ALISTAIR GIBSON: Clouds part to reveal the latest vintage of this game-changer

Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2017

Every year just around this time comes the launch of the new vintage of a wine that has in many ways shaped our supermarket wine shelves.

The first vintage of Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc was released in the UK in 1986 (there had been a small release of the 1985 in New Zealand) and it would be fair to say it was received with rapturous applause by the UK media – and the rest, as they say, is history.

... with its gooseberry, passion fruit and green pepper bouquet almost assaulting the senses

Somewhat ironically, it is always close to the date of the annual release of the now very passé Beaujolais Nouveau.

For many years the most constantly asked question of a wine retailer would be: ‘Have you any Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc?’

And even for those who in the early vintages received a small allocation, the answer was invariably ‘no’.

In the early days, I received an allocation of just two cases a year. And as you can imagine that didn’t go very far.

The wine was, without doubt, a head-turner, a style that no one had ever tasted with its gooseberry, passion fruit and green pepper bouquet almost assaulting the senses. It placed the New Zealand region of Marlborough firmly on the map and even more firmly on wine lists up and down the land.

It led to an explosion of plantings in the Marlborough region with the well-known wine writer Oz Clarke announcing some years later that it was ‘Marlborough that now made the world’s quintessential sauvignon blanc’.

More than 30 years on there are now of course many estates and producers in the region and Marlborough sauvignon blanc has almost become the white wine of choice for a whole generation of wine drinkers. A quote that always make me smile is that ‘it has become the pinot grigio of the middle classes’.

Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc has, if nothing else, always been a part of a brilliant marketing campaign.

From its iconic label and the annual release by allocation, it became a ‘must-have wine’.

However, since 2003 when the estate was acquired by multinational luxury goods brand LVMH through its Champagne house Veuve Clicquot, production has increased significantly and now, according to reports, production is in excess of 100,00 cases a year.

If I’m honest I think there were some vintages that didn’t quite hit previous high water marks.

So what of the newly-released vintage?

Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Marlborough (winedirect.co.uk £21.50, Hermitage Cellars £19.95) is described by Tim Heath, senior winemaker, as: ‘An excellent vintage that reveals an elegant and concentrated palate with ripe, juicy stone fruit and lemon grass, supported by a lovely minerality.

‘Its crisp acidity leads to a mouth-watering and persistent finish suggesting a sauvignon blanc that will age well.’

Personally, I think it’s a very fine vintage with layers of flavour and great balance.

Drink it now with a goat’s cheese and beetroot salad.

Is it worth the price now? Well,only you can answer that.

n Alistair Gibson is proprietor of Hermitage Cellars, Emsworth.

Call (01243) 431002 or e-mail alistair@hermitagecellars.co.uk.

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