MiNDFOOD talks with Craggy Range Vineyards Chief Winemaker Matt Stafford, who joined the Craggy Range Winemaking team in 2006. In 2007, Matt was named the inaugural recipient of Air New Zealand’s Inspiring New Zealanders Wine Award providing him with the opportunity to gain experience in the great wine regions of France spending time with respected Winemakers including Dominique Lafon in Burgundy and Philippe Guigal and Jean-Louis Chave in the Rhone Valley. Matt returned to France in 2008 and spent the vintage with Jean-Luc Thunevin at his famed Chateau Valandraud in St Emilion. He was appointed Chief Winemaker in 2012.
What is it about the terrain or landscape that makes Hawke’s Bay a great wine-making region?
The diversity of soils and sites that have been created by the movement of four major rivers over many centuries across the region combined with a great climate makes it pretty hard not to be making great wine across a wide range of styles here.
What sparked your passion for wine-making?
A love for our natural landscape (specifically soils) and being able to share my inner soil geekiness within a glass or bottle of wine that so many people can enjoy.
What has been your major achievements since starting with Craggy Range?
The achievements will be realised in 20-30 years when we can look at some of the wines we have crafted that have evolved into something better than we could have ever expected. We are fortunate that the 2013, 2014 and 2015 vintages have allowed us this opportunity. Having our range of wines recognised when named as prominent US Magazine Wine Enthusiast’s New World Winery of the Year for 2014 was pretty special for our whole team.
What would you recommend from the range for Christmas dinner this year?
You can’t go past any of our reds from the 2013 vintage but for those fortunate to have our wines tucked away in their cellars the 2006-2009 Le Sol are drinking beautifully right now.
What will you be drinking to see in 2016?
Champagne and a big bottle of 2008 Craggy Range Te Muna Road Vineyard Pinot Noir
What was the most important advice your wine-making mentor/s gave you?
Have the courage to do nothing. By taking a step back we get to really see what unique characters our vineyard sites allow, so we can then learn to showcase this sense of somewhere within our wines.