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Visiting New Zealand's wine regions 
Part 9: Craggy Range Tasting

In the previous part of this series I described my visit to Craggy Range; now it's time for the wines. As well as an extensive tasting at the winery with Rod Easthope, I'm also including notes from two other recent tastings with Steve Smith in the UK, one from March 2007 (*) and the other from May 2008 (**). I'll let the wines speak for themselves.  


New Zealand has underachieved with Riesling, but Craggy seem to be making real strides with this variety.

Craggy Range Rapaura Road Vineyard Riesling 2007 Marlborough
Lovely aromatics here: floral, delicately limey and with a touch of honey. Very pure. The palate is dry with nice texture and some minerality. Focused, pure and quite long: a lovely, classy wine. 91/100

Craggy Range Te Muna Road Riesling 2007 Martinborough
Limey, minerally nose is quite tight, with nice focus and purity. The palate is limey with high acidity and lovely fruit. There’s a bit of sweetness (7–8 g residual sugar), but it’s countered by the high acidity. Tangy with a bit of grapefruit character. 90/100

Craggy Range Te Muna Riesling 2006 Martinborough, New Zealand**
Craggy have been convinced enough about Riesling to make four single vineyard wines each year. ‘It the market didn’t want to take it’, says Steve Smith, ‘we were prepared to drink it’. This one is rich, limey, lemony and fresh with lovely presence. It’s crisp and minerally, but there’s some residual sugar balancing the high acidity. It’s like an intense Kabinett in style. 91/100

Craggy Range Fletcher Family Vineyard Riesling 2007 Marlborough
Honeyed, aromatic nose. The palate has grapefruity, lemony fruit and it’s really juicy, with high acidity. Tangy and intense, with mouthfilling flavours. Tastes just off-dry in a very rich style. 12 grams/litre residual sugar; 12.5% alcohol. 92/100

Craggy Range Glasnevin Gravels Riesling 2007 Waipara
This is interesting stuff, made in a Mosel Kabinett style: 24 g/l sugar and just 9% alcohol. Fresh, aromatic limey nose is quite pure with some sweetness. The palate is off-dry with rich, sweet fruit countered well by acidity. Lovely wine with real focus and purity. 91/100

Craggy Range Glasnevin Gravels Riesling 2006 Waipara*
This is the best selling wine at the cellar door in the summer. It’s fresh, sweet and just off-dry with a delicate limey character. 88/100


Sauvignon Blanc

Craggy Range Avery Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand **
This vineyard, on classic stony Wairau Valley Soils, used to belong to Villa Maria. Craggy deliberately don’t make their wines in the big thiol style. Really aromatic stuff with a fresh, gently herby nose that leads to a richly textured palate that’s grassy with lovely minerally, stony flavours. Delicious. 91/100

Craggy Range Old Renwick Road Sauvignon Blanc 2006 Marlborough*
(tasted blind) Ripe fruity nose is quite forward, showing sweet herby fruit with some tropical notes. The palate is forward and fruity with a likeable personality. Lots of flavour here, with a bit of a serious side, too. 88/100

Craggy Range Te Muna Sauvignon Blanc 2006 Martinborough*
(tasted blind) Slightly smoky, minerally nose. The palate shows quite fat, broad fruit with herb tinges. Finishes quite herby. Good concentration and very fruity with it. 86/100


Chardonnay and Viognier

Craggy Range Viognier 2007 Gimblett Gravels
After a 12 h press cycle this is fermented and aged in older barrels with high solids and without cultured yeasts, in a reductive fashion. Amazingly rich nutty, peachy aromatics. Brilliant lemony intensity, along with rich texture and pear and nutty notes. There’s even a bit of tannic spice, too. Delicious and very long. 93/100

Craggy Range Chardonnay ‘Les Beaux Cailloux’ 2006 Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay
Whole-bunch pressed with oxidative handling, fermented in barrel with solids without added yeasts. Rich, dense, toasty nutty nose is broad, intense and complex. The palate is concentrated and bold with a lovely complex toastiness alongside fresh, bright fruit. Great purity, focus and class here: a very stylish effort. Its future progress will be interesting to track. 93/100

Craggy Range Chardonnay ‘Les Beaux Cailloux’ 2004 Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay*
Made from clone 95 and a bit of Mendoza (which Steve doesn’t really like because it is overly fruity). This is fresh and complex with vivid lemony-edged fruit and a bit of classy, bready, toasty oak. 90/100


Pinot Noir

Craggy is now the largest producer of Pinot Noir in Central Otago – here are three of the wines they make. These wines were not finished as I tasted them so a range of scores is given for each. All are hand-picked, and then destemmed. Rod says that they have given up on cold soaks. All are fermented with indigenous yeasts and are punched down. This is an extremely impressive line up of wines, showing fantastic fruity purity and quite a bit of elegance, as well as a variation in style that presumably has to do with the vineyard sites – terroir, if you want to use this term.

Craggy Range Calvert Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007 Central Otago
This is from a vineyard in the warm region of Bannockburn in Central Otago, and the vineyard is a joint venture between three top producers: Craggy, Felton Road and Pyramid Valley Vineyards. The fruit goes three ways, so it’s interesting to see what each party does with it. This is a deep coloured wine with a fantastic nose of sweet, intense dark fruit, together with some nice meaty, spicy complexity. Very seductive. The palate shows great purity and focus: it is ripe and intense with a bit of prickle and some nice spicy depth. Lovely freshness and expression. Rod describes this as ‘more medium weight, ethereal’. 93–95/100

Craggy Range Zebra Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007 Central Otago
From Bendigo, which is a warmer site. Shy on the nose. The palate shows nice purity of dark fruits with a savoury, brooding sort of character. Nice stuff: quite rich, but also reasonably restrained. Rod describes this as a ‘brooding blockbuster’, but says that it is currently ‘closed in on itself’. 91–93/100

Craggy Range The Sluicings Pinot Noir 2007 Central Otago
This is from a vineyard in Bannockburn. A dark colour, it has sweet dark fruit aromatics with some jammy, meaty notes. The palate is rich and sweetly textured with a delicious savoury edge to the focused, expressive fruit. An extremely elegant wine. ‘There’s a silky-like sheen that runs through the palate’, says Rod. 92–94/100

Craggy Range Te Muna Road Pinot Noir 2007 Martinborough
Beautifully focused aromatics of smooth, elegant red and black fruits with real intensity and purity. The palate shows focus and depth with smooth, restrained yet sweet fruitand some nice spicy structure. This is a deliciously elegant, pure wine. ‘Far more structural, this dips into truffles and earth with a couple of years of bottle age’, says Rod, ‘while the central Otago Pinots stay in the fruit segment of the aroma wheel with hints if meat’ 93–95/100

Craggy Range Te Muna Pinot Noir 2005 Martinborough, New Zealand**
Elegantly aromatic with herby red fruits and cherry characters. Really nicely balanced with bright acidity and freshness. Berries and cherries dominate with just a hint of sappiness, as well as a bit of spiciness. 93/100

Craggy Range Aroha Pinot Noir 2007
This is a reserve selection. It’s deep coloured with incredible aromatic intensity: ripe, meaty dark fruits with some spiciness. It’s smooth and refined with admirable purity. The palate is hugely concentrated with lots of red and black fruit, tightwound around a core of smooth tannins. Real elegance and power here, hand in hand. 94–96/100

Craggy Range Aroha Pinot Noir 2006*
Sweet, pure and intense with lovely richness and complexity. Simply thrilling with smooth ripe red fruits and sheer elegance. 94/100



Craggy Range Syrah Block 14 2006 Gimblett Gravels
This has long maceration, with 4–5 weeks on the skins. There’s no need to fine Syrah here because it starts its life with fine tannins. Deep coloured. Wonderfully expressive white pepper/meaty nose, together with fresh dark fruits. The palate is fresh and peppery but with smooth sweet dark fruits. Thrilling. 93/100

Craggy Range Syrah Block 14 2005 Gimblett Gravels*
Sweet, intense, lush ripe dark fruits nose with a meaty, peppery, spicy overlay. Beautifully aromatic. The palate is gorgeously fresh with a lovely peppery, spicy edge to the fresh black fruits. Thrillingly focused. 94/100

Craggy Range Le Sol 2006 Gimblett Gravels
This is made from the same vineyard as Block 14, but there’s a bit of selection in the vineyard and harvest is three weeks later. The berries are dimpled like golf balls, but there’s no shriveling, apparently. Smooth dark fruits nose with dark cherry, meatiness and some black pepper notes. Brooding, pure and intense. The palate is concentrated and pure with lovely lush fruit and real intensity. The thick black fruits are kept fresh by spicy tannins. 95/100

Craggy Range Le Sol 2005 Gimblett Gravels*
It’s concentrated and ripe but showing lovely balance. It’s fresh with bright dark fruits and a palate that combines richness with brightness, as well as a hint of pepper. A fantastic wine showing beautiful balance. 95/100


Bordeaux Blends

Craggy Range ‘The Quarry’ 2006 Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay
This can’t be made every vintage. It’s mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with some Merlot and Malbec, and this was still in barrel when I tasted it. It has a wonderfully dark, intense brooding nose of blackcurrant, chocolate and spice. It’s ripe but fresh with some minerality. The palate is dense, intense and ripe with fantastic spiciness and concentration. The oak melds well with the fruit. Thrilling. 95–96/100

Craggy Range ‘The Quarry’ 2001 Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay*
Intense, dark, spicy and earthy with lovely complexity. The palate is spicy, rich and earthy with remarkable density and power. Firm tannins and real potential here for future development. Concentrated, long, thrilling. 95/100

Craggy Range Te Kahu Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec 2004 Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand**
‘I’m a Bordeaux lover’, says Steve Smith. This vineyard, as well as being the source for Craggy’s Le Sol Syrah, is responsible for the Bordeaux reds, and this is a fantastic wine that tastes of Gimblett Gravels. Dark, gravelly, sweetly fruited, minerally nose that’s brooding and rich. The palate is quite earthy and rich with grippy tannins underneath the savoury dark fruits. Serious stuff with lovely depth. 93/100

Craggy Range Te Kahu Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec 2005 Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay*
Smooth but fresh dark fruits nose, with a bit of creaminess and some chocolate, but otherwise fresh and fruit dominated. Smooth, concentrated, beautifully judged fruit on the palate with a bit of spicy oak influence and a hint of menthol. Classy and dark with lovely focus. 92/100

Craggy Range Merlot 2005 Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay*
Fresh, vivid pure bright red fruits with a bit of black. The palate is really vivid and fresh with lovely pure fruit and some nice chalky, spicy tannins. Good acid and purity, with some grippy structure. 92/100

Craggy Range Sophia 2005 Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay*
Smooth, sweet red and black fruits nose is very classy and brooding. Concentrated, rich, intense palate with a lovely density of fruit and a long, structured spicy finish. Ripe but nicely focused with a bright future ahead of it. 93/100

*Tasted March 2007
**Tasted May 2008
Othwerwise, all wines tasted November 2007

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