According to our market data information, Craggy Range is one of the top most widely distributed New Zealand wineries in the Hong Kong market.
The winery was founded on the basis of a promise, one which Australian businessman Terry Peabody made to his wife and daughter in 1986 to build an enduring family wine legacy. He chose New Zealand, instead of the more obvious Old World France or Americas, to carry out his family’s wishes, because of the country’s exceptional climate, the youth of the wine industry and the pioneering spirit of the people.
He joined forces with Kiwi viticulturalist Steve Smith, whom Decanter had named “one of the 50 most influential people in the world of wine going into the next millennium,” and who selected the Gimblett Gravels area in Hawke’s Bay on the East coast of New Zealand as having the perfect growing conditions for Bordeaux reds as well as Syrah, and the Tuki Tuki valley as having soil ideal for Chardonnay. Together they made the important decision to exclusively pursue the Single Vineyard Philosophy of winemaking, a very modern approach back in 1997, making Craggy Range the first Southern Hemisphere winery to make single vineyard wines from multiple regions of the country.
I spoke with Brent Hindman, Asia Pacific Manager for Craggy Range, at Vinexpo. We discussed the feedback that Craggy Range wines had gotten from visitors, and why their wines are doing so well in the Hong Kong market. He walked me through the wines presented at their booth and explained how, while New Zealand is mostly known for its Sauvignon Blanc, the wines that are the “heart and soul” of their company are mainly their reds, the Pinot Noirs, Syrahs and Merlot blends. He also shared an interesting and surprising bit of knowledge about local [Hong Kong] wine preferences.
Our interview follows:
Hi, I’m Brent Hindman, Asia Pacific Manager for Craggy Range Vineyards from New Zealand.
And how have you been enjoying Vinexpo so far? What do you think about the organization of the event?
It’s been good for us. This is the first time we’ve been here, so the first time we’ve brought our wines to Vinexpo. High caliber people coming through, we’ve noticed, and a nice mix of nationalities as well, so not all just local Hong Kong, a lot of DRC, Taiwan, India, Korea, so that’s been quite helpful for us as well.
And how has the feedback been on New Zealand wines?
I think the feedback has been very positive. I can speak for our wines; I can’t speak for others. We’re fortunate – we have some pretty good vintages right here at the moment, so the feedback has been very promising. And we already have quite good distribution, established in a lot of markets so that gets us…We’ve seen a few old friends come back to try new vintages and introduce a few new people to the wines as well.
I work for a market intelligence company called Entaste and we found that Craggy Range is actually one of the top distributed wineries from New Zealand in the Hong Kong market. I think it has around 30-40% distribution. In your opinion, why do you think that wines that you Craggy Range produces are so popular here?
We’ve been here a long time, so we’ve been in the market maybe 10 years. The owners of our company come into the market multiple times a year so we spend a lot of time and energy in supporting the market. We have a very, very good distributor here locally, Montrose Fine Wines. They are exceptionally active, high caliber people going into hotels and restaurants, which are primarily our market around the world, and they do a very good job for us. And the wines are good too and so we’re ticking a few boxes I think for the folks looking to purchase wine.
I’ve also heard that Craggy Range is actually distinct from a lot of other New Zealand wineries in that it makes a lot of interesting reds, whereas whites are mostly been what’s most popular in New Zealand wines.
Yeah, we do…We have two main vineyard areas, one in Martinborough – we do make Sauvignon Blanc from Martinborough and we do make Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough. But probably the wines that are the real heart and soul of our company are the red wines, so Pinot Noir from Martinborough and our Syrah and Merlot blends from the Gimblett Gravels area of Hawke’s Bay.
And what have you brought to Vinexpo to represent the winery?
I brought… ducked over in the back, is the Sauvignon Blanc from Martinborough, from our Te Muna Road Vineyard. This here is a 2010 Te Muna Road Vineyard Pinot, which actually just had a very nice write-up in the latest Wine Spectator magazine that came out. Moving over to Hawke’s Bay, our warmer vineyard area, and I guess the Gimblett Gravels area would probably be the premier red wine area of New Zealand, where we have our Gimblett Gravels Syrah and then its big brother, Le Sol. And we have Te Kahu, which is a Merlot blend, so 80% Merlot, and the rest is Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec, and then its big brother, or big sister, Sophia. So we’re offering a few tiers in our range, and, I think, wine styles that this part of the world quite enjoys.
And how do you think your wines pair with Asian cuisines?
That’s a very interesting one. Certainly, in terms of Asian cuisines, the seafood dishes and Sauvignon Blanc pair really well. Pinot Noir with a range of different Asian meat – so barbequed meats, the pork dishes… But the reality of many of my customers is, in spite of that, they really like the heavy reds.
We’ve found that it’s a red-dominant market, so it’s not surprising that it’s the favorite…
Yeah, that’s right. And so there’s a little bit of some wines that match quite well with local cuisines, but there’s, I guess, local taste, local wine taste that needs to be taken into consideration as well.
And do you have a particular favorite, or do you love them all equally?
I love them all equally, really, but to me this is our… this is a very, very special wine. This is El Sol, this is our top Syrah, so 100% Syrah from the Gimblett Gravels Vineyard area and this is made in a small volume and probably one of New Zealand’s most collectible red wines now. Really, very very unique.