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Mt Difficulty’s New and Aged Wines at Zibibbo

By June 15, 2011No Comments
What a wonderful treat – to see Matt Dicey’s latest ‘Single Vineyard’ Mt Difficulty Pinot Noirs with a selection of older wines, all paired to Adam Newell’s fabulous cuisine at Zibibbo Restaurant in Wellington. I’ve already put my stake in where the 2009 Mt Difficulty ‘Single Vineyard’ Pinot Noirs stand (see my notes by clicking here), but to see them again in the context of the older wines and with food would surely test how robust my initial judgements were. I’m pleased to report that the wines looked even better, and in line with where Matt Dicey is taking the Mt Difficulty wines. Matt is progressing beyond up-front fruit expression and allowing the vineyard sites to express their character with greater clarity. And, in all the while, the textural and structural base of all his Pinot Noir wines is becoming the focus. Surely Matt Dicey and Mt Difficulty are seeing New Zealand Pinot Noir head into a greater state of maturity and confidence!
The evening was billed ‘The Ultimate Celebration of Place’. My impressions of the wine and cuisine follow:
 
Arrival
On arrival, the Mt Difficulty Central Otago Dry Riesling 2009 (18.5+/20) was served. Softly textured, still very tight, and showing great purity of lime and mineral fruit, and with real clarity. A foretaste of the quality to come.
 
Starters
A starter plate consisted of three separate tastes to go with three wines presented. Matching the Smoked salmon with pickled beetroot salad and dill crème fraiche was the Mt Difficulty ‘Target Gully’ Central Otago Riesling 2003 (19.0-/20). A wine of great elegance of style and precision, with fine cut from the bracing acidity and wonderful toasty complexity, finishing clean and dry. The wine has aged with great grace. This worked through the richness of the salmon and earthiness of the beetroot, the toastiness echoing the smoking of the fish. Complementary componentry with this pairing.
The Mt Difficulty Central Otago Chardonnay 2004 (18.0+/20) is a cooler vintage expression, but bottle-age has brought an unctuousness and integration to the acidity, but the flinty reductive complexities remain and are expressed with depth and a degree of power. The wine had the strength and acidity to counter the richness of the Crispy pork with celeriac remoulade and apple sauce, the wine’s savoury flavours providing a wonderful counterpoint to the sweetness of the dish. This was a great working match.
The third pairing was the Mt Difficulty Central Otago Pinot Noir 2002 (18.5+/20) with Angus beef carpaccio with parmesan and wild rocket salad. The 2002 vintage was warm and the wines have surprised many with their aging ability. This is still lush with ripe dark fruits, dense yet lively, the tannins starting to round, but very well structured still. Texturally very compatible with the beef, though the flavours of the wine stronger. If the wine showed classical thyme herb notes, the salad would have come into its own.

Mains
Interestingly, two vintages of each ‘Single Vineyard’ Pinot Noir were shown, each pair with its own main course, the size reduced somewhat, but still making for a very large, filling meal! The ‘Target Gully’ site is the highest in elevation, and normally shows the most ‘funky’ character. The Mt Difficulty ‘Target Gully’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2003 (19.0-/20) is still showing plenty of primary dark berry fruit characters, quite dense and concentrated, the savoury and spice notes just hinting at mushroomy secondary elements. This could continue at this plateau of maturity for another 5-7 years. The Mt Difficulty ‘Target Gully’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2009 (19.5-/20) is mouthfilling with exotic black fruits, spices and features a racy, luscious and primary palate. The generosity of the wine is kept in check by its underlying structure and excellent acidity. Accompanying this was the Wood roasted chicken with parmesan polenta and chorizo sauce, subtle in smoking and extremely moist and tender, the chorzo adding some spice notes, but in the final analysis overwhelmed by the richness and depth of flavours of both the wines.
The next pair were the ‘Pipeclay Terrace‘, middle in elevation and planted to the older Pommard clones. The Mt Difficulty ‘Pipeclay Terrace’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2005 (19.0/20) shows concentrated and lush black fruits with density, combined with very fine-grained tannins that result in a wine of great finesse. Similar is the Mt Difficulty ‘Pipeclay Terrace’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2009 (19.0-/20), bold and fully-expressive with ripe black fruits, and with genuinely significant grip, giving this great drive and power as well as length. The Grilled sirloin with carrot and mustard gratin in red wine jus had the density and texture to meet the two wines, but again, as with the ‘Target Gully’ wines, the black-fruit flavours of the wine were dominant over the surprisingly quieter flavours of the components in the food courses.
The final main course was Confit duck pie with celeriac puree, a great capture of the rich flavours of duck in a classical comfort-food style, yet with a touch of class through detail. The flavours more allied to the red fruit spectrum flavours of the wine, and the pastry soaking up the wines’ sweetness. The Mt Difficulty ‘Long Gully’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007 (19.0-/20) has as its highlight a remarkable core of dense, dark red fruits and superb acidity, resulting in a wine of wonderful tension and vitality. The Mt Difficulty ‘Long Gully’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2009 (18.5+/20) is more subtle in in expression with layers of dark red fruit flavours and silky tannin structure that effortlessly flows across the palate. Ethereal is a good descriptor for ‘Long Gully’ wines, yet there is depth and real structure. The wines from this lower elevation and altitude site consistently show this style.
The feature of these six wines was the consistency of style of the three sites in character, despite the vintage differences. Also noteworthy was the youthfulness of the wines, all still showing excellent primary fruit and potential to continue for a long time.
 
Final Flings
A textbook Dark chocolate and caramel mousse, silky smooth and decadent, and Feijoa and apple crumble with vanilla ice cream, finished the meal. Theoretically, the Mt Difficulty ‘Long Gully’ Central Otago Riesling 2006 (18.5-/20) would have been a cutting contrast to the mousse, but the tight, honey, mineral and toasty flavours and dry, fine palate appeared more on the sour side. The wine was far more complementary with the crumble, the fruit and acid of both in sympathy with each other.

It was an excellent and very satisfying dinner. Exceptionally refined, and thought-out food courses matched with top-class Central Otago wine expressions, which truly made it “a celebration of place”. Wine and food matching success is fraught with divergent and subjective opinions coming into the mix, but there were some very successful ones here that worked for all. Well done Matt Dicey and Adam Newell!

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