Terry and Mary Peabody visited vineyard sites in America.
Then France and Australia. With a desire to start a winery from scratch, it was New Zealand that offered the opportunity to leave their stamp on the wine world and they’ve done so in impressive fashion.
The search started in 1993 and, today, Craggy Range Chief Winemaker Julian Grounds has crafted wines from what is going to be the next hot spot for Pinot Noir.
This is the first in a series of features on New Zealand Pinot Noir.
Of the very places on the planet where Pinot Noir can survive and thrive, New Zealand is one where affordability still reigns and diversity in style thrives.
With poor soils and a maritime climate that regulates daytime temperatures that allows for large diurnal shifts, and the terraced hillside of Te Muna are all part of the ecological mosaic that produced a special wine.
“Martinborough has proven itself with time to be one of the most ideal places to produce high-quality Pinot Noir in the new world,” Grounds said. “The Te Muna vineyard, which is within the Te Muna valley, personifies this quality. The site clearly has defined terraces, the old gravelly soil on the top terrace perfectly suited to Pinot Noir, providing balanced water holding capacity and drainage and keeping yields low. The region is cooled by the winds from the Tasman Sea so summers are never excessively warm.
“Craggy Range’s decision to both plant with high density and an array of Pinot clones has resulted in our house having the ability to produce numerous Pinot ferments, upwards of 40, of the same site and, in turn, keep separate to ensure that quality wine is bottled year in, year out.”
With 10 years in the bottle, the Craggy Range Te Muna Road Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010 ($49) was sublime. There were bacon fat, cherry cola, truffle and forest floor flavors seamlessly intertwined. It was an effortlessly smooth drinking experience, the kind Grounds envisioned when it was bottled.
“Craggy Range has always aimed to craft wines that have the structure and pedigree to gain further complexity and enjoyment with time,” Grounds said. “This is supported by the site we chose to plant, Te Muna. An incredible vineyard that always produces wines with impeccable balance and structure.”
There’s a wide variety of styles in New Zealand Pinot and Grounds said he’s noticed wineries’ desire to remain true to the individual identity of their vineyards.
“I can only talk to it from our perspective, however, I do think that there is a similar ethos among New Zealand wineries that we are proud of our unique climate and geological makeup,” Grounds said. “Individual wine styles are a chance to celebrate what makes each of these patches of earth unique.”
• James Nokes writes a bi-weekly wine column for the Daily Chronicle. He’s been tasting, touring and collecting in the wine world for several years. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.