Craggy Range, in the Gimblett Gravels region of Hawkes Bay on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, is one of that country’s premium wine producers.
What is a little bit different about Craggy is that, although they make very fine examples of both, they have not built their reputation on the leading Kiwi varieties of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. Rather, their flagship wines are the Merlot-dominant ‘Sophia’ and the Syrah called ‘Le Sol’ (Kiwis prefer to use the French name for Shiraz, one assumes so they do not have to compete in the market with the big, bold and rich Barossa and McLaren Vale examples).
Both ‘Sophia’ and ‘Le Sol’ have legions of fans and, while both are brilliant wines, it is a rare vintage where I have not preferred the ‘Le
Sol’ (others will disagree). For me, it is one of the great examples of this variety.
The first vintage of ‘Le Sol‘ was 2001 and it has been made every year since then with two exceptions – 2003 and 2012. Current RRP for the latest release, the 2016, is $150. Obviously, that might take it out of the range of everyday drinking for most of us, but if one considers it in comparison to some of the other great wines of the world, it is stunning value. The wine sees 20% whole bunches and spends 17 months in French oak barriques, 25% of which are new.
‘Le Sol’ was always densely flavoured, rich and powerful with inky dark fruits. More recent vintages have seen an extra degree of elegance, taking the wine to a new level.
The 2014 was certainly complex but also still tight and muscular. Well balanced, there is a plushness with black fruit notes, tobacco leaf and spice. Possibly a fraction more oak than is seen in other recent releases, but it is beautifully absorbed into the wine. The 2015 is very youthful and wonderfully supple and with great length and a great future ahead.
Now we have seen the release of the 2016 ‘Le Sol’ and it is one of the best ever. Obviously, very young, there are notes of black cherries and blueberries, warm earth, new leather. It has cashmere-like tannins with a plushness, elegance and yet serious intensity. Immaculately balance with finesse and power. Will mature gracefully for many years, but is so delicious now that many bottles will never make it to old age. Glorious. 99.