Craggy Range Te Muna Road Vineyard in Martinborough
These views are founded on Peabody’s own 20 years of experience in the wine business, having first established and built up waste management firm Transpacific Industries across 115 sites in Australia and New Zealand.
Initially persuaded into the wine business by his wife and children, US-born, Brisbane-based Peabody first seriously started to look around the world for a winery in 1993. Having started buying land in 1995, Peabody and his Craggy Range co-founder and director of wine & viticulture Steve Smith, planted the majority of Craggy Range’s vineyards between 1996 and 2000.
Looking back on this period, Peabody recalled a combination of good fortune and an entrepreneurial ability to recognise potential. “The timing in New Zealand was so appropriate,” he recalled. “The wines weren’t known and you could buy land at reasonable prices that would produce great wines.”
Twenty years later, Peabody confirmed that Craggy Range looks set to retain its family-run ethos. “We developed this as a legacy for our progeny,” he explained, noting that his eldest grandchild is already involved in the business, while several of his 10 other grandchildren are expressing similar levels of interest.
Alongside his ambitions to secure Craggy Range’s commercial future by expanding vineyard holdings, Peabody is busy strengthening his international sales team. With customers in around 50 countries, he noted: “It’s really more about developing those existing markets. We’re adding a person in Asia, Europe and the US.”
As for whether he shares the rest of the wine trade’s excitement about China, Peabody confirmed: “Absolutely. Our growth in Asia has been remarkable – China will become our second biggest market in the next year.”
For the moment, however, the US remains his biggest market “by far”, and there is no plan to divert from Craggy Range’s strong on-trade weighting, which currently accounts for around 80% of the producer’s sales worldwide.
Having spent the last week in the UK, Peabody presented an unusually upbeat health report, saying: “The UK is great. We’re very pleased with the market. It’s been difficult times, but everybody still seems to be drinking. I think people are generally upbeat and looking for growth this year.”
Unsurprisingly, Peabody is convinced that New Zealand wines offer a strong proposition, despite the scale of competition from other major producing nations.
“If you get into value for money for the quality of wines then I think New Zealand stands out,” he maintained. In terms of stylistic and image advantages, Peabody also pointed to the convenient ongoing trend whereby “people are moving more towards cool climate wines,” as well as the country’s “great reputation for being clean and green.”
However, Peabody also acknowledged quantitative issues that, for good or ill, restrict New Zealand’s ambitions in certain areas. “The limiting factor is that there aren’t masses of areas to grow fine wine grapes and we’ll never compete in that ‘Two Buck Chuck’ end of the wine industry – and personally I don’t want to,” he concluded.