Mt Difficulty Ltd has applied for consent to increase the size of its cellar door and restaurant complex, a project which developers say will boost Central Otago’s wine tourism sector. The development would see anew restaurant built into the hillside beneath the existing tasting room and a new carpark.

Matt Dicey, general manager and winemaker at Mt Difficulty, wouldn’t disclose the cost of the development but admitted it was going to be a “multimillion-dollar” investment. To complicate matters, Mt Difficulty is in the process of being sold to Foley Family Wines, a transaction which was still awaiting approval from the Overseas Investment Commission. However, Dicey said the development would still proceed.

"It's still business as usual,” he said. “It makes commercial sense to press on with the development."

Mt Difficulty had its first vintage in 1998 and opened its cellar door in 2003. The cellar door has “always outpaced expectations”, offering a offering a full range of Mt Difficulty and Roaring Meg wines for $2 per person. The cellar door was expanded in 2012 but, Dicey said, it required further expansion by 2014 – “an illustration of the impact of wine tourism.”

The news follows the announcement from Gibbston Valley Winery of plans to build a multi-million dollar boutique lodge on its site.