jamie goode's wine blog: Craggy Range with Steve Smith

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Craggy Range with Steve Smith

After the fun of last night, what better way to celebrate than a serious tasting and a good lunch. The focus was Craggy Range, a leading New Zealand producer, and it was hosted by MD Steve Smith (right), who is a specialist viticulturalist by training (he's worked with controversial viticultural guru Richard Smart before) and who is an MW.

We began by looking at a range of leading Sauvignons from New Zealand, first without food, and then with - the point being that those preferred by the group without food differed from those preferred with. Two of the wines were from Craggy Range, and generally these performed better with food. It's a textural thing, apparently.

Then we went to Craggy Range reds. First, three Bordeaux blends and three Syrahs from 2005. They were fantastic, particularly the Syrahs, which were mightily impressive, showing lovely freshness as well as intensity, with a distinctive peppery character and brilliant definition. Serious stuff.

Then Pinot Noir. Six different components from the Te Muna Vineyard in Martinborough, 2006 vintage, with different clones and oak usage. These were fantastic, with a couple striking me as dead ringers for utterly serious Grand Cru red Burgundy. Thrilling expression and structure: I've never encountered new world Pinot this good before. These components and others are blended together to make two wines, which we then tried: the Te Muna Vineyard Pinot Noir and the Aroha (a new supercuvee). Both were great.

Finally, with lunch four more wines, the pick of which was the Quarry 2001, a Bordeaux blend from the Gimblett Gravels, which is verging on first growth Bordeaux quality. A stunning wine that has wonderfully dense, expressive, earthy, minerally fruit of ripeness but also definition. It's just about drinking now but has the stuffing and structure to improve for many years to come.

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At 6:22 AM, Blogger Q1 said...

I had been looking forward to tasting CR wines at the upcoming Decanter tasting but now....I'm jumping up and down excited!

At 7:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

M&S seems to have one too, but they've called it Lone Range. It's a 15 Pinot


At 8:05 AM, Blogger Salil said...

Quite illuminating. I've heard a lot of good noises about the Craggy Range wines, but most of the hype's been about their Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot.
I'll definitely have to look out for the Quarry as well as the Syrahs - I've been hearing a lot about the NZ Syrahs from the north island, and am planning to check out a couple in the next few weeks, now that I'm in Singapore and some of these are available in the shops. On a digression on NZ Syrahs, are you familiar with the ones from Bilancia in Hawkes Bay?

At 12:45 PM, Anonymous Shon said...

Will be tasting Craggy Range wines at an event on Saturday. Thanks for the tip!

At 6:48 PM, Blogger Madame Vin said...

It was a delight to read your comments about Craggy Range and other NZ wines. Having lived in Wellington for 18 months a trip over the hills to Martinborough was a regular event, they're such great wines. My favourite NZ wine is Te Mata syrah/viognier blend. Some of the best are hard to source in the UK, do you know of any particulary good suppliers of NZ wines,I'm in Edinburgh?

At 10:14 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Thanks for your comments. Generally, I'm getting very excited about New Zealand reds (if leaf roll virus doesn't mess things up as it has largely in South Africa). The best ones are beginning to achieve character, sense of place, elegance and definition in a way that is astonishingly rare in the new world, still.

At 2:37 PM, Blogger Cameron said...

Largely agree Jamie. But their alcohol levels can be a bit high, I reckon (their top drawer Chardonnay - LeBeaux Caillou clocks in at 14.5, which is a bit much for mine). But if you're ever around Hawke's Bay - you gotta go there. It's fantastic. Amazing view and without doubt one of the best meals I ate last year.

At 12:01 PM, Anonymous Keith Prothero said...

Just bought a case Of Quarry 2001 on the strength of your recco.
Will post what I think of it,tomorrow.

At 5:41 PM, Anonymous Keith Prothero said...

Just had the first bottle of Quarry,and was very,very impressed.
This will feature in my blind tastings in next few years and I am sure many will think it is a classed growth.

At 12:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It sounds very nice but where can I actually buy Craggy Island Quarry? I don't recall being blown away by the Sauvignon.

At 4:42 AM, Anonymous Stephen Wong said...

I'm a winelist consultant in Wellington, and it is interesting to hear what you have to say about Craggy Range wines. I was a friend of their ex-winemaker Doug Wisor (who died in a tragic accident) and have been decidedly undecided on their wines of late. More micro-oxygenation and higher alcohols have raised some concerns with their premiums. The Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Noirs are not locally regarded as among the better wines made in New Zealand - especially when compared with the work of perfectionist boutiques like Clos Henri, Marlborough, Fromm Estate, Pyramid Valley, and Bell Hill Vineyards. For great Pinot Noir, Bell Hill, Pyramid Valley and Rippon are among the most exciting with two of them coming from very bare limestone hills. These are more Burgundian than Craggy Range's wines - which positively look heavy-laden, extracted and oaky in comparison.

Like Cloudy Bay and Te Mata Estate, the strengths of Craggy Range lie in their superb marketing. The wines are good, although not really representative of the cutting edge of New Zealand. The Quarry and Sophia are massive wines, but they haven't proven to age that gracefully. the 2001 Quarry is beginning to lost focus and detail as it ages. For great Cabernet Sauvignon, Te Mata's Coleraine, The Antipdoean and Stonyridge's Larose are still the two longest living examples around. Stephen

At 5:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm. That seems a bit harsh Stephen! I'm a great fan of Craggy's Sophia (Merlot blend) and the Quarry. Sophia is a more elegant wine without the hefty extraction or oak of Quarry. Both have aged pretty well so far from my experience. I'm drinking the 2002's now and enjoying them. Value for money (at half the price of Stonyridge's Larose) I'd say they are excellent. Their Block 14 Syrah is also a bargain and a beautiful wine.


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