Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


Ups and downs of vintage 2021

Julian Grounds is the Pinot Noir loving winemaker at the helm of Craggy Range in Hawke’s Bay, a winery well known for its blockbuster Bay reds and sophisticated Chardonnay, despite the fact that 65% of this iconic winery’s production now comes from Martinborough. I asked him this week what the biggest challenges and greatest joys of vintage 2021 were. Here is our conversation, a fascinating insight into the inner workings of one of this country’s best known wineries.

What has been the biggest challenge of vintage 2021 for you at Craggy Range?

We are anticipated that labour would be the big issue this year, and it’s definitely affected the number of pickers we’ve seen on any given day, particularly in Martinborough. However I think we’ve been careful with our planning and timing and in the end, I’m thrilled with how the fruit has come in.

What percentage of fruit comes from Hawke’s Bay and Martinborough in terms of the overall crop for Craggy?

With new plantings coming online, this year we are about to approximately 35% Hawke’s Bay, 65% Martinborough.

How do you process the fruit from Martinborough and how did the two regions vary this year in terms of quality and quantity?

Martinborough Pinot is hand picked to low levels in picking bins to avoid any squishing, stored in refrigerated transport and driven straight to Hawke’s Bay. From there I like to vary the amount of 100% destem vs high whole bunch depending on the clone, ripeness and history. Sauvignon Blanc is predominately machine harvested, with approximately 15% hand picked and barrel fermented. This fruit is also transported up to Hawke’s Bay.

What are the most exciting varietals for you this year in terms of fruit quality? 

It sounds like a broken record but it’s been another absolute blinder in Hawke’s Bay. Couldn’t say one variety is better than any other, but maybe I continue to be blown away by the quality of our Syrah fruit. One block this year is potentially the greatest Syrah/Shiraz fruit I’ve ever been fortunate enough to work with. Outside of that Chardonnay is on the up and up for us, and with 4 new blocks coming online this year, I believe our wines will continue to evolve and improve. Pinot, the darling of my heart, will give us some stellar wines and in particular the Abel clone blocks look exceptional. Yes, tiny yields, but sure to be potent wines.