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REVIEW: CLOUDY BAY 2017

10 Oct 2017 By

We are at the release party for the 2017 vintage of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, eager to catch up with the brand’s viticulturalist, Jim White, and pay homage to the wine that has put Marlborough, New Zealand on the world wine map…

We are at the release party for the 2017 vintage of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, eager to catch up with the brand’s viticulturalist, Jim White, and pay homage to the wine that has put Marlborough, New Zealand on the world wine map.

It’s that signature first tastes of summer we are seeking; with that classic supercharged zesty nose of passion fruit, green bean, nettle, gooseberry and ripe limes.

And Jim opens his sharing session with: “I wasn’t the friendliest person some time in April last year.” companied by a long, distant sniff of the wine.

“Ah, this vintage has drama. We love drama. Bring on the wine stories.”  

Low crop yields, unprecedented weather conditions, having to declassify batches of wine… you name it… We all know Mother Nature can be a b…. (beauty).

“We had a tricky vintage with the 2017.” but Every viticulturalist knows “you deal with unpredictable weather. You’ve got to second guess. You got to be proactive at times and reactive at times… and hey Mother Nature was a little grumpy this vintage…. we had to declassify some of our wine…. At the end it’s always nice to bring out a baby. This one was a difficult birth, but it is definitely one of ours.” says Cloudy Bay Viticulturist Jim White.

Every year, come October, Cloudy Bay releases the year’s production. This year is no exception. His Asia tour includes Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Seoul, and Hong Kong.

We catch Jim in Singapore, at the JW Marriot South Beach, on a summer (it’s always summer here) afternoon, a perfect time to be sipping on Sauvignon Blancs.

PARCHED: Tell us about your relationship with Cloudy Bay.

Jim: I grew up in Melbourne. Growing up, my mother’s favourite drink – reserved on for christmas and birthdays – is a glass of CBSB. When I finally had my first sip in University, I said “ohhh. I get it…!”

I have been with Cloudy Bay for 7 years now. I am in charge of the growing of the grapes that we make our wines with. I work with (at the mercy of) Mother Nature, and I work closely with winemakers to interpret their desires. I develop the vineyards into producing the grapes that will make the wine they want.

PARCHED: That involves planting! 

Jim: Oh yes, I’m not usually wearing these nice shoes.

*Jim shows us his shoes. A pair of pinot-nor coloured leather gibsons.*

(Editor’s side note: his pinot noir shoes are on point, as we know Cloudy Bay made a decision to plant the “heartbreak” pinot noir varietal and only released its first Pinot Noir wine in 1994, and today, while its Sauvignon Blanc props it up, it’s their Pinot Noir that reflects many years of hard earned experience and the provenance of Cloudy Bay.)

PARCHED: Your Pinot Noir shoes remind us… that for a brand that has made its name on Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, you’ve recently put much emphasis on going both outside the resion, and outside the variety you’re known for, case in point, releasing Pinot Noir. Has that direction paid off? If so, what does the future hold for Cloudy Bay?

Jim: Yes it has.

We are always pushing the boundaries on getting more out of our vineyards. As for the future, this part of the world holds a lot of promise. I was involved in a wine project in India… (story for another time) but here in this new, new world of wines, you find that at times you need to throw out all that you’ve learnt, and that seasons are backwards, and that nothing is simple, but certainly not impossible…  

PARCHED: Nice. Sounds like a “watch this space” kind of thing. Speaking of this side of the world, Welcome to Asia, again! What are some of your observations on the thriving wine culture in Asia? 

Jim: I’ve been coming here for about 10 years now. I see more and more people drinking wine. Across Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, and particularly China, it’s heartening to see more people are choosing wine as the beverage of choice on the dinner table. And to see that they’ve chosen our wine… that’s the cherry on top.

PARCHED: Best thing about visiting Singapore is…

Jim: The food!

It’s the absolute best thing coming to this part of the world. I go around tasting different dishes and flavours, and I’m constantly thinking, what would go best with a Nasi lemak, a Thai Curry, and when I taste dishes with complementing flavours to our wines, like lemongrass, kaffir limes, chili, ah…

*Jim makes a mind and tastebud blown expression*

Cloudy Bay Sauv Blancs have enjoyed cult status since its first commercial vintage in 1985, with a sharp ascent to global popularity. After all, who can refuse a crisp, fruit-driven white on a summer afternoon, which opens up a world of hyper-vivid, fruit-defined wines to its drinker.

“It’s not a shy style of wine and whatever opinion you have of Sauvignon Blanc, no one ever accused it of being backward about coming forward.” – Katie Kelly Bell, Forbes.

TASTING NOTES:

Widely regarded as the benchmark example of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, the newly released 2017 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc doesn’t disappoint.

It’s that signature first tastes of summer; with that classic supercharged zesty nose of passion fruit, asparagus, nettle, and gooseberry we are seeking, and that’s what we got, along with kaffir lime… Bursting with lime and grapefruit aromas, this vintage delivers a generous palate of ripe citrus, stone fruit and lemongrass flavours balanced by crunchy acidity.

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