Plunging into Cloudy Bay

Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir: the strong points of one of the best wineries in New Zealand

15-09-2016
Wine region Wairau Valley, in Marlborough, in the

Wine region Wairau Valley, in Marlborough, in the most northern tip of South Island in New Zealand. These are Cloudy Bay’s headquarters, 75% production of Sauvignon Blanc, 10% Pinot Noir. The winery was founded thanks to an intuition of David Hohnen. First vintage: 1985

When looking at this territory, you’d expect an elf or a hobbit to suddenly jump out. These are suggestions created by the Lord of the Rings movie saga: a dreamlike scenery we can only imagine.

Yet while remaining in Italy we can still plunge into this untouched nature by tasting the wines of New Zealand. The poetry of a magical place is transformed into beautiful viticulture, which perhaps can be little known in Italy but it is nonetheless gradually conquering small portions of this market too. Small niches in which the wines of New Zealand can easily stand the comparison with more “prominent” bottles from Italy and abroad.

Cloudy Bay is an emblematic case. The winery is located in the Wairau Valley, in Marlborough, in the most northern tip of South Island. In order to understand the relevance of the area, just think that 73% of the wine produced in New Zealand comes from Marlborough. Here, three quarters of the vineyards are of Sauvignon Blanc, while about 10% is Pinot Noir.

The series of Cloudy Bay wines tasted at Sushi B in Via Fiori Chiari in Milan

The series of Cloudy Bay wines tasted at Sushi B in Via Fiori Chiari in Milan

Cloudy Bay has already conquered a place of “honour” in many high quality Italian restaurants. In a blind taste, these wines could be compared, both with reference to Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, to the most elegant products made with these two grape varieties in Italy. This also thanks to the territory where they are born: the Wairau Valley has hot days and cold nights, while the different types of soil – from rocks to clay – give character, strength and variety.

The winery was born in 1984, when founder David Hohnen fell in love with New Zealand and thought it could have a great potential, especially for Sauvignon. Later he opened Cloudy Bay with his partner Kevin Judd, and the first wine was produced in 1985. Since then they’ve gone places and Hohnen’s intuition was right: they could indeed make great wines. A proof of this, taking some more recent examples, is given by Sauvignon Blanc 2015, which in a way can almost seem “handbook material”, in that it fully expresses the aromatic character of this extraordinary variety. The news, for the Italian market, is instead Te Koko 2012, also 100% Sauvignon Blanc, with grapes from 6 different vineyards: in this case there’s the use of wood, even during the fermentation, which enhances its aromatic bouquet and increases the structure. It’s an important wine, but very elegant.

The well deserving food and wine pairings created by chef Niimori Nobuya

The well deserving food and wine pairings created by chef Niimori Nobuya

Moving to Pinot Noir: the neatness and freshness impress with a very balanced finish – we’re referring to the 2014 vintage. Te Wahi is also a new selection in the Italian market. This wine needs more time: it is also 100% Pinot Noir, 5 days in contact with the skins and then in barrique barrels (10% of which new) for 18 months. Remarkable body and excellent potential, even though it is already excellent when paired.

The wines were presented during a beautiful event at Sushi B in Via Fiori Chiari, in Milan, with always successful pairings.


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