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The wines of Craggy Range, New Zealand

Craggy Range Vineyards Limited, 18 Napier Road, PO BOX 8749 Havelock North, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand Tel: +64 (0) 508 272 449 Fax: +64 (0) 6 877 7141
Website: http://www.craggyrange.co.nz

Editor's note: this piece dates from 2003. To read a more recent review based on a visit in November 2008 - see this article

A fairly recent joint venture with Steve Smith MW as general manager and shareholder, Craggy Range began life in 1998, with the purchase of two vineyard sites in Hawkes Bay and Martinborough. It will take some time for these new vineyards to come on line, so in the meantime Craggy Range is buying top quality grapes from mature vineyards in Hawkes Bay and Marlborough. First release was the 1999 vintage. The model here is for producing single-vineyard wines (no less than eight vineyards are described on their impressive website, with more detail than you could hope for) and Smith takes a no-holds-barred approach to quality. Early results are very impressive indeed.  

I've reviewed these wines on two separate occasions, with the most recent notes first.

wines reviewed in November 2002:

Avery Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2002, Marlborough
Taut, almost spicy edge to the vivid, grassy nose. Extremely lively, rich, grapefruit-edged fruit on the palate. Bright and youthful with lots of flavour and character. Very good/excellent

Old Renwick Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2002, Marlborough
Quite a rich style. Intense, aromatic gooseberry/grassy nose with very taut fruit character. Lovely rich, concentrated palate displays pure grassy fruit with a herbal edge. Impressive. Very good/excellent

Rapura Road Vineyard Riesling 2002 Marlborugh
From Marlborough’s oldest Riesling vineyard, this wine has a lifted spicy character to the nose. Clean and crisp on the palate with spicy, slightly limey fruit. Tight and fresh with good concentration. Very good+

Craggy Range Les Beaux Graviers Vineyard Chardonnay 2001, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
The first of the prestige range of wines from this pace-setting New Zealand producer, this is fantastic. Deep coloured with a beautifully elegant creamy, toasty nose and vivid fruit. The palate is very classy with integrated fruit and oak, nutty complexity and an intense character. Excellent (expected to retail around £20, contact Capricorn wines on 0161 909 1300 for more details)

Seven Poplars Vineyard Merlot 2000 Hawkes Bay
Attractive, fruity and ripe. Sweet herbal-edged berry fruit nose. Good concentration of ripe, savoury berry fruit with a slightly toasty, tarry edge. Very good+

Gimblett Gravels Vineyard ‘Sophia’ 2001 Hawkes Bay
A blend of Merlot (60%) and Cabernet Franc, supplemented with some Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. Ripe, liqueur-like sweet fruit on the nose: dense and rich with a tarry edge. The palate is hugely concentrated with rich ripe berry and blackcurrant fruit, and some oak character. Definitely in a new world style. Very good/excellent

wines reviewed in February 2002:

Rapura Road Riesling SGN 2000, Hawkes Bay
Quite a restrained nose with creamy-edged citrus and marmalade notes. Palate is rich and sweet, but the spicy botrytis character and high acidity provide balance. Very good/excellent

Avery Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2001, Marlborough
Nose is bright, fresh and aromatic: not too over the top. Concentrated, nicely balanced palate has good acidity. A good food wine. Very good+ (£9.99 Waitrose, Virgin)

Old Renwick Road Sauvignon Blanc 2001, Marlborough
Very pale colour. Wonderfully intense nose is at the grassy and gooseberry end of the spectrum and is gloriously aromatic. The palate is concentrated and quite rounded: typical Marlborough style and very attractive. Very good/excellent

Seven Poplars Vineyard Chardonnay 2000, Hawkes Bay
Classy, appealing nose with tight fruit and toasty, bready barrique notes. The palate is beautifully balanced showing lean, restrained fruit and stylish oak. Still quite light and fresh despite the concentration. Brilliant stuff. Excellent (Waitrose £11.99, still some left although they won't be listing this again)

Seven Poplars Vineyard Merlot 1999, Hawkes Bay
Very attractive bright berry fruit is backed up (almost dominated) by rich, spicy, expensive-tasting new oak. Lovely texture, but probably a bit too oak-dominated at the moment. Great concentration. Very good

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wines tasted February 2002 and November 2002; article published August 2002 and then revised April 2003