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Featured Reviews

Craggy Range ‘Prestige Collection’ 2016 Vintage

12 September,2018

The Craggy Range ‘Prestige Collection’ wines represent some of the finest wines of the Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay and New Zealand, and they now have a 16 vintage provenance that indicates they are world-class wines. The Peabody family endorsed Steve Smith MW’s recommendations on planting in the Gimblett Gravels, and then a little later in Te Muna, in Martinborough, and as a result the ‘Prestige Collection’ wines are among the most anticipated releases.

Over the 16 years, there has been continued development and evolution; the first releases were truly showcase wines that stopped everybody in their tracks. The recent vintage releases made by winemaker Matt Stafford have been far more elegant, and entice a drinker into the wine. The original wines were the Les Beaux Cailloux Chardonnay, ‘Le Sol’ Syrah, the ‘Sophia’ Merlot-blend and ‘The Quarry’ Cabernet Sauvignon-based blend, all from the Gimblett Gravels. These were joined by the ‘Aroha’ Te Muna Road Pinot Noir with the 2006 vintage. Not every label has been made in every vintage, ‘Les Beaux Cailloux’ ceasing production with the 2011 vintage due to virussed vines. The last vintage of ‘The Quarry’ was in 2011, after which the growing seasons were insufficiently favourable to support the making of the wine. And interestingly, there was no 2010 vintage ‘Aroha’, but there was one made in 2012, seen to be a challenging year.

This new ‘Prestige Release’ has all five wines again. 2016 carried a strong El Nino prediction which suggested a dry summer and ripening period for the country. However, as all winegrowers know, it doesn’t necessarily turn out that way. Hawke’s Bay experienced a very cold and wet start to the growing season. But the latter part saw one of the hottest seasons on record. Thankfully the Martinborough region experienced a superlative growing season with warm and dry conditions throughout. There is talk of 2016 being comparable to 1998, but that would not take into account the uniqueness of the 2016 season per se, especially the cooler start for Hawke’s Bay.

Here, I review the 2016 vintage Craggy Range ‘Prestige Release’ wines. The ‘Aroha’ has a completeness that I haven’t seen in the wine so far, and the Gimblett Gravels wines, including the Chardonnay, display a beautiful richness with elegance. With these wines, I have omitted the varietals employed in their names, as Craggy Range prefer to use their proprietary names for the wines and do not have the variety as part of their nomenclature.


Craggy Range ‘Les Beaux Cailloux’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay 2016

Chardonnay from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay


Bright straw-yellow colour with pale golden hues, lighter on the rim. The nose is softly full and densely packed with voluminous and complex aromas featuring white stonefruit and nutty notes at the heart along with citrus fruits, complexing flinty detail and an underlay of oak. Medium-bodied, the palate is fresh and vibrant with a taut core of white stonefruits, white florals, citrus fruits a complex amalgam of nuts and flint and fragrant oak elements. The fruit has depth and builds in power, concentration and drive, the wine flowing along a fine-textured phenolic line with fine, lacy acidity lending tension and vitality. The flavours carry to a very long and elegant finish. This is a vibrant, tightly concentrated Chardonnay with white stonefruit and complex nutty and flinty notes on a finely-textured palate with freshness and tension. Serve with seafood, poultry and pork over the next 6 years. Clone 95 Chardonnay fruit, hand-picked, WBP, and fully indigenous yeast barrel-fermented to 13.2% alc., the wine aged 10 months in 40% new French oak barriques, undergoing batonnage and 100% MLF. 19.5-/20 Sep 2016 RRP $150.00

Craggy Range ‘Aroha’ Te Muna Martinborough 2016

Pinot Noir from New Zealand – Wairarapa & Wellington


Dark, deep, black-hued red colour, near impenetrable, a little lighter on the edge. The nose is full and voluminous with broad and deeply concentrated, refined aromas of ripe, dark-red and black cherry and berry fruit harmoniously layered with whole bunch stalk perfumes and dark herbs, unfolding subtle floral lift with aeration. This is quite complete in expression with beauty and richness. Medium-full bodied, the palate is seamlessly interwoven with flavours of dark-red and black cherries and berry fruit possessing soft vitality. The fruit is complexed by harmoniously melded flavours of dark herbs, dark red florals and subtle whole bunch stalk perfumes. The flavours form a rich and luscious, rounded and concentrated core, and the palate is supported by very fine-grained flowery tannin structure, with integrated acidity. The palate flows smoothly to an elegant, refined finish. This is a beautifully harmonious Pinot Noir with intense flavours of cherries, berries, herbs and complexing whole bunch flavours underlined by refined, seamless tannin structure. Match with poultry, pork, lamb and beef over the next 7-9+ years. Hand-picked Pinot Noir fruit, a blend of 46% Abel clone, 37% 667 and 17% 114, indigenous yeast fermented with 50% whole bunches in open top tanks and French oak cuves to 14.0% alc., the wine aged 9 months in 30% new French oak barriques. 19.5/20 Sep 2018 RRP $150.00

Craggy Range ‘Le Sol’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay 2016

Syrah from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay


Full, near saturated black-red colour with purple hues on the rim, youthful in appearance. The nose is elegantly proportioned but very tightly bound and intense with concentrated aromas of ripe blackberry fruit along with notes of boysenberries and blueberries, harmoniously intermixed with a layering of Asian spices, liquorice and piquant black pepper entwined with violet florals. The aromatics are refined and elegant and seamless in expression, and feature fragrance. Medium-full bodied, the palate has succulently rich and luscious, near opulent flavours of ripe blackberries and boysenberries with blue fruit detail, along with subtle raspberry elements, entwined with Asian spices and black pepper, with violet florals. The fruit has richness and vitality and an effusive energy forming a rich, packed heart. The fruit is underlined by fine-grained, powdery tannin extract, balancing structure and integrated acidity. The wine carries to a very long, spicy, vibrant and sustained finish. This is a wonderfully rich and refined Syrah with succulently ripe black fruits, spices and pepper on a very fine-structured palate. Match with lamb, beef and venison over the next 8-10+ years. Hand-picked MS clone Syrah fruit fermented in open top French oak cuves with 20% whole bunches to 13.3% alc., the wine aged 17 months in 35% new French oak barriques. 19.5/20 Sep 2018 RRP $150.00

Craggy Range ‘Sophia’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay 2016

Blended Red from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay


Full, dark, deep, black-hued purple-red colour, near impenetrable, a little lighter on the rim. The nose is somewhat restrained initially, with tightly bound aromas of dark-red and black plum fruit with hints of blackcurrant leaf and cassis, with lifted oak notes. This has lovely detail and the aromatics form an elegant core unfolding pencilly oak. Medium-full bodied, the palate is elegantly proportioned with vibrantly sweet dark-red and black plum fruit along with subtle notes of blackcurrants and cassis. The fruit has piquancy and is enhanced by fresh, lacy acidity. The wine flows along a fine-textured and structured line leading to an elegant, poised finish. This is an elegantly presented Merlot-based wine with vibrant and piquant fruit flavours of dark plums and blackcurrants on a fine-textured palate with fresh mouthfeel. The wine will develop over the next 10-12+ years. A blend of 58% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Franc and 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, fermented to 13.3% alc., the wine aged 18 months in 45% new French oak. 19.0/20 Nov 2018 RRP $140.00

Full, even, impenetrable black-hued red colour with purple hues on the edge, youthful in appearance. The nose is fine in proportion with a tight and stylish core of ripe blackberry and black plum fruit aromas, along with blackcurrants and subtle cassis and dark herb notes. This is beautifully soft and refined in expression, and the componentry is harmoniously interwoven. With aeration, fragrant, spicy and cedary oak notes emerge. Full-bodied, the palate has rich, vibrant and lively, mouthfilling flavours of sweet and spicy black plums and blackberry fruit along with notes of blackcurrants, cassis, redcurrants and a layering of dark herbs. The rich and sweet fruit forms a well-concentrated, but rounded core, and the fruit is supported by very fine-grained tannin structure, with light acid vibrancy. As the wine flows, spices, nuts and cedary oak emerge to add to the richness and dimension, and lead to a long, concentrated finish. This is a rich and vibrant, mouthfilling Merlot-based wine with plum and currant flavours on a fulsome palate revealing complexing spice, nutty and oak elements. Match with roasted lamb, beef and venison over the next 10-15 years. Hand-picked fruit, a blend of 58% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Franc and 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, fermented to 13.3% alc., the wine aged 18 months in 45% new French oak barriques. 19.0+/20 Sep 2018 RRP $140.00

Craggy Range ‘The Quarry’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay 2016

Blended Red from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay


Full, near impenetrable black-red colour, a little lighter on the rim with purple hues. The nose is well-concentrated and refined in proportion with very deep, intense and penetrating aromas of pure blackcurrants and cassis liqueur, unfolding blackberry fruit, with a fine core of dark herbs and subtle, pencilly oak. This has clarity and purity with real aromatic concentration. Medium-full bodied, the palate has a powerfully driven core packed with flavours of blackcurrants, cassis and subtle, ripe and sweet black plum notes. The mouthfeel is vibrantly succulent and the fruit is supported by considerable tannin extract that provides plenty of texture, structure and grip. The tannins are powdery and refined, and the wine has soft, integrated acidity lending fine tension, and the wine carries with great linearity to a long finish. This is a powerfully driven and linear Cabernet Sauvignon-based wine with richness and plushness, and plenty of structure with freshness and tension. Serve with herb-marinated lamb and beef dishes and semi-hard cheeses over the next 10-15+ years. Hand-picked fruit, a blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc and 4% Merlot, fermented to 13.4% alc., the wine aged 18 months in 50% new French oak barriques. 19.5-/20 Serp 2018 RRP $150.00

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