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A taste of Cloudy Bay

Simon MilroySimon Milroy, Manager of Majestic Mayfair and currently studying for his MW, gives us the low down on the latest offerings from Cloudy Bay following a recent staff tasting.

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.

Cloudy Bay Vineyard Mountain backdropThe tasting was led by Siobán Harnett, Cloudy Bay’s viticulturist and was laid on in the rather plush UK headquarters of LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton – their agents).

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. Cloudy Bay vineyard summerThey 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!

Pelorus NVThe 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.

Vintage 2005The 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.

Sauvignon Blanc 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!

2007 Te KokoWe 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.

2007 ChardonnayThe 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.

Cloudy Bay Riesling (Web-Exclusive)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.

Pinot NoirThe 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!

  • Tim Abel

    This used to be our very special wine, a truly superb wine. Sadly the Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc has been very average the last two years, I hope the 2009 restores its taste and reputation as it is very expensive when it is just average.

  • Jill Waters

    An interesting summary but rather spoiled by a confusing grasp of language which makes me doubt the information and descriptions given.

    Does he really mean ‘infamous’ – ie well known by reason of negative repute ?

    Surely he was trying to say famous but fell into that fatal trap of using more syllables than necessary simply in order to sound more knowledgeable or convincing ?

    It is a common fault but completely undermines everything else that is written by the same person giving the impression of someone who is more interested in bullshit than accuracy. Doesn’t anybody proofread or copy check for such embarrassing errors any more ??

    • http://www.majestic.co.uk Richard Weaver

      Dear Jill

      I suspect that Simon did, in fact, mean “infamous”, but that in doing so he was referring to the historical issue of stock availability (which he alludes to later in the same paragraph) rather than the quality of the wine. It’s not so long ago that our stores would receive at most a case or two of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon each and have to find imaginative ways of dividing the stock among the long waiting list of customers!

      I am sorry you feel so strongly about this.

  • Paul Kidd

    Simon,
    Thanks for a clear and interesting summary.
    More such articles would be welcomed.
    rgds
    paul

  • Patricia Anderson

    I thought Simon`s account of Cloudy Bay wines was well written. I was particularly interested to know how Pelorus got it`s name, whilst watching the ferries leaving Wellington Harbour for the South Island I didn`t notice Pelorus Jack alongside!
    I enjoy New Zealand white wines and since I tasted some excellent wines at some of the Hawkes Bay wineries, I continue to look for wines produced there.
    I still have a bottle of Pelorous bought six months ago waiting for a special occasion.

  • Giles

    An interesting article, although I have to agree with Tim that the “infamous” sauvignon blanc has been rather average of late (although it is still at the upper end of Kiwi savs). There are many equally good NZ sauvignons around at at £10 to £13 mark rather than the £17 to £20 of Cloudy Bay. However, Cloudy Bay’s best wine, which I always seek out when I visit NZ, is the pinot gris – one of the very finest from the Southern hemisphere and miles ahead of anything called pinot grigio; I hope some of it will find its way to the UK if/when production volume increases.

    • http://www.majestic.co.uk Emma Pook

      Giles, you may be interested to see we have just started stocking the Mount Difficulty Pinot Gris – I tried it for the first time at the weekend and was rather impressed with it’s complexity – pretty good price too!