Akarua Otago’s largest vineyard owner

Akarua’s 25 Steps vineyard (Photo: Bob Campbell MW)

The Bannockburn-based winery Akarua has been on a vineyard buying spree.

In the past four years, they have more than doubled their original 50 hectares of vineyards to a current total of 122 hectares. It’s not the scale that really excites me, it’s the quality of their new acquisitions.

In late 2014 they bought 35 hectares of productive Bannockburn vineyard from Wild Earth. It’s a great site at the top of Felton Road that has made many distinguished wines in the past.

In 2016 they purchased the spectacular 25 Steps vineyard in the Pisa area. It is one of the few terraced vineyards in Central Otago. Expensive to manage but offering great potential.

Another Pisa purchase was the 28-hectare site once owned by the organic producer Kawarau Estate. This vineyard has a proven history of excellence, although has been run down in recent years.

Akarua winemaker, Andrew Keenleyside, tells me they have other top vineyards in their sights. He believes they have the largest area of vineyards in Central Otago for a family-owned wine producer. Mt Difficulty draws grapes from a total vineyard area of 160-hectares but only 70-hectares of those are company owned. Chard Farm, another sizeable producer, owns 43.8-hectares of vineyards according to their website.

I asked Andrew what selection criteria they apply when prospecting for new vineyards.

“We want sites with a bit of vine age and a proven ability to deliver the sort of styles we like to make. In the case of pinot noir we want to make rich, approachable wines with soft and supple textures. We want pinot noir with generosity, depth and power.”

Andrew believes that site ownership is important because it gives full control over every vineyard.

“We don’t buy any fruit.”

He also explained that quality winemaking is an all-important goal.

“We readily shed profits in pursuit of quality.”

Akarua was founded by Sir Clifford Skeggs who owns many businesses. The Skeggs family owns many companies and regard Akarua as a “legacy company”. Their goal is to make Akarua one of New Zealand’s leading pinot noir producers.

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