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Notes from New Zealand, 2011

text and photgraphs © 2011 Tom Cannavan

These notes accompany our in-depth feature on New Zealand 2011.


matt Matt Dicey (right, in one of his vineyard's inspection pits), says he has undoubtedly been on a 'journey of discovery'. Matt comes from a grape-growing family in South Africa, on the Platvlei farm where they grew Chenin Blanc. His father and mother moved to New Zealand in the 1970s and, having holidayed in Central Otago in 1988 on a ski trip, they returned in 1989 specifically to look for vineyard land. Eventually they bought land in Target Gully, which is now the same little Bannockburn enclave where Olssens and Felton Road are based.

Matt, who was an engineering student, came down to Central "to help the family and ski," and ended up helping plant the vineyards in 1993. That's when he decided to train as a winemaker, and so enroled at Lincoln Unibversity where he completed a masters thesis on Pinot Noir. After some skill- and mind-broadening stints overseas, he returned to Central Otago in 1999 when he and his father built a winery. Though making wines since 1999, most of the grape supply went to other high profile estates in the early years. The Mount Difficulty business was not launched until 2003, and is still privately owned by "partners who shook hands on the deal a decade earlier."

the wines

UK importer for Mount Difficulty is Ellis of Richmond. See all wines on wine-searcher.

Mount Difficulty, Pinot Noir 1999
A tiny dank note here, a little little hint of rot, but then the fruit on the palate is very good and gives lots of solid, sweet pleasure with strawberry jam richness and quite a meaty, firm tannic background. Still drinking well. 90/100.

Mount Difficulty, Pipeclay Pinot Noir 2002
Tighter and more mineral and smoky, a darker more concentrtated fruit character, but I like the tiny hint of fudgy warmth and this has very good fruit and balance on the palate - a fine, natural fruit concentrtion and good length. 91/100.

Mount Difficulty, Target Gully Pinot Noir 2003
Much more closed, less expressive at this stage. Seems to be quite a lot of oak and a certain chewiness. This has a spicy mass, though to me it seems a little too solid and lacks a bit of openness and softness that could push my score higher. 90/100.

Mount Difficulty, Long Gully Pinot Noir 2005
Quite spicy and smoky, a touch of cedar but also a little touch of open, more undergrowth quality. The palate has an orangey zest and life about it, and this seems to be a wine with a lot more energy in the mouth and a lovely sense of freshness despite a solidly tannic core. 93/100.

See all wines on wine-searcher.

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