Joelle Thomson

Writer, author, journalist

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Women in wine profile - MJ from Craggy Range

She loves champagne, Riesling and her family and she loathes cork taint. Mary-Jeanne Hutchinson is the woman behind the stories of Craggy Range Wines, a Hawke's Bay winery with more vineyard land in Martinborough's majestic Te Muna Valley. She works as an ambassador for Craggy Range wines and the brand. Her parents are Terry and Mary Peabody, who have established a 1000 year trust for their company. This legally binding arrangement means the winery and brand cannot be sold. 

"The 1000 year trust is for all those who work here as well as for the family. It's also for the soil on the vineyards we own, which we want to be better in 10 years and in 100 years. It's a clear mandate that Craggy Range can never be sold and even though it is a family owned winery, family members have to apply to work for the company and we will always have an external CEO," says Hutchinson.

The company began as an idea when her father, Terry Peabody, returned from an overseas trip in 1991. "My mother and I essentially encouraged him to go into a business that we could be involved in and we wanted that to be wine. He agreed, after several bottles of wine, and we woke up with a hangover and began planning."

The planning process took them far and wide in their thinking from Bordeaux to Burgundy and the Napa Valley before they decided to investigate New Zealand. And the rest is history. 

Hutchinson studied wine marketing course at Roseworthy in South Australia, "A brilliant course", which she studied externally while starting a family.

"We were led to New Zealand because we knew we wanted to grow a range of different grape varieties, not only one or two. For a country so small, New Zealand really does tick all the boxes. For us it was that we could be really site and region specific." 

Craggy Range is a Hawke's Bay based winery with the restaurant, cellar door and facilities there, along with 100 hectares of vineyard land. The company has also have doubled its investment in Martinborough to the extent that it is 65/35 in terms of vineyard land, in favour of Martinborough over Hawke's Bay. This reflects the style of wines that people are looking for globally, says Hutchinson.

"People are looking for the lighter, more aromatic wines and varieties and Martinborough does that perfectly."

Craggy Range now has approximately 240 hectares in Martinborough and 100 hectares in Hawke's Bay.

"We adore Martinborough and are very heavily invested in vineyard land there and we are also in the process of planting 100,000 native trees in the Te Muna Valley, with the Government. This will help the monoculture of the soil and bring the natives back." 

This interview is based on Proust questionnaire which originated in 1886 - read more here

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

It's going to sound cheesy but raising four amazing humans and convincing Dad, along with Mum, to go into the wine business. 

What is your favourite thing about wine?

Sharing our story of Craggy Range and learning other wine stories and about the lives behind what's in the bottle.

Do you have a most treasured wine?


Apart from Craggy, I once read a book called The Vines of San Lorenzo by Angelo Gaia and I have been collecting wines from the Gaia collection ever since. They need to be cellared for 20 years before they are drinkable but the book moved me more than anything before. It's hard to buy those wines but I get a bottle or two when I can. That book taught me about commitment to the land and taking risks about being brave.

When and where are you at your happiest?

Being at Craggy Range with all my family. 

What do you most dislike in wine?

Cork taint. 

What is your greatest fear?

Losing a child.  

What is your greatest extravagance?

Champagne.

What is your greatest regret?

Not eating more gluten before I was diagnosed with Coeliac disease. 

What talent would you most like to have?

To be able to sing. 

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

See above. 

What do you most value in your friends?

I don't need many but I value everything in my friends and love that we always check in on each other.  

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

At the moment, it's 'anyway' and everyone knows that means I just don't want to talk about it.

What is your favourite meal?

If I was allowed to eat it, then cheese soufflĂ© with all the gluten in it by Damien Pignolet but now I'll settle for a gluten free cheese soufflĂ©.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing what would it be?

I'd like to come back as a younger version of me.