals is a fantastic achievement" he said.

"The Air New Zealand Wine Awards have such resonance with consumers and the profile of the awards is also recognised internationally, it's a great lead in to the Christmas season" he said.

Akarua's varietal focus is on their Pinot Noir's and Sparkling Wine programme. The Akarua Pinot Noir 2013, Akarua RUA Pinot Noir 2013 and Akarua Vintage Brut 2010 were awarded gold.

Matt is looking forward to celebrating the wins at the Awards dinner in Hawkes bay on the 22nd November

Listen below to Weekend Wine with Yvonne Lorkin on Radio New Zealand.

Wine Orbit

Your Ultimate New Zealand Wine Review

Sam Kim, Wine Orbit, September 2010

Akarua Pinot Gris 2009 Central Otago, 93 Points,  5 Stars

This is an impressively luscious Pinot Gris displaying peach, pear and floral characters on the nose. The palate is full and generously flavoured showing appealing sweetness (9 g/l), smooth texture and perfectly balanced acidity. The wine shows excellent mid palate weight and mouthfeel, often lacking in many Pinot Gris. Fabulously delicious. At its best: now to 2013. 13.5% Screw cap. Aug 2010.

Akarua Pinot Noir 2009 Central Otago, 93 Points, 5 Stars

A beautifully refined Pinot displaying red/black cherry, plum and hints of game and cocoa characters on the nose. The palate is elegant yet concentrated showing silky texture and fine-grained tannins. A youthful and restrained wine with potential to blossom given time, as the wine is perfectly balanced and poised. At its best: 2011 to 2015. 14% Screw cap. Aug 2010.

Akarua Reserve Pinot Noir 2009 Central Otago, 95 Points, 5 Stars

From their estate vineyard in the Bannockburn district, this outstanding young Pinot displays lovely perfumed bouquet of red/black cherry, floral, cedar and spice. The palate is seductive and beautifully textured with fine, chalky tannins. The flavours are beautifully woven to show a seamless mouthfeel and an extra-long finish. The wine is youthful and yet to show its full glory, but with further time in the bottle it should turn into a breathtaking beauty. At its best: 2011 to 2017. 14.7% Screw cap. Aug 2010. 

Profile in Cuisine September issue

Great profile on Matt Connell and the next generation of leadership at Akarua in the latest issue Cuisine September issue (page 142 / 143) and what a beautiful cover - the prettiest Lamb Butterfly we’ve ever seen.

Download profile as a PDF.

Akarua, Central Otago's largest family owned single vineyard and winery, has released three wines from the 2009 vintage, which is the first vintage to be made by winemaker, Matt Connell. These wines are also the first release under the leadership of the next generation of the Skeggs family with Sir Clifford's son, David Skeggs, now at the helm of the business.

To celebrate these milestones, David instigated a complete overhaul of Akarua's brand. Akarua founder Sir Clifford Skeggs, was insistent that any re-branding work must still retain the emblematic New Zealand Alpine Daisy, Selmisia Semicordata – a symbol that fragile beauty can still be achieved even if survival is a struggle in harsh climates such as those found in Central Otago. "The daisy is now a majestic copper orb that radiates and strengthens the Akarua brand both visually and emotively whilst retaining a modern classic look that we believe will last for decades ahead", was David's response to the new logo and label.

When Matt Connell moved from Olssens wines to Akarua late in 2008, he was asked by David Skeggs to re-examine the structure of the winery. This resulted in investment for enough additional tank capacity to take the entire crop at one time if ever required. Effectively this means that the wines spend as long as they need in tank without being moved into barrels in a rush to make room for further grapes. Having the ability to press each block only as it is ready is a luxury most other wineries don't have and will help ensure that the wine reaches its maximum potential all the way through from the vineyard to the glass.

The three wines being released are Akarua Pinot Gris 2009, Akarua Pinot Noir 2009 and Akarua Reserve Pinot Noir 2009. The Akarua Pinot Noir replaces the 'Gullies' and the inaugural Akarua Reserve Pinot Noir replaces "Cadence" and will remain a barrel selection but will only be produced in years where quality is exceptional. The Akarua Reserve Pinot Noir will highlight what Matt considers to be the very best attributes of the site; Power, richness and complexity.

Matt is delighted with the 2009 wines stating; "I moved to Akarua because I had always admired the vineyard site and the wines that the site had produced. The Skeggs family have given me the support required to take the wines to the next level". He added that "additional vine age and having our own dedicated viticulturist, Gillian Wilson and vineyard and winery team solely focused on our site have also had a significant impact on the 2009 and 2010 wines".

Both the vineyard and winery at Akarua have New Zealand Winegrowers Sustainability accreditation and the team have taken this a step further by bottling 99% of the wines in lightweight glass making Akarua the first winery in Central Otago to do so.

Akarua's strong Pinot Noir track record began with the Akarua 2002 Pinot Noir winning Champion Wine of the Show at the 2003 Air New Zealand Wine Awards and top scoring Pinot Noir in Cuisine Magazine that same year. Last year, the Akarua Cadence 2007 Pinot Noir was also awarded Gold at the San Francisco International Wine Challenge and the Akarua Gullies 2007 Pinot Noir was awarded Blue Gold at the Sydney International Wine Challenge, re-asserting the quality and consistency of Akarua Pinot Noir.

Akarua is available throughout New Zealand and is distributed by Hancocks Wine & Spirit Merchants Ltd. For more information please call or e-mail Matt Connell on 03 445 4292, 027 434 4761, [email protected] or Jacqui Murphy on 03 445 0897, 027 668 6556, [email protected] or via 

In the land of green and gold, Akarua vineyard, from Bannockburn, Central Otago, has struck Blue Gold at the prestigious Sydney International Wine Competition with their Akarua Gullies 2007 Pinot Noir. Estate grown, Akarua Gullies Pinot Noir is produced from vines planted on the original block of 50 hectares purchased by Sir Clifford Skeggs in 1996.

Of significance, the winemaking and viticultural team at Akarua is solely dedicated to the production of Akarua. They do not grow or make wine for any other labels in Central Otago ensuring that the entire quality focus of the team is always directed at growing and producing the very best that Akarua can be.

A single vineyard site the size of Akarua that is owned by a single family is also quite a rarity in the region. Additionally having a state of the art winery and cellar door actually at the vineyard is a luxury that winemaker / manager Matt Connell is only too aware of : “The win in Sydney is testament to the commitment that the Skeggs family has made to a vineyard site that only continues to improve with vine age. Taking that extra step to build a winery that can fulfill the sites potential and then allowing me to improve the building through technological investment all send strong signals regarding the direction we are taking Akarua” said Matt.

Viticulturist, Gillian Wilson, who has been resident at Akarua for the past five years, advised that “A cooler spring had affected bunch weights and size of berries resulting in a lighter crop that ripened perfectly - with small intensely flavoured berries. The resulting 2007 wines have been dense and concentrated expressions of the Akarua vineyard site.”

Akaruas strong Pinot Noir track record began with the Akarua 2002 Pinot Noir winning Champion Wine of the Show at the 2003 Air New Zealand Wine Awards and top scoring Pinot Noir in Cuisine Magazine that same year. Earlier this year, the Akarua Cadence 2007 Pinot Noir was also awarded Gold at the San Francisco International Wine Challenge re-asserting the consistency and reliability of Akarua Pinot Noir.

Whilst Sir Clifford still keeps a close eye on his Akarua project, it is his son David Skeggs that now leads the business forward. David has been instrumental in a number of recent changes at Akarua, namely the investment Matt Connell has been able to make in the winery and a new focus on the packaging and brand visual imagery that will see an exciting change in direction from the 2009 vintage release onwards.

For more information on the wines or Akarua, please call Matt Connell +64 (0)3 445 0897, Jacqui Murphy +64 (0)27 668 6556 or [email protected]

Akarua vineyard, from Bannockburn, Central Otago, is releasing its two flagship 2007 Pinot Noirs into the market; Akarua Cadence 2007 and Akarua Gullies 2007. Both wines are made solely from grapes grown on the 50 hectare property that was planted by Sir Clifford Skeggs in 1996.

As testament to the outstanding quality of wines emerging from the 2007 Central Otago vintage and Akarua’s consistent track record with the variety, the Akarua Cadence 2007 has just been awarded a Gold medal at the 2009 San Francisco International Wine Competition. A cooler spring had affected bunch weights and size of berries resulting in a lighter crop that ripened perfectly with small intensely flavoured berries.

Whilst the Cadence is a more structured and muscular style that will reward cellaring, the Gullies is made to be a more fruit expressive wine that delights fans of the rich berry fruit flavours Central Otago Pinot Noir is renown for. New winemaker, Matt Connell, who has just completed his first vintage at Akarua, believes that the wines are an honest expression of the vineyard site and the vintage.

Matt stated that; “The 2007 Akarua Pinot Noirs are both wines that Akarua can be justifiably proud of. They deliver the generous flavour concentration, complexity and structure that Central Otago Pinot Noir can do so well.”

Whilst Sir Clifford still keeps ‘an eye’ on Akarua, it is his son David Skeggs, who now leads the family business and is firmly driving the company forwards. The Skeggs family have a long term capital commitment towards Akarua and this has allowed Matt to invest in new technology for the winery prior to the 2009 vintage and ensures he has all the necessary tools to fulfill the vineyards promise.

“I moved to Akarua because I have always admired the vineyard's potential and David Skeggs involvement in the business has re-envigorated the entire company at every level of production and marketing – it really is exciting times ahead for Akarua”, said Matt.

Matt was previously forging a name for himself at Olssens as a winemaker with a ‘golden touch’ – 5 of the 11 gold medals awarded to Pinot Noir at the 2009 Royal Easter Show were made by Matt and his 2007 Pinot Noir was Champion Wine at the 2009 Bragato Awards and Champion Pinot Noir at the 2009 Royal Easter Show. He is certainly aware that some fantastic wines have already emerged from Akarua, with the 2002 Akarua Pinot Noir winning Air New Zealand Champion Wine of Show and now the Akarua Cadence 2007 aptly doing so well at an international wine show just at the time of release in to the market. Put Akarua on your ‘look out for’ list...

Hello from beautiful Bannockburn

As you can tell from Susie's photo, summer is starting to arrive. The season so far has been characterised by cooler than average conditions with a bit more rainfall than we're used to in these parts. However, the up-side is that we've had no major frost problems arising from the greater cloud cover. The region's vines have been slow with bud burst but are really starting to move ahead , which is keeping the team busy shoot thinning and bud rubbing.

Our 2006 Pinot Noirs are being released with a fantastic response from media. In particular the November issue of Cuisine has featured our consistent approach to quality noting 'the tradition of accolades for Pinot Noir'. You'll see that our more structured Akarua Pinot Noir is now known as 'Cadence'. So, when referring to our two Pinot Noirs, they are either 'Gullies' or 'Cadence'. The word 'cadence' relates to rhythms and cycles; for us the relevance is significant when we consider those patterns that Mother Nature thrusts at us on a daily, weekly or yearly basis.

We're also pleased to mention a bronze medal for our 2006 Chardonnay at the International Chardonnay Challenge along with a bronze at the Air NZ Wine Awards. While Chardonnay is not the recognised varietal for our region the team has done some great work in the past few years developing this style and it's starting to pay dividends, reinforced by comments from Cellar Door visitors.

There is a new addition to our family of wines - a Sauvignon Blanc produced with grapes from Marlborough. That region's success with this varietal has set a benchmark and the inclusion of an excellent Sauvignon Blanc also offers us an extra advantage in the global market.

The wine has a bouquet of gooseberries, buttercups and freshly cut grass - typical characters that have become the hallmark of good 'savvy'; a hint of flintiness denotes its minerality.

It's been extremely well received since release, especially with the onset of warm weather.

Normally retailing at $19.90 as a special introductory offer we're offering this for a limited time at $15.40 a bottle.

These days we're often being asked if there are older vintages available for sale, in addition to our more recent releases. We currently have two offerings: 2003 Chardonnay and 2004 Gullies Pinot Noir. Click here for details. With Christmas on its way this is a popular gift option, especially when it's packaged in a wooden presentation box - we'll also write a small note and send it off for you - no problems.

And, for all the Rosé fans, the 2007 vintage is available. There's not much of it and it's going fast.

Finally, for all our customers who have had contact with our winemaker, Jacqueline Kemp, it's our pleasure to confirm the birth of her first baby, a wee boy named Gerry Leo. Congratulations Jacq, best wishes from us all - two vintages in one year! 

Pinot NoirFollowing the great rating (92 points) that we celebrated for the 2003 vintage our 2004 Akarua Pinot Noir has again been awarded the same score.

This is a thrilling result for the team as it a very high rating that reinforces the consistency of our style.

Comments, as follows:

92 points Akarua Pinot Noir Central Otago Bannockburn 2004 Very Burgundian, with a stream-lined, supple array of spice, cherry, fall leaf and intense mineral nuances. Has a supple structure, with a solid core of concentration that persists through the finish. Drink now through 2010.

During a 'sneak preview' of Central Otago wines held in July 2006 Bob Campbell (MW) recorded the following notes:

Akarua 2005 Gullies Pinot Noir

Total score 94

Dense, rich, ripe Pinot Noir with plenty of sweet fruit and oak flavours. Balanced wine with gentle tannins that give a drying finish. A minor fruit bomb. Black cherry and plum flavours predominate.

Akarua 2005 Pinot Noir

Total score 93

Big and very ripe Pinot Noir with masses of chocolate/mocha/fruitcake flavours. Slightly porty - an almost inevitable consequence of impressive ripeness and concentration. Dark berries and plum. Long with firm tannins. Oak plays a fairly dominant part at this stage.

Campbell Mattinson, Editor and Founder of 'The Wine Front' journal (Australia)

Akurua The Gullies Pinot Noir 2005:

Woodsmoke and sawdust, both of which have come from oak, but matched to lots of spicy fruit – a welcome balance, full of promise. Oooh yes, the palate is a champion too. Meaty, powerful, structured, terrific. A mouthfilling, expansive, violetty wine, packed with stones and tannin – and going places. This is the lower priced Akarua label but it’s taken a big step up with this release – indeed it no longer comes from the gullies of the vineyard, and is now sourced from the prime areas. Made by one of the region’s young guns: Jacqueline Kemp. Drink: 2009-2015. 92 points.

Akurua Pinot Noir 2005:

Probably a bit reduced, but comfortably so. Spicy and appealing. A classy welcome. Palate shows near-perfect composure and structure, with gravelly tannins rolling over cherry-plummed, violetty fruit. Quite classical. A run of rocky, schist-y, mineral flavour on the finish. A class act all round. Delicious. Akarua is in the Bannockburn sub-region, not all that far from Felton Road. Drink: 2006-2014. 93 points.

HarvestHello again from Bannockburn

We're just days away from the 2007 harvest and preparations are in their final phase. Gillian Wilson, Akarua's viticulturist, is bubbling about the vines. "It's a great canopy, the best it's ever been. We've had a great run of weather since December and the fruit has responded well to some superb conditions. Bunch weights (and berry sizes) are slightly down, which will result in wines with more intense colour and flavour".
Bring it on!

The 2005 vintage Pinot Noirs and Chardonnay have now been released. Our winemaker, Jacqueline Kemp, says "I'll remember this vintage for the very small berry size and intense flavours which resulted from that. Wine characters are very concentrated and, for all winemakers in the region it was a challenging vintage that revealed a lot about vineyard potential."

This is reinforced by comments from Bob Campbell MW, using descriptors for the Gullies such as "dense, rich, ripe" and the Akarua Pinot Noir, "long with firm tannins, impressive ripeness and concentration".

Gullies 2007 Pinot Noir 2007 Pinot Noir Chardonnay 2006

Winemaker Jacqueline Kemp

Winemaker Jacqueline Kemp
toasts the 'new arrivals'.

Click here to check them out on our web-site.

Since our last newsletter work has continued with the vineyard's increasing productivity. Two blending vessels offering nearly 70,000 litres capacity have already been installed and another two fermenters will also arrive in a few weeks time. Also, the vineyard crew has been installing an additional wind machine to bolster the frost protection system in our top Pinot Gris block. This equipment has become a feature of the Central Otago landscape in recent years and acts to draw warm air from above a frost's inversion layer and disperse it around ground level to protect the fruit and tender foliage. 

New blending tanks arriving Pinot Gris wind machine installed Cellar Door refurbished

New blending tanks arriving

Pinot Gris wind machine installed

Cellar Door refurbished

Finally, refurbishment work is complete on our Cellar Door that has more than doubled the space for visitors in a comfortable, temperature-controlled environment. Over the peak summer period this has really paid dividends with tourists from all parts of the world visiting our wine region.

Well, that's all for now - time to get the clippers out and harvest those grapes!


'F&B' magazine wine expert Peter Saunders selects his top New Zealand wines of 2005.

Akarua Pinot Noir 2004

Very classy, elegant, quite concentrated and a delicious style of wine unfolding. Good colour, a smooth, even texture in a nicely complete wine. Three years of top drinking ahead.

Hello again from Bannockburn.

Spring has most definitely arrived, marked in the vineyard by bud-burst and the end-of-pruning knees-up! Frost protection equipment has been checked and readied for the cold spring conditions that tend to prevail around October and November.

Bud Burst - a new season begins
Bud Burst - a new season begins

This year's winter has been extremely cold but dry and initial spring conditions are characterised by wind - plenty of it - which has made it tough outdoors. Nonetheless we seem to be about one week ahead of normal seasonal cycles so it won't be long before the team is into shoot thinning and the dreaded bud rubbing (oh, my back is killing me).

New wires New wires

New wires are added to stabilise the shoots - what a view!

Great news for all our customers who have been anticipating new releases - the 2006 Pinot Rosé and Unoaked Chardonnay are now available. In response to the fantastic feedback about our fruity and luscious Rosé style this year's quantity has been doubled to better satisfy demand. And the tough vintage in 2005 meant that we didn't have a 2005 Unoaked Chardonnay so it's great to have this refreshing, zesty style back again in time for those hot days. We've also developed new label graphics that have been inspired by the wine's character. Click here to check out the winemakers' notes for both these varieties. Remember, for wine club members we offer 10% discount and free freight (NZ) for case purchases.

Meanwhile, down at the Cellar Door we've been busy extending and upgrading this facility to better accommodate an increasing number of visitors on the Central Otago wine trail. The work is almost complete in anticipation of the busier times over spring and summer especially. Also, to cope with the increase in grape tonnages our winery expansion continues with additional fermenting and blending vessels - these will arrive in February.

A naked vineyard ready to go Curling - another Central Otago pursuit!
A naked vineyard ready to go Curling - another Central Otago pursuit!

Keeping in touch with distributors, sommeliers and other trade operators in our export markets is becoming a very important aspect of our work. Akarua's winemaker, Jacqui, is currently on tour in the USA and Europe talking about Akarua wines and promoting the Central Otago theme. We've also spent a fair amount of time in Australia as well, where New Zealand wine sales are increasing despite their own domestic surpluses in that country, quality being the basis for this growth.

Well, that's it for now. We'll be in touch again as the season progresses to keep you informed - thanks for your feedback and support.


Warm greetings from the Akarua team.

People are asking ‘What sort of season have you had this year?’
The answer: ‘Fantastic’.

2006 harvest #1

2006 harvest #2

2006 harvest #3

Scenes from the 2006 harvest - check out those beautiful bunches!

In our last newsletter we reported that the vineyard was about three weeks ahead of a typical season; this prevailed right through summer and we have already brought the last grapes in at harvest. Fruit-set was brilliant, the canopy has been healthy and bunch weights were excellent with beautifully clean fruit. Over the summer we added a further five open-top fermenters to the winery but this record crop still tested our operating limits – well in excess of projections. We’re absolutely rapt!

New open-top fermenters have increased our capacityNew open-top fermenters have increased our capacity

Coinciding with this frenetic activity we have also released our Pinot Noirs and Chardonnay from the 2004 vintage; you’ll see these listed on our web-site. Both Pinot Noirs have been featured by Bob Campbell in Gourmet Traveller Wine amongst the Top 100 New Releases, rated at an impressive 92 points. In a ‘sneak preview’ tasting back in November Bob remarked that The Gullies 2004 Pinot Noir was ‘one of the best wines from the region in this vintage.' The Akarua Pinot Noir is noted for ‘dense and complex flavours that suggest red and black cherry, plum, wild strawberry and spicy oak’.

Supply of this vintage is on a limited basis. To Akarua Wine Club members we are makinga special offer that we have e-mailed separately.

Our 2003 Akarua Pinot Noir is no longer available from the winery. However, keep an eye out in wine outlets as this wine is still building on its previous success. The prestigious US magazine ‘Wine Spectator’ rated it at 92 points, a superb result - 'tangy, lively and remarkably generous with its pure blueberry, plum, explosively spicy aromas and flavours that burst across the palate. Has tremendous character but not excessively weighty. Yummy stuff.'   Reflecting this status Akarua 2003 Pinot Noir been chosen as one of a small number of pinot noirs to represent the Central Otago style at the New Zealand Wine Fairs in New York and San Francisco – we are honoured.

There have been many enquiries about future releases, especially the luscious Pinot Rosé (which is currently depleted). While it’s difficult to be precise it is anticipated that the 2006 vintage Rosé, Pinot Gris and Unoaked Chardonnay will be available from September – we’ll be in touch.

John and Brian celebrate the end of harvestJohn and Brian celebrate the end of harvest

Before finishing, for all ‘pinophiles’ be aware that the New Zealand Pinot Noir 2007 celebration is being held between 29th January and 1st February 2007 in Wellington, preceding the International Rugby Sevens tournament.  Akarua Winery has been chosen to participate in this major event. You’ll enjoy the following options:

  • Tastings from New Zealand’s top Pinot Noir producers
  • Conference sessions led by some of the world’s most challenging and informed wine commentators and producers
  • Indulge in fabulous seafood, game and fresh produce prepared by leading New Zealand chefs
  • And best of all, discover why people fall in love with New Zealand Pinot Noir.


The Akarua Team

Bob Campbell and team recorded the following scores and comments in the Gourmet Traveller Wine magazine:

Akarua 2004 'The Gullies' Pinot Noir

Total score (out of 100 points) 92

Akarua's second label was rated equal to its flagship wine although time may see the more expensive wine move into firsrt place. Ripe plum, black cherry and a hint of spice are supported by a backbone of fresh acidity.

In a previous 'sneak preview' tasting Bob also said: 'One of the best wines from the region in this vintage.'

Akarua 2004 Pinot Noir

Total Score (out of 100 points) 92

Attractive wine with dense and complex flavours that suggest red and black cherry, plum, wild strawberry and spicy oak. Good mouthfeel and a slippery texture. Perhaps a little closed right now but has cellaring potential.

Akarua Pinot Noir2003 Akarua Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand Filed under: Red Wine, Wine Reviews

I remember a time not too long ago when I wasn't really convinced that New Zealand could grow good Pinot Noir. This wasn't because the Kiwis weren't making some stunning examples of this varietal, it was because most of what I had encountered up until that point was fairly crap -- green, woody, simplistic Pinots that didn't have the depth or complexity that I was looking for. But I continued to hear from People Who Know that there was some good stuff out there, so I kept looking.

Then one day I had some wines from Central Otago, and that silly phase was over right away. This small area of New Zealand's southern island is the southernmost winegrowing region in the world. Sandwiched literally between rainforest and desert a mere 20 miles in either direction, this area of New Zealand has notoriously variable weather, and extremely varied soil types. The area is also New Zealand's highest winegrowing region, with most vineyards situated at about 600 to 1200 feet above sea level.

Not unlike the struggle that winemakers on California's Northern coast endure with the fog and chill, winemaking can be difficult in Central Otago, but there are those who are not only persevering, but positively triumphing. Of all the wineries in the area Akarua may be the best known internationally. Established in 1996, Akarua was started by a gentleman by the name of Sir Clifford Skeggs, who, having lived in the area for a long time and watched it become a fledgling winegrowing region, decided one day that he was going to take things to the next level. Skeggs and a few others who independently came to similar conclusions at the time, was one of the first people to establish a sizeable winery operation in the area. Getting in early, as it were, Skeggs managed to purchase what are now some of Otago's finest vineyard sites in an area that has become known as Bannockburn Heights.

Akarua's first vintage was in 1999, and it has grown its operations from a few hundred cases to a few thousand in the last seven years. The winery has planted about 116 acres across the Bannockburn Heights, mostly to Pinot Noir, but also small quantities of Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. The winegrowing is overseen by the jocular Gillian Wilson, who came to Akarua with a degree in horticulture and landscape architecture, as well as six years of vineyard management experience in the area. Winemaking has been done since 2004 by the young Jacqueline Kemp, who came to Akarua after winemaking stints at Rippon Vineyard (on Lake Wanaka) and Chateau Xanadu Winery in Western Australia.

The winery produces two Chardonnays, a Rosé of Pinot Noir, a Pinot Gris, and two Pinot Noirs, of which this wine is the flagship bottling (the other being a wine known as "The Gullies"). Unusually, the winery also produces several beers.

This particular wine comes from selected blocks of Akarua's highest vineyard sites, with the lowest yields. Grapes are destemmed before crushing and fermentation, which judging by the looks of the wine, includes a long cold soak to extract color. The wine is aged for at least 10 months in oak, presumably French from the taste of it, but I don't have information on what percentage is new. I also don't know how many cases are produced, but as this is a fairly commercial operation, I'd guess several thousand at least, possibly as many as ten.

Gotta love the screwcap.

Tasting Notes:
Medium ruby in color, this wine has a lovely, deep nose of ripe raspberries, pomegranate, plum, oregano and other mixed herbs. In the mouth it is well balanced, with good acidity and lush, deep fruit flavors of cranberries, pomegranate, cherry, dried redcurrants and notes of spice and minerality that linger in a very long finish. The wine has a beautiful depth, and the cool fruit that is typical of the better made wines of this region.

Food Pairing:
This wine would be a great pairing with a slightly earthy dish like a ravioli stuffed with duck confit and black chanterelle mushrooms. Anyone got a recipe?

Overall Score: 9/9.5

Wine Spectator, a leading US wine magazine, has recently sampled the 2003 Akarua Pinot Noir and rated it 92 points - a fantastic result and another endorsement of Central Otago's ability to feature strongly on the world stage.

They recorded the following remarks:

'Tangy, lively and remarkably generous with its pure blueberry, plum, explosively spicey aromas and flavors that burst across the palate. Has tremendous character but not excessively weighty. Yummy stuff.'

Our 2000 Pinot Noir received an outstanding accolade as the only Pinot Noir gold medal awarded at the 2002 International Wine and Spirit Competition, held in London. Also that year Akarua Pinot Noir 2001 was judged as a gold medal winner at the prestigious Air New Zealand Wine Awards.

A team commited to excellenceThen the unprecedented accolade of being placed first and second in Cuisine magazine with our two styles of Pinot Noir, 2002 vintage. The flagship wine, Akarua 2002 Pinot Noir was noted for its density and flavour concentration and scored 96 from a maximum 100 points. In addition, Akarua's second label "The Gullies" 2002 Pinot Noir impressed the panel and scored an impressive 94 points.

To cap off a brilliant year Akarua 2002 Pinot Noir won the Pinot Noir Trophy and subsequently judged 2003 Champion Wine of the Show at the Air New Zealand Wine Awards. This is a supreme accolade with 'Holy Grail' status and the Akarua team is incredibly proud of this achievement.

Akarua 2002 Pinot Noir won the prestigious Air New Zealand Champion Wine of the Show TrophyThis consistency in quality continues - Akarua Pinot Noir was again been awarded a gold medal for the third consecutive year with its 2003 vintage, later rated 92 points by the U.S. magazine Wine Spectator and again for 2004. New Zealand's Bob Campbell (MW) assessed the 2005 Gullies Pinot Noir at 94 points followed by selection for 'Best of the Best' in F & B magazine.

Long live the evolution!

Recommended by Cuisine Magazine Recommended by Cuisine Magazine
Akarua wines have warranted frequent mention by this prestigious publication.
Air New Zedland Wine Awards 2004 - Gold Air New Zealand Wine Awards
Akarua Pinot Noir has been awarded a gold medal for 3 consecutive years

Campbell Mattinson, Editor and Founder of 'The Wine Front' journal (Australia)

Akarua The Gullies Pinot Noir 2005:
Woodsmoke and sawdust, both of which have come from oak, but matched to lots of spicy fruit – a welcome balance, full of promise. Oooh yes, the palate is a champion too. Meaty, powerful, structured, terrific. A mouthfilling, expansive, violetty wine, packed with stones and tannin – and going places. This is the lower priced Akarua label but it’s taken a big step up with this release – indeed it no longer comes from the gullies of the vineyard, and is now sourced from the prime areas. Made by one of the region’s young guns: Jacqueline Kemp. Drink: 2009-2015. 92 points.

Welcome again to our new web-site. Thanks to everyone who gave us such positive feedback about its fresh appearance, wealth of information and ease of use – that’s our aim. It’s no coincidence that internet orders have increased significantly, reflecting the user-friendly shopping cart system.

Read on to see our web-site offer........

Vineyard activities have been hastened with the mild winter conditions we have been enjoying – we’re probably two to three weeks ahead of normal seasonal patterns. Good for us, especially since it’s allowed the skiers extra time for their wine trail ‘activities’. Pruning is now completed and we are already seeing fluffy tufts on the vines, which are the precursors to bud-break. When this occurs it’s an unnerving time as we commit to frost fighting mode to protect tender foliage forming on the vines. Additional investment has been committed in this area with some technology borrowed from the kiwifruit industry called a ‘Selective Inverted Sink’, more affectionately referred to as the SIS. Essentially these pool the cold air and 'throw' it upwards with very large propellers.

The SIS machines - visitors from Mars? The SIS machines - visitors from Mars?

Additional planting of Pinot Gris vines is in progress and that will assist us (in a few years time) to cope with increasing demand for this varietal. The emerging popularity of Pinot Gris has also prompted us to create distinctive label graphics that differentiate it from our two styles of Chardonnay. We deliberately selected tawny / copper colours as they are remarkably similar to the grapes’ hues at harvest time.

Grant 'reflects' on Pinot Gris planting Grant 'reflects' on Pinot Gris planting - it's sunny and it's Friday afternoon (as the boss records this moment)!

The relationship we enjoy with our domestic and international distributors is extremely important; it is imperative that we maintain regular contact with the various markets that we supply to keep them informed about Akarua developments. Our Winemaker, Jacqueline Kemp, has been very active in this area. She has recently participated in the Hancocks New Zealand Winemakers Tour, intended to give trade customers an insight into up and coming vintage releases. We came away from that feeling incredibly buoyed by the response – there was certainly a ‘wow’ factor coming through consistently.

Jacqueline is currently overseas visiting our distributors in the USA and UK to talk with sales staff and sommeliers about Akarua and Central Otago’s emergence as a wine region. Our US connection (Adventures in Wine) has also given us some great feedback about many visitors to our Cellar Door who wish to buy our wine after their return home. Part of the value with having distributors off-shore is not having to worry about customs limitations when returning from a holiday.

In October Akarua will be going to Australia with a cluster of other Central Otago wineries, again with a view to raising the profile of our quality wines; the venues will be in Melbourne and Sydney.

Work has commenced on extending the winery’s operating capacity to account for an increase in grape tonnage we anticipate for the 2006 vintage. This phase will include nine additional open-top fermenters with associated catwalks and temperature control infrastructure. Further additions will be progressed in subsequent years, which we will keep you informed of.

Our new wine releases will be rolling out in the next few months. The first of these will soon be available, the 2005 Pinot Rosé. This was a wine that stunned many on the Hancocks Winemakers Tour and is well suited (slightly chilled) to those sunny, lazy days over summer.

Finally, to celebrate our exciting new web-site we’ve decided to make available a special offer to internet customers – a two pack of 2003 Chardonnay and 2003 Gullies Pinot Noir packed in a wooden presentation box for $59 (freight inclusive New Zealand). This must be tempting when you consider that people are already contemplating Christmas.


The Akarua Team

Welcome to Akarua’s newly refurbished web-site! It is our hope that this will be an enjoyable and up-to-date window into our activities, ambitions and fine products. Please feel free to offer feedback; after all, it’s been designed with you in mind.

Our 2005 harvest is finished and the frenzied vintage activity is starting to wind down, with most of the wine ‘asleep’ in barrel. From a New Zealand industry perspective this year’s harvest has been variable, reflecting inclement weather conditions in many areas prior to Christmas (that was summer?).  Fortunately nature corrected this anomaly, albeit retrospectively, and we were treated to warm and dry days through to harvest.  While Akarua’s total grape tonnage was below initial projections the winemaking team is absolutely rapt with the quality of this year’s crop. Our Viticulturist, Gillian Wilson, proudly compares it to a new-born baby; “small and beautiful” (you’d be forgiven for thinking that the vines are part of her collective family).

Viticulturist Gillian Wilson is a firm believer in multi-tasking! Viticulturist Gillian Wilson is a firm believer in multi-tasking!

Akarua Winemaker Jacqueline Kemp comments that, even in these early stages, the Pinot Noir is rich in colour with good fruit and tannin concentration. The whites are aromatic, full-bodied and ‘charming’.

It is also pleasing to report that we have commenced a new distribution partnership in Australia, which will facilitate an increasing number of enquiries from that sector. Ki WiNZ is Sydney-based and specialises in distributing premium New Zealand wines to discerning Australian consumers. Check out contact details on our Distributors page.

Throughout the year we host a wide variety of visitors to our winery and vineyard, including critics, journalists and trade buyers. Our most recent guest was Andrew Willy, Purchasing Director for Selfridges, London. His enthusiasm for our range of wines prompted this request and he was even more delighted to discover our first release of Pinot Rosé, which is part of a recent export order to the UK. Furthermore, Andrew tasted our Wild Spaniard range of beers and will include several of these in his exclusive store.

Jacqeline discusses vineyard developments with Selfridges Purchasing Director, Andrew Willy.Jacqeline discusses vineyard developments with Selfridges Purchasing Director, Andrew Willy.

We have established a new partnership with Highgate Estate, a vineyard located in the Gibbston Valley (Central Otago). The Akarua winemaking team has been commissioned to produce Highgate’s range of wines for the 2005 vintage. This is a tremendous thrill and no doubt reinforces a well-earned respect for our Winemaker, Jacqueline.

Finally, a very warm welcome to the new leasees of Akarua’s restaurant, Dean and Diana Harker. Now known as the Lazy Dog Café and Wine Bar, it offers a comprehensive menu that will happily accommodate all family members, young and old alike.

An extract from Geoff Kelly's Wine Review - January 2005

2003 Akarua Pinot Noir 18 ½ (*****)
Central Otago, New Zealand: 14%; $40 [ screwcap ]

2003 Akarua Pinot NoirRuby, suggestions of carmine and velvet, deep for pinot, but no weightier than some of the Girardins. Bouquet is phenomenal: here at last is another wonderfully floral, complex, and cherried wine to match the 1999 Felton Road. 

The florals are soft, sweet, and sensuous, reminiscent of lilac and violets, almost drowning the fruit. Palate matches with attractive cherry flesh, suggestions of fresh-baked jam tarts, subtle oak, and totally burgundian poise. It is deceptively rich, particularly in the cherry fruit component, though it seems lighter than the Felton Block 3. 

Oaking is beautifully subtle, so flavour as well as bouquet display New Zealand pinot at its varietal best. Indeed, if anybody asks what pinot noir should smell like, this is the (affordable) bottle to display the answer. 

This kind of pinot is a so much more fragrant and beautiful expression of the variety than some of the fatter, plummier, '02 Otago wines. In two or three years this should settle down into one of New Zealand's finest pinot noir achievements so far. Cellar 3 - 12 years. Tasted three times. 

GK 11/04

Sir Clifford Skeggs’ Bannockburn winery never seems to put a foot wrong. Not content with the trophy for Champion Wine of the Show at the 2003 Air New Zealand Wine Awards for its 2002 Pinot Noir, Akarua also took out the top two placings in Cuisine’s 2003 tasting of New Zealand Pinots, with its second label (The Gullies) finishing a close runner-up after its more expensive stablemate. (Akarua 2002 Pinot Noir scored a solid 96 points out of 100; Akarua The Gullies 2002 Pinot Noir 94.)

Almost as satisfying for Akarua chief executive Warren Jackson was watching Akarua’s 2002 Chardonnay – a variety that has sometimes struggled in Central Otago – score a gold medal at the 2004 New Zealand Wine Society Royal Easter Wine Show, proving that the winery can do other things well besides Pinot Noir.


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