Craggy Range 2015 Aroha, Sophia and Le Sol

23-Jun-2017
The release of the Craggy Range ‘Prestige Collection’ wines is among the most anticipated on the New Zealand wine scene. For nearly a decade and a half, these wines have represented some of the country’s finest wines, setting standards for other producers to emulate. The first releases were ripe and bold, and truly statement wines, but over the years, the wines have become more elegant, without losing any of their majesty and quality. The analogy of "previously making noise and now making music” is very apt with these wines.

The Peabody family and Craggy Range have now released the 2015 vintage ‘Prestige Collection’ wines to the market, interestingly approaching retailers, resellers and consumers, before obtaining assessments from wine critics and reviewers. The reason behind this was primarily logistical, and not a strategic one, but I must report that I received a number of enquiries from retailers and consumers if I had tasted the wines yet, and what I thought of them. It is rather humbling to know that many of the public do like to know my (and other critics’) thoughts on the wines, before they decide to purchase!

I don’t think consumers need worry about the quality of the 2015 ‘Prestige Collection’ wines from Craggy Range. The 2015s are the third successive releases from outstanding vintages experienced in Martinborough where the ‘Aroha’ Pinot Noir comes from, and the Gimblett Gravels where the ‘Sophia’ Merlot-based wine and ‘Le Sol’ Syrah come from. The real question is how do the 2015s compare in style to the 2014s and 2013s? It’s primarily a matter of the growing season, and as previously noted, 2013 was regarded as one of the greatest growing seasons in Hawke’s Bay in living memory. The season was warm, not unduly hot, but very dry. The wines possessed richness, ripeness sinew and energy. They were and remain magnificent, and should live for a very long time. (Click here to see my reviews of the 2013s.) Surprisingly, 2014 was a warmer growing season than 2013, but it was tempered with rain events at what were deemed the ‘right’ times. The wines are more generous and plumper, more approachable than the 2013s in a general sense, though I felt the 2014 ‘Sophia’ to be particularly primary in fruit expression (click here to see my reviews of the 2014s). They too should live well.

The 2015 growing season was yet again different to 2014 and 2013. Both Martinborough and the Gimblett Gravels experienced a cool start with potential frost damage. The fruit set in Martinborough was compromised and yields are down by 50%. However warm and dry weather from the end of January brought up the ripening resulting in a condensed vintage. In Martinborough, the management of the high skins and seeds to juice ratio, as in 2005 and 2007 was crucial. Lower yields were also experienced in the Gimblett Gravels vineyards, but very warm and benevolent weather resulted in healthy and ripe fruit. The effects of Cyclone Pam proved of no consequence.

Craggy Range’s chief winemaker Matt Stafford sees the 2015s as yet another great year for the ‘Prestige Collection’ wines. The proven performance of certain blocks, the best handling of the varieties and the elevage of each of the wines needs only minor adjustments in years such as 2013, 2014 and 2015 to achieve the level of quality aspired for. Stylistically, much of our appreciation is based on personal preferences. Matt states that the "2015 wines are more reserved than the preceding 2014s. There is a lovely tension between fruit and tannin across all of the red wines”. Matt says that the 2015s represent "the heightened maturity of our vineyards and maturing approach in the cellars”.

Here are my reviews of the Craggy Range 2015 ‘Prestige Collection’ wines. To me, the wines do not quite have the opulence of the 2014s, or the nervosity and brilliance of the 2013s, but they are certainly in the same quality league. The Gimblett Gravels wines possess a little more elegance, but the Martinborough Pinot Noir is very serious. On the surface, they appear to be able to be enjoyed earlier than the wines of the other two years, but this is deceptive, as they have considerable extract and depth, and will keep as well or nearly as well as the wines from 2014 and 2013. Those lucky enough to acquire wines from all three vintages will have a great deal of enjoyment comparing them over the coming years. www.craggyrange.com


FEATURED WINES IN THIS REVIEW

  • Craggy Range ‘Aroha’ Te Muna Martinborough Pinot Noir 2015
  • Craggy Range ‘Sophia’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Merlot/Cabernet 2015
  • Craggy Range ‘Le Sol’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2015

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