Craggy Range 2013. “The Vintage of a Generation”

Craggy Range 2013
“The Vintage of a Generation”
Craggy Range
New Zealand winemakers are calling 2013 the Vintage of a Generation and there was much evidence in support at the Craggy Range tasting in Adare Manor Hotel last week. Right across the range and not just with the outstanding wines from the Prestige Collection.

Okay, so this is a New Zealand winemaker and, yes, they have a Sauvignon blanc. It comes from the Te Muna vineyard in Martinborough. We started with this 2013 edition. Hannah Gordon, the company’s UK/Europe Business Manager, was our guide in Adare and she said it was not your typical NZ Sauvignon blanc: “It is slightly more classical, more elegant. It has had five months in oak, also some lees contact, so it has a nice richness, the acidity is calmed down. A great food wine, very versatile.”

The 2013 Chardonnay came from Kidnappers Vineyard in Hawkes Bay, the “warmest area in NZ but with a cooling sea breeze”. This too has had oak (nine months) but the influence is not overly much. There is a great concentration, an almost creamy feel and a long finish. Hannah said it is a great food wine, a Burgundy style. “The idea is to reflect the place and the name comes from the time when Captain Cook’s servants were kidnapped here.”
So now we were getting the picture, the “other side of the New Zealand story, learning from the Old World without copying”. And that was further underlined as the tasting progressed.

Back now to Te Muna Road which has a climate like Burgundy and is “the birthplace of quality Pinot Noir in New Zealand.” This 2012 Pinot Noir has “vibrant fruits..verging on creamy..a bit of classic earthiness to it, like the Old World”.

And then a step up again, this time to the 2013 Aroha, again a Pinot Noir from Te Muna Road but part of the Prestige Collection, a wine that could last 10 to 15 years. Hannah pointed to the dense fruit flavours. The texture and finish are all top class. Grapes from the two best blocks (16 & 19) were used for this gem. Aroha means love in the Maori language.

In 1876 the floods in New Zealand’s region of Hawke's Bay turned some rivers into land. You may read about it here.  

Gimblett Gravels was one such place and is “the most famous single vineyard on New Zealand”.  And from these gravels comes a surprising wine. “It was the biggest surprise for us,” said Hannah as she introduced us to two Syrah. And another surprise, the most awarded wine in New Zealand is not a Sauvignon blanc but Le Sol, one of this pair of Syrah.

The 2011 Syrah is excellent, medium bodied with fruit and spice and a long finish. But that 2013 Le Sol (French for soil) is simply amazing. No wonder Decanter named it as the best Syrah in the new world.

“Syrah is the new story of New Zealand,” said Hannah. “This is our highlight wine, fresh, fruity (with great density of aroma), acidity, fine tannins, and very accessible even at this young age. This could age for 15-20 years.”
We would finish with a couple of Bordeaux blends, one of which, Sophia, “put us on the world wine map”. First up was the 2011 Te Kahu from the Gimblett Gravels and the name means Morning Mist. Fruit for sure but this is more elegant than fruit driven, with a persistent finish. The blend is 70% Merlot with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and a very little Petit Verdot.

The 2013 Sophia, with 62% Merlot, brought us even more convincing evidence of the excellence of that year with “its spiced fruit character. It is fresh, acidic, with a fine tannin structure dominant but not too heavy, a beautiful wine”.

Jancis Robinson loves this one, even if not its “heavy” bottle: “Really well accomplished. Long and neat. Really lovely wine that lasted well in an opened bottle - a good sign”.
Lunch at Adare. Smoked Irish Salmon with Mango Salsa, Crab, herb & citrus creme fraiche
and Roast rump of Irish lamb, kohlrabi, crispy sweetbreads, butterbean puree.
Sophia, from the old Greek Sophia, means wisdom. We could all love (philo) this and become instant philosophers!

The love continued through the excellent lunch in the amazing Oak Room where we got a chance to sample some of the wines again and where we were introduced to Sophia 2004. Those that doubted, if there were any, joined the confirmed philosophers. Great wines in a lovely venue with excellent company - hard to beat on a Wednesday afternoon!

  • There is much more information on the wines (distributed here in Ireland by Tindal Wines) on the Craggy Range website. It is one of the very best wine websites that I've come across.
  • If you’d like to visit and stay at Adare Manor, you’d better hurry! Extensive refurbishment is planned for the leading five star hotel from early next year and it will be closed for up to 18 months.
  • Well done to Hannah and to Peter McCabe of Tindal’s for their input last week and to Anthony Tindal himself who left us in no doubt that he was a confirmed philosopher! Brian Lawlor, Food & Beverage Manager at Adare Manor, was on hand to make sure everything, including lunch, went well. It did!

    Just in from Ballymaloe's Colm McCann:

    Upcoming wine events at Ballymaloe 

    Bank Holiday Monday 26th October 2015, 8.00pm
    Wine dinner with John Wilson wine writer, The Irish Times
    In Ballymaloe House €85 including dinner and wines
    John Wilson, one of Ireland’s top wine writers, will present, over dinner, a tasting of a selection of his favourite wines from the new edition of his book ‘Wilson on Wine 2016’

    Thursday 12th November, 7.30pm

    A Unique and Fascinating Comparative Wine Tasting with Maximilian J. Riedel
    of Riedel Wine Glass
    In the Grainstore at Ballymaloe
    Tickets for the Riedel event are priced at €65 for individual tickets or €55 each for bookings of 2 or more. Each ticket includes €97.50 worth of Riedel VERITAS glass which each ticket holder can take home in a portable gift box

    Special rates also available for accommodation

    Ballymaloe House, Shanagarry, Co. Cork
    Tel: 021 4652531