Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews
Independent reviews of some local and imported wines available in New Zealand, including earlier vintages.

A visit to Hawkes Bay in September 2016 (to present two Library Tastings) coincided with Craggy Range's chief winemaker Matt Stafford hosting a group of Australian sommeliers at their Havelock North winery.  In addition to showcasing the Craggy Range red wines,  Matt sought the cooperation of three other leading Martinborough producers,  to highlight for the visitors just how exciting a pinot noir district Martinborough is becoming.  The pinot noir part of the tasting therefore comprised three vintages of Craggy Range's top Martinborough pinot noir Aroha,  plus the same three vintages from Ata Rangi,  Dry River and Escarpment.  This selection of 12 pinot noirs became 11 bottles,  one being corked.  He also showed them four vintages each of Craggy Range's top merlot Sophia,  and their top syrah Le Sol,  both from the Gimblett  Gravels.  I was invited to share in these wines,  though I did not taste with the group.  

On the pinot noir side,  the results re-confirmed for me the intrinsic climatic capability of the Martinborough district to produce authentic pinot noir,  but also highlighted the need for individual producers to think more about what in fact comprises pinot noir authenticity.


The prices given below are purchase price,  where easily available.

Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
Pinot Gris
Sweet / Sticky
All other white wines, blends, etc.
Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2014  Craggy Range Merlot Sophia
2010  Craggy Range Merlot Sophia
2008  Craggy Range Merlot Sophia
2006  Craggy Range Merlot Sophia
Cabernet / Shiraz
Pinot Noir
  2014  Ata Rangi Pinot Noir
2013  Ata Rangi Pinot Noir
2012  Ata Rangi Pinot Noir
2014  Craggy Range Pinot Noir Te Muna Road Aroha
2013  Craggy Range Pinot Noir Te Muna Road Aroha
2012  Craggy Range Pinot Noir Te Muna Road Aroha
2014  Dry River Pinot Noir
2013  Dry River Pinot Noir
2012  Dry River Pinot Noir
2014  Escarpment Pinot Noir Kupe
2012  Escarpment Pinot Noir Kupe
Syrah = Shiraz
2014  Craggy Range Syrah Le Sol
2010  Craggy Range Syrah Le Sol
2008  Craggy Range Syrah Le Sol
2006  Craggy Range Syrah Le Sol
Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & related blends
All other red wines, blends etc
From the Cellar. Older wines.

Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2014  Craggy Range Merlot Sophia   18 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $93   [ 49mm cork;  DFB;  Me 61%,  CS 20,  CF 19,  hand-picked from c.14-year old vines cropped @ 6.25 t/ha = 2.5 t/ac;  cuvaison not given,  cultured-yeast;  19 months in French oak c.42% new;  RS nil;  sterile-filtered;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  midway in depth in the eight merlots and syrahs,  the deepest of the merlots.  Bouquet achieves a magical quality very rarely encountered in Hawkes Bay / Bordeaux blends:  here is a merlot that truly smells of violets as a glorious top note on dark bottled black doris plums,  plus some cassis.   Palate shows the best berry concentration of the four merlots,  and a much better ratio of berry to oak,  all much closer to Bordeaux in style than the other three merlot wines.  The floral qualities go right through the palate to the aftertaste:  this is lovely fragrant and elegant wine,  not big but beautiful.  Cellar 5 – 18 years.  GK 09/16

2010  Craggy Range Merlot Sophia   18  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $78   [ 50mm cork;  DFB;  Me 63%,  CS 27,  CF 8,  PV 2,  hand-harvested @ 5.6 t/ha (2.25 t/ac);  100% de-stemmed;  inoculated ferments in s/s;  18 months in French oak 44% new;  RS nil;  fined and filtered;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Ruby and some velvet,  lighter than ideal,  clearly below midway in depth.  Bouquet is clean,  berry-fragrant,  but seemingly under-fruited relative to the 2014.  It is hard to detect a floral component,  the oak being nearly as 'loud' as the berry – the new world approach.  Palate nonetheless shows a good harmony of berry and oak at this stage of the wine's evolution.  The balance is very much in the Saint-Emilion merlot-led style,  darkly plummy fruit extended by oak,  but over-oaked by good Saint-Emilion standards.  The oak is likely to become more apparent with further cellaring,  5 – 12 years.  GK 09/16

2006  Craggy Range Merlot Sophia   17 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $50   [ 50mm cork;  DFB;  Me 85%,  CF 10,  CS 4,  Ma 1,  hand-harvested @ 6.65 t/ha (2.7 t/ac);  100% de-stemmed;  fermented in oak cuves;  19 months in 60% new French oak;  fined and filtered;  RS nil;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  the second to lightest of the eight syrahs and merlots.  Bouquet shows fragrant cedary berry,  seemingly a little more oaky than the 2008 and thus again confirming the new world approach of these wines.  The dominance of oak on bouquet make it hard to recognise any floral component.  Flavour is sweet,  ripe and mellow,  fractionally softer on the oak than the 2008,  but slightly more acid,  showing a first approximation to maturity.  Berry is still leading the oak on palate,  but only just.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 09/16

2008  Craggy Range Merlot Sophia   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $50   [ 50mm cork;  DFB;  Me 89%,  CS 8, Ma 2,  CF 1,  hand-harvested @ 6.25 t/ha (2.5 t/ac);  100% de-stemmed;  inoculated ferments in oak cuves;  18 months in French oak 52% new;  fined and filtered;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Ruby and some velvet,  scarcely older than the 2010,  just below midway.  Bouquet is darkly berried and oaky,  even more obviously a new world wine in its ratio of oak dominating the berry,  but fragrant.  Palate is plumper than expected,  seemingly bigger than the 2010,  good merlot flavours maturing now,  but all much too oaky – again in a new world style.  Within the limitations of that caveat,  this should cellar well,  for 5 – 12 years.  GK 09/16

Pinot Noir
2013  Craggy Range Pinot Noir Te Muna Road Aroha   18 ½ +  ()
Te Muna Valley,  Martinborough district,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $125   [ 50mm cork;  hand-harvested @ c. 3.8 t/ha = 1.5 t/ac;  fermentation in oak cuves and s/s,  with wild yeasts,  and 40% whole-bunches;  11 months in French oak 32% new;  RS nil;  not fined,  coarse filter only;  the Craggy Range website now really is a model of how to do it – if only other leading New Zealand wineries (and those wishing to be seen as 'leading') would provide both this level of documentation for each wine,  and the same details for all back vintages;  www.craggyrange.com ]
A lovely ruby pinot noir colour,  just below midway in depth.  Bouquet is sweetly and beautifully floral,  hints of buddleia,  clear roses and port-wine magnolia,  a shadow of boronia,  on red grading to black cherry fruit.  Flavours in mouth show near-perfect varietal ripeness,  sweet fruit as if there were trace residual (not so),  and appropriate oak,  still needing to meld.  This is lovely wine,  with a burgundian Cru quality of texture to the palate accurately reflecting the Grand Cru cropping rate (in 2013).  New Zealand pinot noirs of this bouquet and palate quality are truly burgundian,  complete with a touch of burgundian mystery.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 09/16

2013  Ata Rangi Pinot Noir   18 +  ()
Martinborough Terrace,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $84   [ screwcap;  Abel clone c.40%,  assorted Dijon clones 40,  UCD 5 15,  planted at varying densities 2,800 – 4,400 vines/ha,  average age c.23 years;  all hand-picked @ c.4.1 t/ha (1.6 t/ac),  30% whole-bunch (depending on fruit-ripeness and year etc),  pre-ferment cold soak 5 – 10 days,  then 15 – 20  days cuvaison with 100% wild yeast;  c.15 months in French oak c.35% new,  medium toast;  not sterile-filtered to bottle;  RS 0.5  g/L;  dry extract 30.7 g/L;  production c.2,500  cases;  the Ata Rangi website is one of the better winery sites in New Zealand,  with a good deal of info for the last 9 or so vintages.  All vintages would be better,  given the reputation of the company;  www.atarangi.co.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  fractionally above midway in depth.  As so often with the Ata Rangi pinot noirs,  bouquet is floral and fragrant but let down by pennyroyal,  making it too aromatic in classical terms.  Otherwise,  the wine smells vividly of cherry fruit,  all a notch darker than the two Aroha wines.  In mouth the wine is bolder than the top two Craggys,  slightly more extractive and clearly more oaky,  but still well within bounds.  Fruit richness is perhaps greater than the Craggy 2013.  The nett result is a wine that tastes 'strong' by Cote de Nuits  standards,  but will mellow appropriately in cellar over a longer interval than 2013 Aroha,  say 5 – 18 years.  GK 09/16

2014  Ata Rangi Pinot Noir   18  ()
Martinborough Terrace,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  14%;  $84   [ screwcap;  Abel clone c.40%,  assorted Dijon clones 40,  UCD 5 15,  planted at varying densities 2,800 – 4,400 vines/ha,  average age c.23 years;  all hand-picked @ c.4.1 t/ha (1.6 t/ac),  25% whole-bunch (the ratio depending on fruit-ripeness and year etc),  pre-ferment cold soak 5 – 6 days,  then 15 – 20  days cuvaison with 100% wild yeast;  c.11 months in French oak c.35% new,  medium toast;  not sterile-filtered to bottle;  RS <1 g/L;  www.atarangi.co.nz ]
Good ruby,  getting deep for pinot noir,  clearly above midway.  Bouquet on the 2014 Ata Rangi is extraordinarily close to the 2013,  but the wine being less together,  the pennyroyal is more obtrusive,  rather masking any quality of florality the wine might show.  I wonder which parcels of fruit in this Ata Rangi top wine are located close by eucalypts – as a starting point.  Palate is potentially supple,  the quality of cherry fruit here seeming a little more black cherry than the 2013,  the concentration rich and rewarding.  Like the Craggy two but less markedly so,  the 2014 Ata Rangi seems fractionally cooler than the 2013.  But I'm hard-put to differentiate between the 2013  and 2014 in quality,  once the 12 months difference in age is adjusted for.  They show wonderful consistency in winemaking.  Cellar 5 – 18 years.  GK 09/16

2014  Craggy Range Pinot Noir Te Muna Road Aroha   17 ½ +  ()
Te Muna Valley,  Martinborough district,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $125   [ 49mm cork;  hand-harvested @ c. 6.75 t/ha = 2.75  t/ac;  fermentation in oak cuves and s/s with wild yeasts;  50% whole-bunch;  11 months in French oak 30% new;  no fining,  light filtering;  RS nil;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  lighter than the 2013,  well below midway in depth.  Bouquet shows similar buddleia and roses florals to the 2013,  but all fractionally cooler,  more red fruits than black fruits,  a hint of leaf,  and all slightly less evolved.  Palate likewise is more youthful,  the cherries fresher,  the oak more noticeable,  the coolness on bouquet translating into a suggestion of stalks on palate,  more marrying up to do.  Apart from being that bit cooler,  the approach seems near-identical,  though this wine is clearly lighter than the 2013,  which correlates with the cropping rate for the two years.  In particular the oak handling is magical.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 09/16

2012  Ata Rangi Pinot Noir   17 ½  ()
Martinborough Terrace,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  Abel clone c.40%,  assorted clones average age c.22 years;  all hand-picked @ at a rate perhaps less than the typical c.4.1 t/ha (1.6 t/ac) in the 2012 season,  5 – 6 days cold-soak,  nil whole-bunch in 2012,  wild yeast fermentation;  11 months in French oak c.25% new,  not sterile-filtered to bottle;  RS <1 g/L;  www.atarangi.co.nz ]
Classic pinot noir ruby,  already some age,  clearly below midway in depth.  Bouquet is intriguing and rewarding.  First up,  in this markedly cooler season the wine is not tainted with pennyroyal,  adding weight to my supposition that the eucalypts have to go,  if Ata Rangi is to truly achieve its destiny – as measured by Burgundy.  Secondly,  on  bouquet,  you can scarcely smell the cool year at all.  Instead the wine is redolent of Pommard,  total red fruits,  enchanting.  Palate follows beautifully,  showing a similar weight of fruit to the 2013 and 2014,  but no spurious aromatics.  There is a leafy suggestion if you look closely,  and total acid is up slightly,  but you could scarcely call it stalky.  It is clearly better-balanced and more successful than the surprisingly good 2012 Dry River,  but achieved in a year it is fashionable to dismiss.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 09/16

2014  Escarpment Pinot Noir Kupe   17 +  ()
Te Muna Valley,  Martinborough district,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  14%;  $82   [ dated 50mm cork;  close-planted in 1999 at 6,600 vines / ha;  hand-picked;  fermented with around 70% whole bunches in oak cuves,  18 months in French oak 50% new;  RS <1 g/L,  dry extract an exemplary 31.3 g/L,  not fined or filtered;  www.escarpment.co.nz ]
Good ruby,  but like the 2014 Ata Rangi,  getting deep for pinot noir.  One sniff here … and one is saturated in oak,  much more so than I recollect from previous bottles.  It smells like Californian Merlot from the 1980s,   fragrant,  plummy,  but for pinot noir,  awfully big.  In mouth the richness of dark fruit is most impressive,  but once again very quickly the oak floods the mouth,  making it hard to taste the actual fruit in any varietal sense.  I can't ignore the fact the wine is beautifully fragrant and darkly plummy,  qualifying it as pinot,  but it is massive by Burgundy standards,  and much too oaky.  Put it away for 10 years,  and there might be a pleasant surprise.  Cellar  10 – 20 years at least,  maybe a good deal longer.  GK 09/16

2012  Dry River Pinot Noir   17  ()
Martinborough Terrace,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $ –    [ dated 47mm cork;  plenty of words but no wine-making info on website;  earlier vintages have been of the order 12 months in French oak,  25% new;  RS < 2 g/L;  www.dryriver.co.nz ]
Appropriate pinot noir ruby,  below midway in depth of colour (among the pinots).  Bouquet is clearly floral,  fragrant,  and highly varietal,  and therefore at total variance with virtually all Dry River pinot noirs over the last nearly 30 years.  Flavour confirms the varietal impression,  supple red fruits more than black,  careful oak,  good length  and reasonable richness on palate.  The total achievement is let down slightly by a suggestion of stalkyness,  and slightly elevated total acid,  hardly surprising in the coolest vintage for many years.  You have to wonder when the penny will drop with the Dry River proprietors,  that in the coolest vintage in memory (almost),  only in this year has Dry River achieved true varietal quality,  instead of their normal baked,  over-ripe and elephantine interpretation of the variety,  an interpretation which has borne little or no relation to Burgundy.  I say that carefully,  being more than aware of the fatuous praise each vintage has been greeted with.  Here instead the suppleness,  length and varietal accuracy on palate really is a small-scale delight.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 09/16

2012  Craggy Range Pinot Noir Te Muna Road Aroha   16 ½ +  ()
Te Muna Valley,  Martinborough district,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  13%;  $ –    [ 50mm cork;  hand-harvested @ c. 3.8 t/ha = 1.5  t/ac;  fermentation in oak cuves and s/s with wild yeasts;  30% whole-bunch;  10 months in French oak 30% new;  no fining,  light filtering;  RS nil;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Classic pinot noir ruby,  not quite as red as the Ata Rangi and fractionally lighter.  One sniff of this wine,  and it does show the cool year.  There is a clear stalks note in the all-red-fruits,  making the wine highly varietal but not quite the appropriate ripeness profile.  Palate shows both 'sweet' fruit (in one sense),  and a clear stalky backbone,  markedly more so than the Ata Rangi,  closer to the Dry River,  but no more stalky than cool years in Burgundy.  The wine is therefore still clearly in style.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 09/16

2012  Escarpment Pinot Noir Kupe   16 +  ()
Te Muna Valley,  Martinborough district,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $ –    [ dated 50mm cork;  close-planted in 1999 at 6,600 vines / ha;  hand-picked;  fermented with around 35% whole bunches in oak cuves,  17 days cuvaison including cold soak;  11 months in French oak 50% new;  RS <1 g/L,  dry extract 28.6 g/L,  fined,  not filtered;  www.escarpment.co.nz ]
An older and lighter pinot noir ruby,  the lightest of the eleven pinots.  Of the four examples of the chilly 2012 vintage from Martinborough,  this is much the coolest wine.  Clear green stalky notes leap from the glass,  in a cold-year varietal way.  Palate follows appropriately,  fair fruit,  the oak thankfully in reasonable balance so the green tannins are not reinforced unduly,  but this is critically under-ripe pinot noir.  I continue to think that this year the Kupe fruit should have been relegated to the Escarpment generic pinot noir or even The Edge label,  keeping the concept of Kupe to stand only in good vintages.  In its green way,  the flavours are not unpleasant,  with fair concentration.  Cellar 3 – 8 years,  to maintain its style.  GK 09/16

2013  Dry River Pinot Noir   16  ()
Martinborough Terrace,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  13%;  $91   [ dated 50mm cork;  main clones 10/5 and UCD 5,  mostly planted at 2,200 vines/ha,  average age c.25 years;  all hand-picked @ c.4 t/ha (1.6 t/ac),  c.30% whole-bunch this year,  pre-ferment cold soak c.5 days,  then 7 – 10  days cuvaison with a mix of wild and cultured yeasts;  c.12 months in puncheon-sized French oak c.20% new,  medium+ toast;  not sterile-filtered to bottle;  RS <2  g/L:  dry extract c.30 g/L;  production c.800 cases;  this information not on the website,  instead kindly provided courtesy the new winemaker Wilco Lam;  www.dryriver.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  a big colour for pinot noir,  the second deepest among the pinots.  Bouquet is very strange,  soft,  sweet,  fragrant,  almost leathery and malty,  even a thought of brett,  like a hot-year grenache from Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  It totally lacks varietal authenticity and specificity,  the florality and magic that good pinot noir shows,  instead being over-ripe and dull.  Palate is equally weird,  rich,  velvety in one sense,  but also showing noticeable tannin and angular acid,  as if a tartaric addition.  This wine carries over the previous proprietor's bizarre interpretation of pinot noir,  wines which rarely bear any relation to Burgundy.  Nor does this.  As a big rich tannic wine,  it will please those of a quantitative persuasion in wine matters.  Cellar 5 – 18 years,  maybe to fine down and become somewhat more varietal.  Needless to say this vintage has been greeted with the usual credulous / fatuous praise by Australasian winewriters,  telling us more about the widespread lack of critical knowledge about pinot noir among local winewriters,  than anything relevant to appraising the wine.  GK 09/16

2014  Dry River Pinot Noir   13  ()
Martinborough Terrace,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $91   [ dated 50mm cork;  with the new winemaker,  there is now a little wine-making info on website;  12 months in French oak,  20% new;  RS <2 g/L;  www.dryriver.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a colour totally inappropriate for pinot noir,  the darkest of the pinot noirs,  by far.  But the colour is nothing compared with the smell.  The wine is seriously reductive.  Below is rich grossly over-ripe fruit,  which even if it were clean,  would bear no relation to Burgundy.  It tastes as it smells,  and bitter on sulphides as well.  This wine should never have been bottled,  and certainly not as a Dry River wine,  when one might hope new management would be seeking to improve the factual standing of the wine – as opposed to the myth.  At that point in the review,  I had the uneasy feeling I have tasted this wine before.  To my astonishment,  I find I have previously scored it 18,  in an equally 'technical' tasting.  All I can say is,  presumably all the barrels were not assembled into one master-blend,  before bottling.  If so,  that is not acceptable modern practice.  If not,  I am at a loss to explain this enormous variation,  bottle to bottle.  The character of this bottle is unarguable.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 09/16

Syrah = Shiraz
2014  Craggy Range Syrah Le Sol   18 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $120   [ 49mm cork;  Sy 100% mass-selection clone,  all hand-harvested at 6.6 t/ha = 2.65 t/ac;  100% de-stemmed,  inoculated ferments in both oak cuves and s/s;  MLF and 18 months in French oak 35% new;  filtered to bottle;  RS nil;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  the deepest wine of the eight syrahs and merlots.  Bouquet is so youthful and not together,  the first thought is:  this should not be released yet.  But it is.  There is intense dark red and black berry,  both blueberry and cassis,  and just a touch of black pepper,  in a wine of great purity.  On palate the berry richness flows evenly over the tongue,  blueberry dominant now,  oak more apparent at this stage,  the wine seeming richer than some previous years of Le Sol.  This is exciting young wine,  adding conviction to some winemakers' claims that 2014 in Hawkes Bay is as good (for syrah and merlot) as 2013.  Cellar 5 – 25 years.  GK 09/16

2010  Craggy Range Syrah Le Sol   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $105   [ 50mm cork;  Sy 100% mass-selection (Limmer) clone,  hand-harvested @ 5.4 t/ha (2.2 t/ac);  100% de-stemmed;  no cold-soak,  inoculated,  c.11 days ferment,  total cuvaison 20 days;  MLF and 17 months in French oak 38% new;  RS < 1 g/L;  sterile-filtered to bottle;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  the third deepest of the eight non-pinot wines.  Bouquet here shows a wonderful coming-together and harmony of syrah fruit and cedary oak.  The wine / year seems not quite as ripe as the 2014,  cassis dominant rather than blueberry,  more apparent black pepper,  not as lush.  Palate shows syrah ripened to a perfect cassis level of complexity,  exhilarating spice,  oak and balance,  the wine at least as rich as the 2014,  and all beautifully focussed.  This is worthy of the northern Rhone.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 09/16

2006  Craggy Range Syrah Le Sol   18  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $100   [ 49mm cork;  Sy 100%,  but this year not the New Zealand mass-selection clone,  hand-harvested @ 6.2 t/ha (2.5 t/ac);  100% de-stemmed,  2 days cold soak,  wild-yeast fermentation in open-top oak cuves,  22 days cuvaison including cold-soak;  no BF component;  MLF and 20 months in French oak 50% new;  RS nil;  filtered;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Ruby.  Bouquet is clean,  aromatic,  highly black peppery on cassisy fruit,  the oak showing a little much.  Flavour dispels the oak concern,  the ratio of berry to oak being attractive,  cassis browning a little now,  black pepper,  good but not exemplary concentration,  a long flavour on the black pepper particularly.  From the bouquet,  I imagine the oak may come to the fore with extended cellaring,  cellar 3 – 8 years more.  This  bottle seems a little different (sweeter and riper,  black rather than white pepper) from the bottle in the Le Sol vs Homage vertical the previous night.  GK 09/16

2008  Craggy Range Syrah Le Sol   17 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $100   [ 49mm cork;  Sy 100% hand-harvested @ 5.2 t/ha (2.1 t/ac);  100% de-stemmed,  2 days cold soak,  wild-yeast fermentation in open-top oak cuves;  no BF component;  MLF and 18 months in French oak 47% new;  RS <2 g/L;  fined and filtered;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  the second deepest wine of the eight.  Bouquet on this vintage of Le Sol seems less than the other three,  as if either the wine had been opened overnight (not so),  or the fruit were left out to hang and thus dimple,  therefore losing freshness / florality.  There is still cassis on bouquet,  but with a slightly leathery edge,  on quite a big wine.  Flavour follows in the same style,  ripe,  clearly rich,  slightly leathery,  not exactly black pepper / spicy,  all just a bit Australian in style.  The longer flavours and textures are good though,  with oak to a max.  Though 2008 is not thought of as a hot year,  the wine does suggest those characters,  all just a bit massive.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 09/16