Winning winemaker happy man

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For Pernod Ricard winemaker Craig Thomas, the day after the Boundary Vineyards Farm Lane Hawke's Bay Syrah 2015 took out the Champion Wine of Show at the big awards dinner was pretty well like any other day.

"Straight back to work, no rest for the wicked," he laughed.

While he was pleased and proud to step up and receive the plaudits he was quick to make it clear it was not a solo effort.

"We work as a team - always have and that's the way it is," he said, paying equal tribute to his winemaking colleagues based at Church Road.

When Hawke's Bay Today called he was with Chris Scott and Justin Faulconbridge "sitting in a whole room full of chardonnays blending them up".

On that note, he said the 2016 chardonnays were looking good - very good.

Craig is a Bay-born and educated boy through and through.

"Feet firmly here," he said.

He worked on his first vintage back in 1998 - "so I've been at it for a wee while now".

He has been with Pernod Ricard since 2010 and with the rest of the team has tasted success before, through taking out the Reserve Champion Wine of Show two years ago with the Coupers Shed Syrah 2013.

Like the Boundary Vineyards Farm Lane Hawke's Bay Syrah 2015 it also emerged from the winegrowing region dubbed the Bridge Pa Triangle.

He was modest about taking the latest big award simply saying "you can't not be happy and a bit overawed I suppose" and aimed his own accolades at the grape involved.

"It is a great salute to the grapes - I have a lot of faith in syrah, especially out of the Bridge Pa Triangle."

It was what he called the textural variety of the syrah fruit which sparked it, and sparked the winemaking pursuit overall.

"Texturally it is strong and it is nice to see that element - there is a lot of emphasis on texture in all our work."

He said the fruit had come from another exceptional vintage - the third since the stunning 2013 edition.

There was no magic wand waving to make it a supreme winner of winners, with Craig preferring to describe it as "a nod to what we believe in".
It was all about careful fruit expression and maintaining a standard which was set across all varieties.

For the syrah, a variety which has strongly emerged as a Hawke's Bay centrepiece, they had worked to create what he described as "an elegant but approachable wine" with a savoury spark of peppery spice.

An ingredient which typified the Bay's unique and increasingly sought syrahs.

"We build that structure and standards and move it from one (variety) to the next - keep the standard."

His recommendation for the winning syrah in terms of matching with a meal?

"Rich game - red meat."

Something with a spot of smoky expression to embellish the overall density of the palate.
Then it was back to the chardonnay work - in pursuit of high standards and maybe a white to top next year's awards, with his Boundary Vineyards syrah having broken a three-year winning Champion Wine of Show stretch for chardonnays.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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