Craggy Range Sophia 2005

Craggy Range has by far the most glamorous tasting facility of all the wineries I visited in Hawkes Bay late last year. Its natural setting is glorious, but the spacious room itself is all glass and shiny surfaces — very upscale indeed. Worth a visit, for sure. There’s also a large range of wines available for tasting, including this, one of Craggy Range’s premium cuvĂ©es. It is a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc and, on tasting at cellar door, was almost impenetrable. I took this as a personal challenge, of course, and purchased a bottle for later tasting.

Dark and dense, with flashes of purple. The nose is initially compact and savoury, with a good dose of iron filings and minerality and not much else. With time and some energetic swirling, a range of other notes emerge to add complexity. There’s a sense of purple flowers, dark berry fruit, perhaps a slight saltiness too. The nature of the wine’s oak gains some clarity too, and it’s quite present, though totally integrated. A hint of volatility rounds things out. The pitch never rises above a bass register, and there’s an ongoing sense of depth and power to this wine’s aroma.
The palate is very much in line with the nose in that it’s both dense and reserved. Flow over the tongue is very tightly controlled, and from entry to mid-palate a slither of iron, complex berry fruit and sappy oak slides confidently along. It’s medium to full bodied and certainly substantial, yet measured and never clumsy. The after palate is marginally more relaxed and slightly sweeter in profile. Flavour is most complex at this point, and the wine’s lift helps each strand of flavour to fully define itself as it lands on the rear of the tongue. Just as it reaches its peak, it starts to fall away to a very long, satisfying finish. Tannins are remarkably fine and approachable, though their abundance suggests the capacity to age well.

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