Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Icons - Craggy Range

Hello all!

Welcome to the second of my "Icons" series focussing on the fantastic New Zealand winery; Craggy Range (if you missed the first on the Spanish producer Torres then you can find it here:).
Craggy Range make some fantastic wines. Proprietor Terry Peabody and his family run the estate (his wife runs the on-site fine-dining restaurant!) while Steve Smith MW is chief winemaker.  Based on the bank of the Tuki Tuki  river in Hawkes Bay, just East of Hastings on the North Island, they churn out a fair-few bottles, but always with that hand-crafted, family-run ethos. There's just something about the colour scheme, the labels and the overall mystique they've created that instills in me a love for their produce. It's just one of those brands you seem to latch onto, well, for me anyway! In terms of price, they're not cheap. The iconic wines like Le Sol (Syrah), The Quarry (left-bank Bordeaux blend, Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc) and Sophia (right-bank Bordeaux blend of Merlot and Cab Franc) go for big bucks in the UK, at about £35 to £55 a bottle so are well-beyond our intended price range here.

However, where I have found true value and great quality is in the single-vineyard (or "Vineyard Designated" as they call them) wines seen in the picture above, a few of which we've enjoyed lately. The vineyard at Te Muna Road, just outside Martinborough, produces Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. I will say though, that however much I love their wines, I wasn't entirely blown away by the slightly hot, alcoholic Pinot Noirs they produce for the Wine Society, but that's by-the-by. The Gimblett Gravels vineyard in Hawkes Bay is immense (Craggy own 100 Hectares alone!) and grows many varieties (Cab Sauv, Chardonnay, Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, Cab Franc etc.) in its stony deposits from a river that once ran there, but changed course after a major flood. Several other vineyards dotting the entire North and South islands produce varietals like Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. These mid-level wines come in at around £10 to £20 a bottle, so they're near our upper-limit, but I believe they're also worth it! Keep an eye out for their wines in Marks&Sparks, Majestic, Waitrose, Farr Vinters and many others and keep them peeled for offers and "twoffers" (2 for £x.xx) they're worth getting your mitts on!

Here's the three we've had:

Craggy Range, Syrah, Gimblett Gravels, 2008 

Long-standing readers (or should I say sufferers?) might recall that this was one of my Wines of the Year last year. For a more in depth review you can check here: It used to be known as "Block 14 Syrah" but now simply Syrah. I have another bottle that I'm patiently waiting for to mature in my wardrobe, ahem, I mean cellar! This is from the Gimblett Gravels vineyard.13.4%

The Look: The wine itself a super-dense, completely opaque purple. Only a very slight lightening at the rim to a violet colour.

The Smell: Straight from opening it exudes a peppery, spicy scent mixed with dark fruits such as blackberry, blueberry, plum and something floral like violets or lavender.

The Taste: The first thing that hits you is a striking, vibrant acidity. It drenches your mouth with black fruits; blackberry, blackcurrant and a hint of blueberry and delivers a spicy, peppery mid-palate. A lovely smoothness of tannin gives way to a magnificent, long finish. First class.

The Score: Delicious but quite expensive at £18.99.  9/10. Highly Recommended 

VFM: Normal price of £18.99 yields a VFM of 0.47 which is not value for money drinking, but definitely for an occasional splash-out treat.

Craggy Range, Te Kahu, Gimblett Gravels, 2008 

Again, from the Gimblett Gravels vineyard this is a Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec.14%

The Look: A deep plummy-purple with lipstick-red highlights, not quite opaque but almost there.

The Smell: Very Bordeaux-like on the nose; blackcurrants and smoky plums and cherries.

The Taste: Plenty of black cherry, ripe plum and blackcurrant. Smooth tannins. Alcohol is apparent but not overpoweringly so. Again, very Bordeaux-like but with a bit more power and size. Long finish, if slightly hot.

The Score: A lovely wine.  7.5/10. Recommended 

VFM: Normal price of £12.99 yields a VFM of 0.58 which is reasonable value, but keep your eyes peeled; Majestic recently had 20% off NZ wines, if you can still find it.

Craggy Range, Sauvignon Blanc, Te Muna Road, 2009

This is from the Te Muna Road vineyard in the Martinborough region.13%

The Look: Crystal-clear, watery white with a pale straw/lemon tinge.

The Smell: Slightly grassy and herby with gooseberry and some exotic fruits in there too.

The Taste: Bright, fresh and plenty of ripe gooseberry, passion fruit and other stone-fruits. A steely minerality leads to a long finish. More restraint than your usual Marlborough offerings and better off for it. Classy.

The Score: Delicious, classy, restrained but at the same time juicy and fruit-packed.  8/10. Highly Recommended 

VFM: Normal price of £12.99 yields a VFM of 0.58 which is again, reasonable value, and yes, I will say it again, keep your eye out for offers like Majestic's 20% off.

So there we have our second "Icons" installment. I hope you enjoyed it. Plenty more where that came from!

As always, speak to you soon.



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