"2005 Le Sol is simply an incredible wine, a massive nose of black plum, game and a touch of tar, the palate full-bodied with robust tannins and just like the great Northern Rhone producers, delivers a svelte, elegant finish that belies the powerful fruit that charges this wine along. If you doubt New Zealand can make world-class wines, then try this."
Craggy Range's Gimblett Gravels vineyard supports 200 acres of vines, the majority of which are Bordeaux varieties. Thirty-six varietal plots are matched to the variations in depth and texture of the gravel soils of the Ngaruroro River old stream bed. Of these, six are planted to 27 acres of Syrah, and two of these, lying on soils higher in gravel and lower in loam, yield fruit for Le Sol ("the soil"). Vines in these two parcels are of an old, pre-phylloxera selection of Syrah thought to have been brought to New Zealand by James Busby in the 1830s. Density of planting is an intense 1,335 to 2,105 per acre, and the vines are cane-pruned and the shoots vertically positioned. Extensive shoot, leaf and cluster thinning reduce yield and maximize exposure to the sun and reflected heat from the stones.
Syrah is the last variety to be harvested in this vineyard, hand picked very late in the latter part of April when the berries are slightly wrinkled and have reached 24º to 27º brix. The grapes are chilled overnight to 45ºF, sorted and destemmed directly into the tank, with part the fruit going in as whole clusters depending on maturity. Following an eight to ten-day cold soak, fermentation is initiated with indigenous yeasts and the cap regularly hand-plunged.
Crafted on the French model of Syrah, Craggy Range Le Sol is deep black purple in color, with heady aromas of sweet black berry fruit, blueberries, exotic spices, black pepper and a hint of dustiness. These complex impressions are confirmed on the dense, highly defined palate set in a structure of sweetly elegant, tight tannins and finely honed acidity. The finish is long, penetrating and integrated.