New Zealand is one country with two islands and has been home to the indigenous Maori people for centuries. It was extensively mapped by Dutch explorer Abel Tasman in 1642 and British Captain James Cook in the 1760s [source: New Zealand History]. Even though they knew the land was there, it took quite a while for European explorers to make their way to the islands' inner regions, such as Central Otago [source: New Zealand History, Britannica.com].
Missionaries were a key part of establishing early settlements and European dominance throughout New Zealand. In the mid-1800s, a growing population of British settlers led to the need for established trade routes through uncharted territory of the interiors of the islands [source: New Zealand History, Britannica.com].
Central Otago was just a dot on the map until an important mineral resource was discovered there in the 1860s -- gold [source: New Zealand History, Otagowine History]. At this time New Zealand was part of the British Empire, and many people rushed to the area to seek their fortunes. The flood of prospectors helped create new trails and passages through central New Zealand.
During the gold rush, someone took time to plant the first grapevines in Central Otago in 1864. Even though the area served the grapevines well, wine grapes weren't taken seriously until more than 100 years after that first planting [source: Central Otago Pinot Noir, Otagowine History]. In 1972, the country's Department of Science and Industrial Research (DSIR) sent people to the area to determine if the land could be cultivated for wine production. They planted crops and were pleased with the results. In 1987, the Central Otago wine region released its first Pinot Noir [source: Central Otago Pinot Noir, Otagowine History].
What makes this part of New Zealand so unique? Read on to learn about the Central Otago wine region's agriculture.