Cloudy Bay Vineyards, located in the Marlborough region of New Zealand, has over the last three decades developed a recognisable estate wine style that not only provides a window to the history of the region it originates from but also establishes the brand as a strong contender among the New World wines globally By Rituparna Chatterjee
Situated in the Wairau Valley in Marlborough at the northern end of New Zealand’s South Island, Cloudy Bay Vineyards has been boasting of producing some of the finest wines in the New World with a strong emphasis on individual fruit character and the development of a recognisable estate wine style. Established in 1985, the winery derives its name from the bay at the eastern extremity of the Wairau Valley, which was named Cloudy Bay by Captain Cook on his voyage to New Zealand in 1770. Cloudy Bay has estate vineyards located within the Wairau Valley and long-term supply agreements with five Wairau Valley growers. The main varieties grown there include Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir along with lesser quantities of Gewurztraminer, Riesling, and Pinot Gris. “We primarily work with Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Sauvignon Blanc was made in 1985, which we are best known for, followed by Chardonnay in 1986 and Pinot Noir in 1989. We also make sparkling wine from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay,” shares Tim Heath, senior winemaker of Cloudy Bay Vineyards, who is responsible for crafting Cloudy Bay’s two very distinct Sauvignon Blanc styles, sparkling wine Pelorus, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris.
The Wairau Valley has a cool maritime climate. Although the valley enjoys more sunlight than any other region of New Zealand, daily maximum temperatures rarely exceed 30°C. “Because of this favourable climate, the flavours of our grapes tend to be fresh. However, the challenge is to bring complexity to the wine,” avers Heath highlighting the unique processes that goes into making their wines. For instance, to create two distinct styles of Sauvignon Blanc, it is fermented in stainless steel tanks to give the wine a fresh flavour, and also in oak barrels to make the wine less fruity, more savoury and textured. The wines are kept for 18 months in the barrel. As for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, they are aged for about a year. “As a winemaker the most important thing to do is not to have a set of rules; he needs to taste the wine and if he listens it will tell him what has to be done,” propagates Heath. Since its inception, Cloudy Bay Vineyards has witnessed substantial growth.
Presently, it exports to over 30 markets, the major ones being the US, UK, Australia, etc. Cloudy Bay Vineyards is also a founding member of the New Zealand Integrated Winegrape Production scheme, setup to develop a programme for sustainable vineyard management, which is now monitored by Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand.
In 2005, Cloudy Bay Vineyards entered the India market where its growth has been slow yet steady. The company’s prime focus has been to create awareness by holding interactions with the media, restaurants and end-consumers. “Building awareness takes time, but at the end of the day the wine needs to be good to be able to leave its mark. We need to concentrate on the quality of wine and ensure that we make the best,” explains Heath, adding that, Sauvignon Blanc has been the most popular wine in India.
In addition, a notion in India about Old World wines being the best has been hindering this growth further. “In India, people seem to drink widely but there is still a misconception that the best wines come from the Old World, which is at the heart of the new wine drinking culture. But when you appreciate wines, you are able to celebrate their diversity and differences,” explains the senior winemaker.