In 1996, in a daring and visionary move, South Island family the Skeggs, planted their first Akarua vineyard on Cairnmuir Rd in Bannockburn.
Central Otago has rapidly gained international market and media credibility for producing exceptional pinot noir. Pioneers in the 1980s such as Alan Brady at Gibbston, Vernon and Sue Burgess at Alexandra and Rolf and Lois Mills in Wanaka, began producing serious wines under the most challenging circumstances, activating a surge of enthusiasm and investment in the industry over the next two decades and beyond.
Scientific temperature data collated by engineers building the nearby Clyde dam in the 1980s, identified Bannockburn in particular as possessing seasonal temperatures and weather characteristics akin to Burgundy. The Skeggs family had an interest in wine and a long association with Central Otago after holidaying there since the 1970s. Former Mayor of Dunedin Sir Clifford Skeggs, was amongst the first to commit to this region on a commercial scale, therefore managing to secure one of the finest elevated north-facing sites in Bannockburn.
Sir Clifford and Lady Marie Skeggs purchased the land for Akarua in 1995 and planting commenced in 1996. By September 1998, 81,000 vines had been planted over 34.5 hectares and the first wines were bottled from the 1999 vintage. The name Akarua was chosen to honour the establishment of the estate; two Maori words together meaning "two vines", referring to the original varietals planted, pinot noir and chardonnay. The New Zealand Mountain Daisy indigenous to the region, was chosen by the Skeggs family as Akarua's emblem, anchoring the estate to the drama and beauty of Central Otago. In 2001 additional land was purchased and further vineyards developed to a total of 48 hectares, at that time Central Otago's largest family owned estate. The 2002 vintage of Akarua Pinot Noir threw the estate into the media spotlight for the first time, receiving a trophy from Air New Zealand Wine Awards for "Best Wine of Show'.
Son of Sir Clifford and Lady Marie, David Skeggs became Managing Director of Akarua in 2008. This same year was the first vintage of RUA Pinot Noir, launched into the market as a more approachable and early drinking style. The popularity of RUA has soared over the years both in New Zealand and abroad, celebrated for quality, consistency and affordability. The 2017 RUA Pinot Noir was awarded three trophies including 'Best Wine of Show' by the 2019 Sydney International Wine Competition, a reinforcement of the forward-thinking decision made over 10 years earlier.
From the 2010 vintage, under the supervision of renowned sparkling wine specialist Dr Tony Jordan, Akarua released their range of Methode Traditionelle sparkling wines. The two varietals used to establish the estate (both traditional Champagne varietals) Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, were utilised. Dr Jordan had identified the climate of Central Otago to be perfect for production of sparkling wines which became evident in the fine acid structure and complexity of the wines. Akarua's Methode Traditionelle range went on to win numerous trophies and awards both locally and internationally, notably the Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships.
To keep up with demand, from 2014 Akarua began purchasing prime established vineyards at the end of Felton Road in Bannockburn and in Pisa sub-regions, including the oldest certified organic vineyard in Central Otago and the dramatically beautiful 25 Steps. To the present day, Akarua has continued development including converting further vineyards to organics and planting new blocks as recently as 2019. In 2016, Akarua partnered with local catering company Artisan to launch their restaurant Akarua Wines & Kitchen by Artisan in Arrowtown, a move which has been instrumental in further shaping the respected reputation of the brand.
Akarua has never been in such a strong position as it is today under the leadership of David Skeggs at the helm of the business; with General Manager Kathryn Pettit, award-winning winemaker Andrew Keenleyside and Viticulturist Mark Naismith leading the teams. Akarua wines have won a dedicated following both in New Zealand and in many countries abroad and are proudly 100% estate grown and second generation New Zealand family owned.
With lessons learnt over a quarter century, Akarua is focused on the future and excited for what lies ahead.
Sir Cliff Skeggs Mayor of Dunedin with Prince Charles & Princess Diana
Sir Cliff Enjoying the First Ever Vintage of Akarua Pinot Noir 1999
Sir Clifford Skeggs his Sons (Left to Right) Bryan, Sir Clifford, Graham, David
Sir Clifford Skeggs dredging in Foveaux Strait for the world famous bluff oyster