Every year in May much of the wine trade descend upon London for the three-day wine trade fair at Excel. It invariably means some of the visiting winemakers and producers spare some time to lay on tastings for staff and as such we were treated to a tasting of all the current release wines from the iconic Cloudy Bay.
Firstly we were told about some of the history behind this iconic winery. Cloudy Bay Vineyards were established in 1985 by Cape Mentelle in the Wairau Valley, Marlborough, right at the northern end of New Zealand’s South Island. They were one of the first 5 producers to settle in Marlborough and as a result they established vineyards in the best sites and arranged long-term grower contracts. The wines were an overnight success and their Sauvignon Blanc received such critical acclaim that it really brought attention to New Zealand and the fresh vibrant fruity style of Sauvignon Blanc that now Marlborough is so well-known for.
The tasting started with their two sparkling wines: Pelorus, intriguingly named after an albino dolphin named “Pelorus Jack” that apparently used to swim alongside steamers making the crossing between the North and South Islands!
The Pelorus NV spends two years on its lees and is made in the traditional champagne method. It has a real elegance with rich toasty aromas and a full body and I would argue it would compare favourably against many Champagnes.
The Vintage 2005 was next, and since it spends one year more on its lees, it provides a really rich generous style, full of fruit, brioche and a slight caramel flavour.
The infamous Sauvignon Blanc was next, just recently having moved onto the 2009 vintage. Clean, fresh, lively with a very pure expression of citrus fruit and considerable depth and intensity this is truly what New Zealand is all about. Luckily our buyer has worked hard getting a bigger allocation of this wine so gone are the days of one bottle per customer a year!
We then tried the 2007 Te Koko. This wine is very limited in production and is rather unusual in style being a barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc. Barrel fermented Sauvignons traditionally have been pretty much solely produced in California (known as Fumé Blanc) or occasionally for some top wines in Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé. I absolutely love the style which shows aromas of lemon, mandarin blossom and stone fruit, followed by a rich creamy palate with tropical notes and underlying minerality. Complex and intense, if a little out of the ordinary its well worthy of a try.
The 2007 Chardonnay followed. Handpicked, produced using the low yielding Mendoza clone that results in a concentration of fruit, creamy rich palate with a lovely buttery flavour and good elegance, not too oaky with a long lingering finish.
A first for me (and a new addition to our range) was the 2006 dry Riesling. This is another meticulously crafted wine that is handpicked with a natural fermentation occurring in old oak barrels. It is then held for between two and three years in bottle before release. There is a delicate scent of lime, honey with some floral hints. Clean and fresh on the palate with mouth-watering acidity and primary fruit characters of green apple lemon and lime, backed with a complexity gained from the old oak providing some spice and giving the wine great structure and a length that can still be tasted long after finishing the mouthful.
The final wine of the evening was the 2008 Pinot Noir. Grown in the southern valleys on 20-year-old vines, each different block is handled and fermented separately and only the best wines end up in the final blend (as many as 40 different components are part of the make up of this wine). This is a lovely elegant Pinot Noir with ripe cherry fruit, red fruits reminding me of summer pudding and considerable complexity and depth of flavour. This is how Pinot should be and shows why Pinot Noir is a true classic variety.
So all in all we had a great evening and tried some fantastic wines that really lived up to the reputation that Cloudy Bay has earned over the years as being at the forefront of New Zealand winemaking. The two highlights of the tasting for me were the Riesling and Te Koko, the Te Koko is currently wending its way over here on a ship and should be available from our Fine Wine Centre by the end of June. However, the Riesling can be snapped up now as part of our web exclusive parcel – although limited production means it won’t be around for long!