Majestic staff have some amazing opportunities and work very hard for them. Last night I was able to take advantage of one of these opportunities and took part in Mount Difficulty’s wine tasting showcase, which included a fantastic bit of food and wine matching, so pretty much the perfect night for a girl who loves both food and wine, even a cheese board was included, finishing off the night beautifully!
The Mount Difficulty vineyard sits along the Felton Road in Central Otago, New Zealand’s southernmost winemaking region. The vineyard is relatively young as it was only planted in 1991, and then again in 1992 after a slight blip, courtesy of hard ground and very harsh rain killing the original vines. This planting actually doubled the amount of ground in the area under vine, to approximately 16 hectares.
The Mount Difficulty vineyard includes 80% Pinot Noir, slightly under the 85% average in the Central Otago area. The vineyard is named after the Mountain which overlooks the area and in the 1860’s, when the area was a desert, caused untold problems to farmers and their livestock. They attempted to move their herds to the other side of the mountain but were thwarted and had to go the long way around rather than through the pass. Having the mountain presence creates a very unique macro climate protecting the area from heavy rains. The soils of the area are also very diverse and this can be differentiated amongs the various wines, especially the Pinot’s.
We started off tasting three aromatic white wines which was a pleasant surprise as the area is better known for its Pinot Noir. Starting off with the Estate Pinot Gris, this wine was not a disappointment and is the fastest growing popular grape variety. It exuded elegance which is great but I am more of a “party on the nose and rave in the mouth” kind of wine-lover and this was just a bit more like a slumber party on both. There were definite hints of green apple and citrus and possibly even a hint of warm apple crumble on the nose, however the flavours were more pronounced when accompanied by the food, cold smoked salmon & lemon crepe terrine. If salmon isn’t your thing, maybe try this with a pan seared scallop drenched with lemon juice.
The Estate Chardonnay followed and I have to say as a chardonnay enthusiast I was not let down. This was more complex and could easily stand up to a traditional Burgundy chardonnay if they went into the ring together. The chardonnay had been barrel fermented using wild yeasts and 100% French oak, 20% of this being new oak which could be detected both on the nose and the palate. The tropical fruit notes went beautifully with both a mini (actually very mini) chicken salad and a chicken and sun-blushed tomato wonton ravioli.
The final white wine of the event was the Estate “Target Gully” Riesling and this lovely little number was divine. Some would say that you could replace my blood with Riesling and you wouldn’t know the difference and to be honest that is probably true, I cannot get enough of the stuff! This delightful style would match Asian foods beautifully and we had the pleasure of tasting this with Salt & Pepper Squid with lime and coconut aioli. It is fermented using stainless steel so no oaky tones come into the wine, just pure petrol and citrus which is a delight on both the nose and palate.
Then we moved onto the main event, the big guns of the Central Otago region, Pinot Noir. Now this could have made me come a cropper as I am a full bodied hitting all your senses, pow, biff, Batman and Robin style, red wine drinker. However I may have to backtrack and jump on board the Pinot loving ship as I really enjoyed them, and not only because they came with cheese!
We started with the Roaring Meg which had a lovely mix of black and red fruits on the nose and palate but not in too much of a softly softly way. It was made in 100% French oak with 20% again being new. This really showed but didn’t overpower the fruit in the wine. 4.5 tons of this wine can be produced per hectare and I would suggest buying a good few bottles from each hectare as once you try this, especially with sticky pork belly with seared scallops: you will not be leaving room in your wine rack for much else! The name Roaring Meg came from the river which runs close by; the local gorge and New Zealand’s first hydro electric power station are also named Roaring Meg in a local girl’s honour!
The Mount Difficulty Estate Pinot Noir followed the Roaring Meg and is celebrating its 10 year anniversary. It could easily be laid down and left to develop for another 7-8 years to bring out the forest floor flavours. This wine actually ages in a charred oak barrel and some new French oak, both of which impact on the flavour. We had this lovely little number with bacon wrapped New Zealand green shell mussels and a beautiful piece of New Zealand lamb rump!
We finished off with the Single Vineyard Pipeclay Terrace which as its name suggests comes from a very clay based soil and is site specific. This wine is rare and is only produced in good years where enough fruit can be harvested. This was a big wine that came up said hello and shook your hand, and that was all before you even tasted it. It is left in oak for 18 months then in bottle for a further 10 months to really show off the wine’s potential. It was paired with seared Kangaroo and I have to say I was intrigued, both by the wine and the meat. Being Northern, the opportunity to taste Kangaroo is sparse as they don’t often hop that far up the country.
We ended the night with a cheese selection and Quince paste, making the night heavenly in my eyes.