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Cloudy Bay Releases 2014

© 2014 Tom Cannavan

Cloudy Bay's Sauvignon Blanc is an icon of New Zealand, and is arguably the single most important wine in the country's history. Having spawned a generation of lookalike wines, both at home and abroad, it remains a great ambassador for the Sauvignons of Marlborough, but Cloudy Bay has always produced a number of other wines that for me were every bit as good, including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and some luscious sweet wines. Here I taste three of Cloudy Bay's 'other' wines, including the barrel-fermented Sauvignon Blanc, Te Koko.

the wines

bottles Cloudy Bay, Te Koko Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011, New Zealand
Cloudy Bay's famously oaky Sauvignon Blanc really isn't so oaky any more. Admittedly it is a few vintages since I tasted this wine, which I have always enjoyed, though the toasty French oak influence always seemed more obvious than on this 2011 release. In fact the grapes - harvested from older vines on six selected blocks in the Wairau Valley - were 100% fermented in French oak, but only 10% of that was new. Fermentation with ambient yeasts continued for eight months, and only part of the blend went through malolactic fermentation. The nose has a rich lemon meringue pie character, an edge of green herbs, leafy and soft, and a certain stony minerality. There's no trace of toast or coffee aromatically. In the mouth it is pristine stuff, quite dazzling in its line of citrus freshness, just teasing with glimpses of mango and lychee, the exoticism growing but always tempered by the line of acidity and the wild yeast earthy nuance and texture. Lovely stuff, which is intense and long, and feels as if it could even benefit from a few more years in the cellar. 92/100. Around £27.00, see all stockists on wine-searcher.com

Cloudy Bay, Marlborough Chardonnay 2012, New Zealand
Seemingly forever in the shadow if the iconic Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, there are many aficionados who would claim that the Chardonnay, produced consistently since 1986, is actually Cloudy's best white wine. The recipe here is for whole bunch pressing and natural ferment in barrel with indigenous yeasts, followed by a further year in barrel, only 20% of which is new. The portion of wine made with the Mendoza Chardonnay clone - famously prone to milerandange or 'hen and chicken' unequal berry size, helps with the low yield and concentration. It's a simple delicious and tremendously elegant Chardonnay, from its emerald green tinged colour, to its pristine nose where ozone and salts join delicate almond and biscuit, and tight, juicy apple and citrus fruit. On the palate it shimmers with acidity and brightness, with no hint of being over-ripe or over-oaked, but instead a citrus peel edge of tartness and the fine minerality playing against subtle, creamy oak nuances. Long, balanced and distinguished this is model modern Kiwi Chardonnay. 93-94/100. Around £20, see all stockists on wine-searcher.com

Cloudy Bay, Marlborough Pinot Noir 2012, New Zealand
The signature of Marlborough Pinot is a come hither, fruity elegance, but here Cloudy Bay have made a 2012 that has all that pure, bright, perfumed cherry fruitiness, but wrapped in a cloak of steel for now. It's an immensely polished wine, wonderfully subtle and suave, but I'd decant for several hours or cellar for a few years. There is spice and taut, creamy black fruit, and in the mouth lovely purity, hinting at that creamy, polished precision, but gripped by some tannin at the moment and a fragrant, tobacco-scented wisp of oak. It is serious and delicious stuff and a great New Zealand Pinot. 93/100. Around £25, see all stockists on wine-searcher.com