Top drops under $20 (and over) and wine news from Joelle Thomson

Category: Retail

Craggy’s new top shelf reds launch…

It was frosty, clear, cold and intense start to the week at Craggy Range in Hawke’s Bay, but in the upstairs wine lab at Craggy Range, the following trio of reds shined a warmer light on the third strong New Zealand vintage in a row – 2015. Like all top shelf reds, this trio have been mellowing in barrel prior to their official release onto shop shelves and into our glasses this week.

Craggy’s top trio of 2015 reds

Craggy Range’s new Prestige Collection reds launched in June this year and represents the third consecutive strong vintage in a row, says winemaker Matt Stafford, who says yields were down 50% for 2015 Craggy Range Aroha Te Muna Pinot Noir and also, to a lesser extent, for 2015 Craggy Range Le Sol Syrah, due to a cool start to vintage but a warm dry summer resulted in these beauties.

New Craggy Sophia

 2015 Craggy Range Sophia $115

Three grapes vie for attention in this top new red – made from 73% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon and 13% Cabernet Franc, all contributing body and fruit weight. The soft richness comes from the hefty Merlot component while the two Cabernets provide dark fruity notes.

The 2015 Craggy Range Sophia was aged for 19 months in French oak (45% new).

It drinks… well right now but will further age for 9 to 10 years; possibly longer.


New Le Sol Syrah

2015 Craggy Range Le Sol $135

A cool spring provided plenty of nervous anticipation to the Craggy Range wine team but a warm dry spell in mid to late January saw temperatures rise over 30 degrees Celcius and the result is this lovely wine that’s intense in every way from its deep purple colour to its full body, high but balanced tannins and acidity and its long, smooth finish.

The 2015 Le Sol was aged for 17 months in French oak (30% new oak).

It drinks… well right now and has strong aging potential for 9 to 10 years +.


New Pinot

2015 Craggy Range Aroha Pinot Noir $135

First made in 2006 and produced every year since, with the exception of 2010, this Martinborough Pinot Noir is made 100% from grapes grown in the Te Muna area; 9 kilometres west of the township. A higher proportion of whole bunches are used than in the past – now 50%, which add what Stafford describes as a spicy note. And there has also been a significant reduction in the use of new oak (now at 30%).

The 2015 Aroha was aged for 9 months in French oak (30% new).

It drinks… well now with smooth full body, and can age for 9-10 years.


These wines are in store now at Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington where I spend a portion of my week working on tastings and all manner of other fascinating, tasty wine related things.

Wellington tastings diary

Spring has sprung, the rain has cleared,  the wine is ready to be poured at our World of Riesling tasting at Regional Wines & Spirits in Ellice Street (by the Basin Reserve), Wellington.

Here’s what’s in store or in our upstairs tasting room, to be precise:

Thursday 13 October, 6pm to 8pm: The World of Riesling
Thursday 17 November, 6pm to 8pm: Cellar busters: How to start a wine cellar for under $100
A tasting with cellar starter packs on sale afterwards
More details to follow on each of these accessible tastings.

Supermarket wine grows

Ponsonby’s new Countdown supermarket on the corner of Ponsonby Road and Williamson Ave stocks over 1500 wines, thanks to Tim Carroll and Paul Brannigan, who describe the diverse range, the target customer and the role of Langton’s.

How many wines do you stock?

The Cellar at Countdown Ponsonby carries 1500 wines with 35% of the wine range being over $30 in retail price.

Who’s your target customer?

Ponsonby is one of Auckland’s most affluent suburbs and our customers here appreciate good food and a good drop. It’s vital not to alienate the everyday shopper and we also carry a large selection of wines at low prices to suit other budgets.

Who makes the buying choices?

It’s a team effort. Paul Brannigan is the wine category manager and leads a small team. Paul has more than 15 years wine buying experience, having joined Countdown 12 months ago from Moore Wilson’s in Wellington.

How much of the range is experimental?

We are constantly reviewing our range and it will always change based on customers’ evolving tastes. We anticipate significant continued growth in varietals such as rose, Pinot Noir, Prosecco, Champagne and European wines, which are currently high growth segments, along with a trend to lower alcohol wines and a trend back towards Chardonnay. There are no plans to trim down the range at this point.

Which wines are your biggest sellers?

Red wine is leading the charge as the most popular wine category in Countdown Ponsonby, however, time will tell if that continues, as we move into summer. We expect sparkling and particularly Champagne to be a stand out, with it already doing well for mid winter. The sheer range of 40 plus different Champagnes at Countdown Ponsonby contributes to that.

What’s your biggest red wine brand in sales terms?

At the moment our biggest sellers are Rabbit Ranch Central Otago Pinot Noir, which usually retails for around $23, and Devil’s Staircase Central Otago Pinot, which usually retails around $20.

What are the most unusual wines in store ?

We have more than 120 older vintage wines in The Cellar at Countdown Ponsonby, selected from Langton’s Wine House in Australia, and brought to New Zealand. We have many unusual wines, but the wines that get the most attention are a dozen back vintages of Penfolds Grange, including the 1976. Others that turn heads include 2003 Vina Tondonia Rioja and 2011 Elena Fucci Aglianico.

How much does the wide range of wines tap into food range?

There’s a strong focus on growing trends of health foods including organic, paleo and vegan options with 450 new products in this space.

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