Mt Difficulty Wines Ghost Town Chardonnay 2019
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Mt Difficulty Lowburn Valley Ghost Town Chardonnay 2019 is handcrafted in very limited quantities. Generous aromas of peach, naval orange and Meyer lemons with acacia blossom and a touch of brioche in the background lead to a creamy, and textural palate. Integrated nougat oak, with subtle spice and hints of flint are showcased on the palate. A fine, precise acidity flows through the wine to a persistent finish.
Mt Difficulty is arguably one of New Zealand’s most well recognised and iconic wine brands. The Mt Difficulty story started in the early 90s where the owners of 5 newly planted vineyards in the Bannockburn region of Central Otago decided to work together to make wines under one label.
Having some of the oldest vines in the region, the first vintage in 1998 happened to be only a small production of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. These wines won Gold and Silver medals respectively at the ‘Air New Zealand Wine Awards’ in 1999 and put Mt Difficulty on the map. Flash forward 20 years and there are now more single vineyard wines, a new label and Mt Difficulty wines now span many Vineyards all over Central Otago.
Finding a name for the label was actually the hardest part of their launch! One of the original settlers of the Wakatipu basin were employed with the task of taking a flock of 3000 sheep to Bannockburn from the other side of the South Island. This arduous task encountered many rivers and mountain crossings and try as they did, they reached the Kawarau Gorge and found the gap between the bluff and the river was too narrow to cross – the mountain directly above this bluff was called “Mt Difficulty”.
In 2004 a major change happened with the launch of their second label ‘Roaring Meg’. The harvest was producing such abundant fruit that they had an opportunity to experiment and try a different style from their signature range. The first release was a Pinot Noir, and the fruit forward palate and early drinking style of the wine was so well received by the public that ‘Roaring Meg’ has been a mainstay at ‘Mt Difficulty’ ever since. The name dates back to when early settlers first reached the area in the 1860’s, and an early party of diggers took a couple of enterprising women with them however when it came to crossing a gushing stream, one young woman made such a fuss that they named the stream after, you guessed it, ‘Roaring Meg’. The other woman on the trip was relatively relaxed about the endeavour so they named the next stream ‘Gentle Annie’. We shall keep an eye out for Mt Difficulty’s next label eh?
The entire ‘Mt difficulty’ range is unmissable. The vine age gave the Pinot Noir a certain complexity and concentration that is often compared to those grapes from Burgundy. The Sauvignon Blanc is alive with fruit complexity, while the Pinot Gris is a full textured off dry style with white peach characters throughout.
Greg Lane takes up the role of Chief Winemaker and Margot Best steps into the role of Assistant Winemaker, having already been an integral member of the Mt Difficulty team. This winemaking duo both bring a wealth of experience to the Central Otago winery.
Highly regarded amongst the winemaking community, Greg was named New Zealand Young Winemaker of the Year in 2018.
For more information on Mt Difficulty and their wines, visit their website.
The Central Otago Wine Region
Found at the extreme limits of winemaking, Central Otago is found at 44° and 45° south and is home to some of the most southerly vineyards the world has to offer. Boasting breathtaking landscapes and an extreme climate, the local economy has garnered global recognition for its merino wool. However, over the previous decade, the majority of land has been shifted away from pasture, to being under vine.
Find out more information on the Central Otago Wine Region here.
Central Otago Wine Region’s History
In 1996 Otago only had 11 vineyards, while today the region has a legion over 100 strong. The incredibly balanced styles of wine that flow from the region aren’t something to be missed. Central Otago wine region is the first in the world to challenge Burgundy’s production of Pinot Noir.
Central Otago’s four primary sub-regions are Wanaka, Gibbston, Bannockburn and Alexandra. While all are situated relatively close together and each has the same stony free-draining soil base, their full profiles vary immensely. However, they are glacially derived and have rich deposits of mica and schist making it ideal for the production of Pinot Noir, which just happens to be 80% of the production there.
The excellent drainage helps retain mineral richness whilst temperatures can vary from 30degrees during ripening days to only 8degrees overnight. This swift shift allows the grape ripening process to stop more suddenly overnight, thus retaining all the wonderful natural acidity and fruit concentration this region can offer. To us this provides Central Otago with an intensely fruit-forward character no other region of New Zealand can replicate. Autumn frosts are a risk here too, so it’s just as well the growers down here have their wits about them…