The Craggy Range winery in Hawke’s Bay
Turning to Craggy Range’s own expansion plans beyond its current 500 acres of vineyard, Peabody outlined: “We’re running towards the end of our planting programme. We’re now very definitely looking for four more blocks of land, but we’re only interested in buying four blocks of the same quality as we have already.”
With its broad spread not just across grape variety but region, Craggy Range currently has 50% of its vineyard holdings in Hawke’s Bay, with the majority focus there on Merlot, augmented by Chardonnay and Syrah.
Most of its remaining vineyards are in Martinborough, where the producer grows Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and a small amount Riesling, with further holdings in Malborough in the form of Sauvignon Blanc, as well as a small amount of Central Otago Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.
“Very few New Zealand producers have such a broad variety of wines like that,” remarked Peabody, who explained that as a result of this diverse portfolio the company prefers to set up partnerships where it is the distributor’s sole New Zealand interest. “We want their focus to be on us,” he remarked.
As for the focus for Craggy Range’s next phase of expansion, Peabody described himself as “very interested” in Marlborough and Hawke’s Bay, with a particular mission to acquire “a much larger plot of land in Marlborough.”
With New Zealand not immune to the challenging economic pressures facing its major export markets, Peabody suggested that there are currently expansion opportunities for those with capital to spare. “It’s been a difficult time for the growers,” he observed. “Not so much for the larger producers but some of the smaller businesses.”
In line with this picture, Peabody offered further insight into his desire to expand. “For every 1,000 boutique operations you might have one that’s successful,” he remarked, adding: “You really have to have a somewhat larger scale operation.”
Highlighting the “very complex” nature of the wine industry and stressing: “it’s very important to have international distribution,” Peabody is correspondingly dubious about the commercial viability of many small-scale wineries.
“If you’re going to produce wine as a hobby, you’re going to find it’s one of the most expensive hobbies there is,” he warned, stressing: “It requires a great deal of capital and a great deal of patience.”