Central Otago has quickly established itself as ground zero for Pinot Noir in New Zealand-in the words of Jancis Robinson, "many believe this is where the Pinot grail is to be found". At 45° S, Central Otago is the most southerly wine region in the world and Mount Difficulty would have to be one of its finest proponents.
All wines that carry the Mt Difficulty Bannockburn label are subject to two strict criteria: they have to be sourced from vineyards situated in a very specific area Bannockburn, south of the Kawarau River and they are to be under the umbrella of the Mt Difficulty management team. The reasons for these self-imposed constraints are that we believe this to be an area with very special qualities for growing grapes, and that the management of the vineyard is reflected in the quality of the ultimate product.
This Packspur Pinot is a fine example of the Cromwell/Bannockburn Pinot style. Darkly scented and with reams of powerful fruit, it is a Pinot for those who love it on the larger side. Exemplary stuff.
Packspur Vineyard is situated on Heaney Road in Lowburn, on the northern side of Cromwell (as opposed to Bannockburn to the South). The vineyard takes its name from the track that was used to pack supplies over the Pisa Range, from the Lowburn Valley to the gold-fields of the Cardrona Valley. Packspur Vineyard was planted from locally sourced cuttings by Anne and Laurie McAuley in 1993.
The vineyard comprises 3 hectares of north facing Pinot Noir (clones 5, 6, 115 and Lincoln Mix), Pinot Gris, Riesling and Chardonnay. The grapes are close-planted on a mottled shallow mix of Waenga and Fraser sandy loam soils. The vineyard escapes the worst of winds and the slopes typically ensure a minimal frost risk. Our winter was dry so we came into the season with low soil moisture, October was significantly warmer than average leading to early bud burst, November carried this warm dry start on and whilst we had a small amount of rainfall leading into December it too was largely drier than normal. This led to an early and successful flowering. January was unseasonably changeable, whilst we had some rain it was the wind and changeability that really influenced growing conditions, delaying the onset of veraison. February cracked on with some super warm and mostly dry conditions outside of one large rainfall event late in the month. March was again unseasonably changeable and overcast with small rain events occurring through the month.
Finally, the sun returned in April, along with more settled, warm weather. The variability and overcast days delayed the onset of picking. The vintage was very compact; with everything being harvested over a 24 day period. We harvested the Pinot Noir at Packspur on the 22nd April; in total 3.8 Tonnes of fruit was harvested. All of the different clones were fermented together, to try and enhance early integration.
The majority of the fruit was destemmed, with 10% retained as whole clusters to help build structural intensity and help reflect the unique characteristics of the site. The wine underwent a 6-day cold soak and was hand plunged once daily; this was followed by a 6-day natural fermentation with temperature peaking at 30C during which time the ferment was plunged once daily. The wine stayed on skins for 24 days in total prior to pressing, overnight settling and then to barrel for 15 months. It then went through malolactic fermentation in the spring, was racked to tank the following winter and bottled, unfined, in December
Layers of finely focused red fruits of the forest with broader plum notes, violet florals along with brambly notes add detail and interest. Open, supple, textural raspberry notes lead into a soft broad flow through the palate. Finally, the wine finishes with a herb influence running alongside elegant structural elements.
The Mt Difficulty story begins with a handshake. The early 90s saw the owners of five newly planted vineyards in Bannockburn, come together to produce wine under one label. They called themselves the "Gang of Four." The first vintage produced under the Mt Difficulty label was 1998. Today they are comprised of many vineyards that span Central Otago, from Gibbston to Lowburn to Bendigo. The focus is on Pinot noir and Chardonnay, but Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris are also produced. Recently, Mt Difficulty have begun experimental plantings of Chenin Blanc and Syrah too. Under the experienced guidance of Winemaker Matt Dicey, this winery continues to turn out incredible wines that are the ultimate expression of Central Otago, year after year.
BOB CAMPBELL MW
Deeply-scented pinot noir with bold plum, dark berry and mixed spice flavours. A seamless, silken texture and impressively concentrated flavours add extra appeal. Delicious now but with cellaring potential.'
CAMERON DOUGLAS MS
Youthful bouquet - fresh, fruity, dried herb and tea. Flavours of dark cherries and forest berries, firm tannins and plentiful acidity. Spicy tannin & rich oak needs time to settle and integrate with the core of red berry fruits. Dry lengthy finish with some emerging complexities and charm. Decant for service, this wine will develop some great bottle affects flavours over time. Best from 2020 through 2028.'
MARK HENDERSON - OTAGO DAILY TIMES
Smoke, beef stock and savoury notes drive the almost European nose. A red fruited top note leads to the darker, plummy/ cherry fruits underneath.Richness here, touches of lead pencil and earth, initially powerful, chewy tannins, but the wine becomes more supple as the savoury elements are joined by a real zestiness on the long, delightful finish.'