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After my extensive travels of the past three weeks in South Korea, Hawaii and San Francisco, it was time to head down to New Zealand.
New Zealand, central London-style that is.
Craggy Range is a New World (and New Zealand) wine company making a real difference in travel retail. It’s bringing excellence, exclusives and exuberance to the channel as well as commitment to and support of the retailers.
Irrepressible Irishman Barry Geoghegan (pictured below, albeit with a photo that may, just may I’m saying, have been taken before the Millennium), Founder & Managing Director of Barry Global Innovation, represents the wines in travel retail and is doing an outstanding job.
As I mentioned in a previous Blog (one of my favourite ever Blogs), ‘He’s a Craggy Ranger and he’s ok’, the wines are literally flying high in travel retail.
Yesterday morning, I attended a tasting of the newly released 2013 Craggy Range Prestige Collection, in the good company of UK Sales Director Warren Adamson (right), like me a London-based Kiwi, and Chief Winemaker Matt Stafford (left).
“I have never experienced a New Zealand vintage like 2013,” said Matt, before presenting the evidence to support his claim. We nosed, tasted and (this much is true, I pledge on the great god Richie McCaw’s life) spat three compelling wines – Aroha Te Muna Road Pinot Noir from Martinborough (with an origin like that you can see why I felt quite at home); Le Sol Gimblett Gravels Syrah from Hawke’s Bay; and Sophia Gimblett Gravels, also from Hawke’s Bay (a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc with an eyedrop or two of Petit Verdot).
Three very different wines held together by a common thread of elegance, perfumed fruit and long, clean finishes. If you like fine New Zealand Pinot Noir (and I, like many, do) then they don’t much more velvety and refined than this case study in bouquet, balance and finish. ‘Aroha’, a beautiful word from a beautiful language, means love in Maori and there’s been plenty of love poured into this outstanding wine.
Unlike Pinot Noir (and certainly Sauvignon Blanc), Syrah (or Shiraz) is not a grape generally associated with New Zealand (outside the country at least) but there are plenty of interesting examples coming out of Hawke’s Bay in particular.
Le Sol (French for ‘the soil’ – as in will Les Bleus defeat the All Blacks on Le Sol of Cardiff or Twickenham in coming weeks?) comes from the important Gimblett Gravels appellation (claimed to be the New World’s first such defined area) – a 800 hectare area (pictured, exquisitely, below) strictly determined by the gravelly soils laid down by the old Ngaruroro River, which were exposed after a huge flood in the 1860s.
Deep purple (though, as you can see above, there’s no smoke on the water), this is a big, still slightly closed wine with firm but not overwhelming tannins. It needs time and food (New Zealand rack of lamb, seasoned with sea salt, would be just the thing). Cellar for 3-5 years.
And Sophia? The name means ‘wisdom’ in Greek mythology though I’m not sure of the wisdom in spitting this beautifully crafted baby out as I did (ye gods, work pressure meant that I couldn’t even stay for the subsequent lunch, when I could have drank not only these wines but some interesting older vintages from a still young winery). What strikes you here is the combination of perfume on the nose, with a nicely weighted, almost zesty fruit character with a lovely spicy/sweet finish reflecting the outstanding 2013 Merlot crop.
Put together in vinous form the broody darkness of the All Blacks forward pack and the finesse of Dan Carter and you’ve got this well-balanced beauty advancing its way to a travel retail store near you soon.