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The fancy farmer

epicure 29 September 2011

Steve Smith, the director of wine at Craggy Range winery, is out to show everyone that New Zealand’s grape portfolio is more than just its Sauvignon Blanc.

Pinot Noir has had its fair share of creative descriptions. But Steve Smith, director of wine at Craggy Range, a Hawkes Bay-based winery that makes only single vineyard wines, is probably the first person to call it a “cross-dresser”. “That’s the personality of New Zealand Pinot,” says the 49-year-old. “It has the lusciousness of the New World and the elegance or femininity of the Old World. It’s a refined form of Pinot Noir that is distinctive to us.”

For Smith, Pinot Noir is the red wine for New Zealand. In recent years, Kiwi Pinot has been making a name for itself, and across the borders, it seems to have stoked jealousy: both the Royal Hobart International Wine Show and the Perth Wine Show have banned New Zealand’s wineries from taking part after seeing top accolades going to their neighbour’s Pinot in previous shows.

Kiwi Pinot’s charm is good news for Smith, who worries that “New Zealand will be known as a one-trick pony of Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough”. “There have been a lot of marketing campaigns by the industry that is focused on that white varietal. But that’s not what we are all about,” he stresses.  When Smith talks about his favourite subject, he goes into spiels but maintains his articulation; a trait of a seasoned speaker—with clout to boot. In 1996, he was rated by Decanter as one of the 50 most influential people in the world of wine in the new millennium, and in 2005, was ranked in the Top 50 by Wine and Spirits magazine.

Excerpt from the October issue of epicure.

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