Craggy Range 2011 Vintage ‘Prestige Collection’ Release
The ‘Prestige Collection’ release of Craggy Range from the Peabody family is one of the most significant for many wine enthusiasts of New Zealand Wine. With one of the strongest viticultural and winemaking teams and ultra-modern, fully-equipped winemaking facilities, the high-profile Craggy Range operation, led by the equally high-profile Steve Smith MW, produces absolutely superb wines that are benchmarkers. The 2011 ‘Prestige’ wine from the Gimblett Gravels is reckoned to be similar to the 2006s, and the ‘Prestige’ release from Martinborough will also reflect a more gentle, but classical expression, as well, and if the 2006s are examples, the new releases will be very worthwhile to collect and follow.
The 2011 Release is noteworthy on a number of counts. The 2011s will not be followed by a release of 2012 vintage Gimblett Gravels wines, as the vintage in the Hawke's Bay district was too cool and wet to provide material of the required standard to produces these wines. Instead the Hawke’s Bay fruit for the ‘Sophia’ and ‘Le Sol’ has been classified into the ‘Gimblett Gravels’ tier Syrah and ‘Te Kahu’ wines, making them possibly outstanding for their categories. The burgundian varieties in 2011 are important for different reasons. The ‘Les Beaux Cailloux’ Chardonnay will not be produced for some time now, as the wines for this wine were grubbed up due to virus. New plantings for this label will be established. However the ‘Aroha’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2011 signals a settling of philosophy and approach in making this wine, following over a decade of experience variety in that district. The ‘Aroha’ will be made from the individual and superior ‘Block 19’ and Block 16’ sites only, the fruit managed and vinified accordingly to make "grand vin” as Steve describes ‘Aroha’.
I tasted the ‘Prestige’ Gimblett Gravels wines as previews at the ‘Deep Purple Wine Club’, and also the ‘Prestige’ Martinborough wine at a ’10 Year Te Muna Road Vineyard’ celebration at two different events in March. (Click here to see the ‘Deep Purple’ day report, and here for my article on the ‘Te Muna 10 Year’ event.) The wines impressed me immensely then. Here are my full and considered reviews of the wines now they have been released. www.craggyrange.com
FEATURED WINES IN THIS REVIEW
Craggy Range ‘Les Beaux Cailloux’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2011Chardonnay from New Zealand - Hawke's BayReview Date : 19-Jun-2013Chardonnay from a single block, WBP and fully barrel-fermented to 13.4% alc., the wine aged 10 months in 42% new French oak barrels. Bright, very pale straw colour, lighter on rim. This has a full, intense and softly concentrated nose of ripe, savoury citrus fruits unfolding layers of complex nutty lees and flinty reductive elements enveloped by creamy barrel-ferment aromatics. Medium-full bodied, the palate has elegance of proportion with softly concentrated flavours of citrus fruits infused with nuts, toast and creamy butter. The mouthfeel is rich, smooth and harmoinious, growing in roundness and breadth. There is good underlying power and linear drive, with refined textures and discreet acidity, carrying the flavours of citrus fruits and nuts to a very long, lingering finish. This is a softly concentrated and complex Chardonnay with fine textures, richness and power. Serve with white meat dishes over the next 5-6+ years. 19.0/20 Jun 2013 RRP $62.95 The last ‘Les Beaux Cailloux’, barrel-fermented to 13.4% alc., the wine aged 10 months in 42% new French oak. Very pale straw colour. The nose is redolent of well-ripened white peach and citrus fruits with quality oak showing spice and nuttiness, rich and fulsome in expression. Medium-full bodied and elegant in proportion, sweet citrus and stonefruit flavours show with beautiful creamy barrel-ferment flavours intermixed, providing a rich mouthfeel. This is lush, but lively from crisp, youthful acidity. The palate has concentration, weight and presence, but retains a sense of soft elegance and roundness. The palate finishes with very long and sustained cream and flint flavours, and a dry textured line. This has Hawke’s Bay richness with sweet citrus fruit and roundness to the concentration. 6-7 years. 19.0+/20 Jun 2013 RRP $79.99
Craggy Range ‘Aroha’ ‘ Te Muna Road Vineyard’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2011Pinot Noir from New Zealand - Wairarapa & WellingtonReview Date : 17-Jun-2013Approx. one-third Abel clone with 114 and a mix of others, fermented with 40% whole bunches to 13.7% alc., the wine aged 10 months in 35% new French oak barriques. Moderately deep, dark ruby-red colour with lighter purple hues on edge. This has a full, voluminous and deeply packed bouquet dark red berry fruits with layers of dark plums and subtle spices and dark red florals. Savoury dried herb whole bunch aromas unfold and provide complexing interest. Medium-full bodied, the palate is softly textured with gently mouthfilling, rich flavours of dark red berry fruits, savoury plum, earth and dried herb notes that unfold with breadth. This is lush, accessible and supple, with fine, grainy textures and structure adding presence, and lacy acidity providing energy and tension to balance the weight and complex layering. The flavours lead to a soft, fulsome, lusciously long finish with ethereal floral and herbal nuances. This is a gently fulsome and mouthfilling Pinot Noir with complex dark red fruits and savoury whole bunch flavours. Match with rabbit, poultry and pork over the next 6-8+ years. 19.0/20 Jun 2013 RRP $99.95 Representative of the new focus for the ‘Prestige’ ‘Aroha’ Pinot Noir, being based on a core of Abel clone consisting approx. one-third of the wine, the remainder being clone 114 and a mix from the remainder of ‘Block 16’ fruit. Very dark, deep and intense ruby-red colour. The bouquet is full and densely packed with an array of dark red berry fruits and florals, with savoury spices and subtle dark herb notes that gently fill the nose. Full-bodied, but retaining a sense of grace, this is gently packed with ripe and succulent red berry fruits, revealing soft and savoury floral, herb, spice and warm, earthy detail. The fruit is fleshy and succulent with excellent vibrancy, with good supporting acidity. The tannins are fine and firm, lending a sinewy line and drive under the fruit. The flavours flow effortless to a concentrated, rounded finish with sweet fruit and savoury, spicy detail. This is a lush and fleshy Pinot Noir with real interest that will unfold over the next 6-8+ years. 19.0+/20 Mar 2013
Craggy Range ‘Sophia’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Merlot/Cabernet 2011Merlot from New Zealand - Hawke's BayReview Date : 03-Jun-2014Very dark, deep, black-hued purple red. This has a full and powerfully expressed bouquet with black and blue berry fruits along with subtly complex spice, dark red floral and savoury secondary fruit and earthy layers. Medium-full bodied, sweetly rich and lush dark red berry and black plum fruit flavours form a concentrated, but elegantly proportioned core. The tannins are very fine-grained, and show some softening for accessibility. The mouthfeel is poised between sweetness, acid freshness and tannin extract refinement. Nuances of spices, florals and earth unfold, and the palate carries the fruit and detail smoothly to a velvety, lingering finish. This is a very fine-grained and concentrated Merlot-blend beginning to show some elegance and accessibility. It has a decade-plus of development ahead. A blend of 60% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot, fermented to 13.3% alc., the wine aged 19 months in 37% new French oak barriques. 19.0-/20 May 2014 RRP $72.95 Full, very deep, black-red colour with slight purple hues on rim. The nose is full and concentrated, the fruit aromas densely packed and showing some restraint. Ripe black berry and dark plum notes are complexed by liquorice and tar notes, but also lifted with floral nuances and subtle curranty elements. This is quite complete, but brooding. Full-bodied and solidly packed, the mouthfeel has a roundness and deceiving softness from the very refined extraction and structure. This has serious weight and presence, but a near-seamless flow of rich flavours of ripe black berry fruits and spiced plums. Oak lift and liquorice detail add detail. The palate has harmony and fine, balanced acidity in support. The acidity and grows to enliven the plum and liquorice flavours carrying the finish with length. This is a full and solidly packed, black-fruited Merlot with seamless layers, density and a complete mouthfeel. Serve with slow-cooked game meat over the next 8-10+ years. A blend of 60% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot, fermented to 13.3% alc., the wine aged 19 months in 37% new French oak barriques. 19.0/20 Jun 2013 RRP $72.95
Craggy Range ‘The Quarry’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2011Cabernet Sauvignon from New Zealand - Hawke's BayReview Date : 17-Jun-201395% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc, fermented to 12.76% alc., the wine aged 19 months in 50% new French oak barriques. Very full, deep, black-red colour, near impenetrable. The bouquet is intensely penetrating with aromatic, lifted ripe black berry and blackcurrant fruit aromas showing great vibrancy and layers of ripe dark herbs, mint, minerals, spices and oak toast. Fullish-bodied, this has tightly bound and highly concentrated flavours of blackcurrants, liquorice and blackberry fruits. Waves of tar, toast, dark herbs and spices, with some nuances of game add complexing interest. The fruit is rich with vitality from excellent acidity, and driven by precise, fine-grained tannin extraction, and the mouthfeel is one of class and refinement. The flavours are carried to a very long and sustained, succulent finish. This is a concentrated and finely structured Cabernet Sauvignon-based wine with brilliant vitality and rich, refined black fruits. Match with roasted beef and lamb, or hard cheeses over the next 10-15 years. 19.0+/20 Jun 2013 RRP $72.95
Craggy Range ‘Le Sol’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2011Syrah from New Zealand - Hawke's BayReview Date : 20-Jun-2013Very dark, near saturated black-hued purple-ruby colour. The bouquet is intricately aromatic with penetrating perfumes of violets and dark red florals entwined with rich, ripe black fruits and black pepper, revealing exotic spices and oak toast. This suggests exotic opulence allied to finesse. Fullish-bodied, tightly concentrated and lusciously vibrant black berry fruits and black pepper form a deep palate core. Exotic Asian spices, liquorice, dark florals and oak blossom, filling the mouth with flavour. The fruit is supported by considerable extract, the tannins very fine-grained and interwoven. Excellent acidity adds freshness and tension and the mouthfeel has vibrancy and vitality with a refined, firm linearity. The flavours flow with drive to a very long, lingering finish with dark spices and floral nuances. This is a superbly concentrated and vibrant Syrah with exotic and fragrant fruit and finesse. Match with roasted game meat and Mediterranean or Middle Eastern cuisine over the next 8-10+ years. 100% old clone Syrah, destemmed and fermented to 13.0% alc., the wine aged 18 months in 35% new French oak barriques. 19.5/20 Jun 2013 RRP $99.95