Wines are a reflection of the countries that they are produced in. A truer sentence couldn’t be applied to Cloudy Bay Vineyards from New Zealand. Established in 1985 in Marlborough, they have made a concentrated effort to produce wines that are of the region: wines that embrace the pure flavors naturally provided by the climate and soils of Marlborough. This has resulted in truly fantastic wines, especially Sauvignon Blanc. In fact, it is this varietal from Cloudy Bay that put New Zealand on the map; when people talk about the stereotypical New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, this really refers to the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.
So how did Cloudy Bay get New Zealand on the map? What did they do differently? These are the questions we answer in this article, as well as highlighting some of our favorite wines from Cloudy Bay including the Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir.
New Zealand has always been a pioneering country. The same principles apply to the country’s wine production. In the early days of New Zealand’s vineyards there was plenty of experimentation in terms of what grapes worked with the available soil and climate. However, when Sauvignon Blanc grapes were planted in the 1970’s it was clear that there was a unique relationship between the grape, the soils, and the climate.
Then in 1985, Cloudy Bay Vineyards started growing and producing wines in Wairau Valley located in the northern end of New Zealand’s South Island. Not only was Cloudy Bay one of the first wineries to open in Marlborough, they were also the first to experiment with Sauvignon Blanc winemaking. By using different techniques such as wild fermentation (using naturally occurring bacteria and yeast to ferment the wine), malolactic fermentation (where bacteria converts malic acid into lactic acid and carbon dioxide which can reduce acidity, mellowing out tart fruity flavors, and increasing stability), and barrel aging.
This is what has led to the creation of a benchmark Sauvignon Blanc, not only for Marlborough, but for New Zealand as a whole. But it’s not only the process of how the wine is produced that makes it great. A large part of the success of Cloudy Bay wines lies in taking advantage of the terroir — that is, the climate and soils in which the grapes were grown.
So what is the terroir? Marlborough is nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Richmond Range Mountains. Just like Argentina’s vineyards benefit from the Andes Mountains, this location means that Cloudy Bay’s vineyards benefit from the Richmond Range Mountains as they help provide wide temperature fluctuations. This helps produce grapes with a beautiful balance between berry ripeness and acidity. On top of this, the vineyards also benefit from well-draining stony soils.
In short, Marlborough is a unique and cool wine region with a maritime cli thus providing the perfect conditions for cool climate wines production.
The Sauvignon Blanc is what Cloudy Bay is most well known for. As we said, it’s the wine that put New Zealand on the map. Worldwide this Sauvignon Blanc is loved for its strong aromatic character with notes of tropical fruits, freshly cut grass, green bell pepper, and a stony minerality. The 2019 vintage in particular is also loved for its accompanying flavors of crisp grapefruit, lemon, guava, and ripe stone fruit.
But what makes the Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc so special from others? Other than its flavor profile, this Sauvignon Blanc is softer, more rich, and less aggressively acidic than other New Zealand options. This is thanks to a combination of terroir and a rigorous selection process. So if you’re looking to try one of the best Sauvignon Blancs in the world, this is one to add to your list. For an excellent food pairing, Oysters are also a great option but we also think that Salmon Sashimi pairs beautifully with this New World white wine.
If we were to sum up the Cloudy Bay Chardonnay in three words, we’d have to say it’s delicious, creamy, and fragrant. This white wine has lovely aromas of apricot, pink grapefruit, and hints of baking bread, honeycomb, and cashews to pleasantly round it out. On the palate you’ll also get notes of cashews with preserved lemon and nectarine which is then followed by subtle grapefruit and white floral notes at the end. If you’re drinking this wine and want to enjoy it with food, we recommend light fish dishes such as Sole with a light butter and lemon sauce.
Cloudy Bay Vineyards also produce a light to medium bodied Pinot Noir. This red wine has dark aromas of black cherry and bramble fruit (think raspberries and blackberries) with flavors of light rose, violet, ripe berry fruit and hints of luscious plums. You’ll also notice complex spicy oak and herbal notes and a seamless structure when sipping on this wine that is framed with silky tannins. Enjoy this red wine with Lamb Chops with a Currant Jelly.