A New Zealand winemaking company has notched up a world record with an official wine launch in the shadow of Mt Everest.
At 17323ft, Central Otago winemakers Drumsara Wines officially launched its vintage 2012 Ventifacts Block Pinot Noir with Mt Everest forming the stunning backdrop.
High altitude rescue pilot Jason Laing took pictures with the wine at the Kala Patthar landing in the Mahalangur Himalaya mountain range, beating the previous world’s highest altitude wine launch on Mt Ararat, Turkey by 470ft.
New Zealand helicopter pilot Laing, one of the few high altitude rescue pilots in the world, spends up to three months each year working in the region conducting low altitude ‘recoveries’ – retrieving climbers hit by altitude sickness from Mt Everest’s base camp – as well as more difficult high altitude long-line rescues.
“This was an unusual challenge, this one, launching the wine is definitely one of the strangest things I’ve been asked to do,” says Laing, who took the photographs at around 9am on a clear and quiet morning.
Kala Patthar, which means ‘black rock’ in Nepali, is the best vantage point from which to see Mt Everest from base camp to peak, but a wine launch is a first for the landing.
“It’s another New Zealand first for the region and quite fitting for a high-end wine to have a high-altitude launch,” jokes Laing.
Like the vineyard itself, winery owner and former director of the New Zealand Wool Board John Matheson says the idea started out as a novel suggestion over dinner and became a launch fit for the world stage.
“This launch goes to show we’re always aiming for new heights!” He said.
Drumsara is a boutique vineyard sitting on an eight-hectare site high on the glacial outwash gravel plateau overlooking the Central Otago towns of Clyde and Alexandra.
The first hectare block was planted in 2000 by John Matheson. A third generation wool scourer, John began the vineyard as a hobby and now runs it as a boutique vineyard, hand-picking the best quality grapes and producing award-winning wines.
The wines have been praised by critics including Cameron Douglas MS, Michael Cooper, Raymond Chan and Joelle Thomson. Drumsara’s winemakers describe the vintage as holding notes of wild cherry, plum and blueberry tantalisingly punctuated by hints of white pepper, spice, thyme, vanilla, liquorice, strawberry and chocolate.
The freshly launched Ventifacts Block Pinot Noir recently won a silver medal in the UK International Wine Challenge award and is now available in good wines shops and restaurants across New Zealand and internationally.
Drumsara’s wines have also achieved a variety of trophies and medals from international wine competitions including the International Wine & Spirit Competition in London, UK, and other top awards in San Franscico, Sydney, Hong Kong, Tokyo, New York and Auckland.
Picture captions: New Zealand helicopter pilot Jason Laing sets a world record with the highest wine launch at Mt Everest