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    « Tom Kelly's Greek odyssey | Main | Generations of Australian wine growers show their lineage »

    Home on the Craggy Range

    Waste management millionaire puts his money into NZ's Craggy Range wine business ... Justinian's wine reviewer, barrister G.D. Wendler, finds himself on the 88th floor of Melbourne's Eureka Tower tasting the Gimblett Gravels' finest and comparing notes with James (The King) Halliday 

    Terry Peabody: Canadian born waste merchant and Craggy Range proprietor

    THE Craggy Range wine appreciation 10 year retrospective, held on the 88th floor of the Eureka Tower in Melbourne, was a marvellous and informative occasion that showcased the label's prestige red and white wines - beginning with its first vintage in 2001 up to the current 2010 vintage.

    Craggy Range winery was built 1997 by Terry Peabody and is run as a family operation.

    In the 1960s Peabody was employed as an engineer on the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Scheme.

    Years later, by dint of relentless hard work, good fortune and opportunistic brilliance in business, Peabody created the enormously successful Transpacific Industries Ltd, a multinational waste management company.

    As they say: "Where there is muck there is money."

    Peabody retired as a director of Transpacific in June 2010 to concentrate on his Craggy Range wine distribution business and other commercial interests.

    The vineyard is located in the Hawkes Bay viticultural area of New Zealand's North Island, the country's first terrior based appellation described as the Gimblett Gravels sub-region (GG).

    The alluvial soil and limits of the GG is the manifestation of massive flooding by the Ngaruroro River in or about  1867.

    The GG is about 800 hectares and lies north west of the town of Hastings.

    Having visited the area on two occasions I can report that the Hastings' farmers' market offers stunningly fresh, beautiful and interesting produce. The whitebait omelette alone is worth a trip to this part of NZ.

    The GG Winegrowers Association, formed in 2001, consists of 35 wine producers and grape growers. The association mandates 95 percent of  plantings in the GG area and wines carrying a GG label must be 95 percent sourced from GG vineyards.

    A significant portion of the GG was intended by the municipal authority to be utilised as a stone quarry for road building, however protests from the local community forced the powers-that-be to abandon their threatened vandalism.

    The sub-region has a moderate maritime climate. The specialness of the GG resides in the austerity of its terrior, which drives the vine to commit its energy to ripening grapes rather than producing luxuriant canopy.

    Vitis vinifera does not tolerate wet feet, which is not a problem because the gravelly soil has excellent drainage.

    The stones reflect radiant heat to the vines during the autumn. The red grape varieties in the GG are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, Shiraz and Pinot Noir. The predominant white varieties are Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

    The Craggy Range retrospective was conducted by Steve Smith MW - a joint managing director at Craggy Range and one of New Zealand's most outstanding winemakers.

    It was the perspicacious Smith who persuaded Peabody to invest in viticulture in the GG. Smith knew the GG augured well for producing world class red wines from Shiraz and the Bordeaux varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon/Franc, Merlot and Malbec. 

    Smith said: 

    "If you are going to be a great wine nation you have to show that you are great at producing reds." 

    In the last 10 years Smith and Peabody have marketed some of the best red wines ever made in New Zealand.

    Among the throng at the tasting was James (The King) Halliday, who remains Australia's most erudite wine critic and educator.

    I marvel at his indefatigable commitment to the wine industry. At 74 Halliday appears as indestructible as a Rutherglen Muscat.

    The category of Craggy Range wines evaluated at the tasting comprised Les Beaux Cailloux 2006 and 2010 ("the beautiful gravels") made from a single chardonnay vineyard; Sophia, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010 - a  blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot; the Quary 2001, a blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and the extraordinary Le Sol, 2002, 2004, 2008 ,2010 ("the soil") 100 percent Shiraz .

    My tasting notes reveal the Le Sol Shiraz of 2004 and 2008 were, for me, the stand-out wines. Both corpulent, powerful, almost the colour of Indian ink with a coup de grace of buttery chocolate on the palate.

    It was astonishing that this was Shiraz from New Zealand not Australia. 

    I noted the 2007 Le Sol was conspicuous by its absence.

    I have had the 2007 on at least three previous occasions. Put simply, it's a tour de force. Without doubt it will become one of New Zealand's iconic red wines. 

    The Les Beaux Cailloux 2010 was also impressive. I remarked to the King its style reminded me of a Chevalier-Montrachet. He agreed.

    In the ruthlessly competitive prestige wine market Craggy Range is recognised for its high quality and value.

    Under the guidance of Steve Smith and the inviolable commitment of the Peabody family Craggy Range will shine on brightly. 

    More details about Craggy Range here ... 

    G.D. Wendler

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