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Wine of the Week for week ending 9th February 2003
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Mt Difficulty Long Gully Riesling 2002
Central Otago, New Zealand

I've writing this from a motel room in Cromwell, the center of the Central Otago wine region, having just spent the last few days attending the region's 3rd Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration. So you might be wondering why I'm not featuring a Central Otago Pinot Noir as my Wine of the Week. Well it's simply because I'm in a confused pinot state. There were so many delicious wines it is hard to single one out in the context they were tasted. Barrel samples of the 2002 vintage galore, then bottled wines from the previous couple of vintages and more.

So it was a relief to the palate to enjoy the deliciously refreshing Mt Difficulty 2002 Long Gully Riesling at the end of a lunch time feast.

I was at Mt Difficulty Wines brand new cellar door and restaurant in Bannockburn's famous Felton Road, the 'mystery' lunchtime destination for my particular busload of conference delegates. Set high on the hill against a backdrop of the barren residues of the old gold mining sluicings, the restaurant had no reputation to uphold for today we were christening the facility.

Chef Annie Galloway, with the assistance of Jan Pinckney, had prepared a sumptuous feast.

We started with a platter of appetisers that had Cocktail Paua with lemon vermouth butter, Beef Carpaccio with tapenade and Bannockburn olive oil, Crispy Duck Breast and Salmon Tartare with Manuka Cream.

The main was an Ostrich Fillet poached in Pinot Noir and Felton Road wild thyme served on Kumara Rosti and Rocket with sage leaf potato crisps and slow roasted capsicums stuffed with cherry tomatoes and capers. The rich meat needed wine to wash it down and the Mt Difficulty 2000 Pinot Noir, then the Mt Difficulty 2001 'Elevage' Pinot Noir, did an excellent job.

But the finishing Citrus Medley had me in rapture. There were four distinct tastes on the plate. A frothy white lime sorbet was served in a vivid green half of a lime, a plump Felton Road cherry was served in a shot glass of Riesling jelly, Marguerita Icecream was served atop a roasted Manson Farm peach and an Orange Tuille biscuit had the Mt Difficulty logo in icing sugar.

The 2002 Mt Difficulty Single Vineyard Long Gully Late Harvested Riesling was the quintessential match. I wrote 'fantastic' in my notes. Nothing more, nothing less.

But I took a bottle of the wine to taste again and write some more meaningful notes - and here they are.

It's a pale coloured Riesling with a straw gold glow. Delicate floral scents of violets and honeysuckle are joined by the racier scents of citrus and the fuller fleshy scents of ripe Central Otago stonefruit. It's a slightly viscous textured wine with a myriad of flavours to the taste, from piercing lime to wonderfully lush tropical fruits with sweet passionfruit and mandarin honey, lemon honey on toast, hints of ginger and the merest hint of musk. The finish is long, moreish and seemingly quite dry with the limey flavour that lingers. The refreshing acidity balances the 60 grams of residual sugar. I found it best served chilled to bring the acidity forth and experience the smooth zesty zing.

With just 9.5% of alcohol by volume, this wine is suitable for any time of the day - and with its fresh fruit flavours it is almost tempting as a wakeup juice for breakfast. I recommend it, however, for anytime on a hot summer's day or to refresh the palate at the end of a long sumptuous feast.

What a pity that just 100 cases of this wine was made. Sealed with a screwcap to ensure its purity of flavour, it's an absolute steal selling for $20.95 at the winery though there is a little in the trade. None went out of New Zealand as far as I know.

Find out more from the Mt Difficulty Wines website.

The Riesling was grown in the premier Riesling region for Central Otago - that is Felton Road. The vineyards that produce the seriously delicious Felton Road Block One Riesling and the Olssens 'Dessert Gold' Late Harvest Riesling, both made in a similar style, are just along the road.

© Sue Courtney
2 February 2003

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