Cloudy Bay v All Blacks

Cloudy Bay.
Cloudy Bay.
The Mary Rose Museum with HMS Victory in the foreground

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The Maori name for New Zealand is Aotearoa which literally translated means land of the long white cloud.

It is therefore fitting that, apart from the All Blacks, New Zealand’s most famous export is from the Cloudy Bay Estate.

Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Reserve

Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Reserve

Cloudy Bay this year celebrates its 30th vintage for its famed sauvignon blanc and it’s hard to think of a wine from anywhere that has become quite so iconic in such a short time.

The first vintage to reach these shores was in 1986 and I can still remember where I was when I first tasted it. I don’t think any wine has had such an impact on me before or after.

There were a few other sauvignon blancs from Marlborough available at the time, but with its vibrant fruit-driven wine and its evocative name and label, it was Cloudy Bay that captured the imagination.

It would not be too much of an exaggeration to say that Cloudy Bay is in many ways responsible for the amazing growth in popularity of New Zealand sauvignon blanc.

Tesco Finest North Row Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc.

Tesco Finest North Row Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc.

Today Marlborough is New Zealand’s largest wine region, home to approximately two-thirds of the country’s vineyards.

The 2015 vintage sauvignon blancs from Marlborough have just started to arrive and while a very good vintage, there are still some from 2014 siting on the shelves. This was an exceptional vintage, so don’t ignore these either.

So what of Cloudy Bay 30 years on? Well, there are of course many more producers to choose from now and many have caught up with and some even overtaken Cloudy Bay in terms of quality, but it’s still an impressive, albeit slightly expensive, wine.

Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Marlborough (Majestic £25 or part of mixed six £20 – also Sainsbury’s and Ocado) is from a greatly reduced harvest.

What I really like about this wine is its elegance. Over the years it seems to have become more toned down and that’s a good thing to my mind. There’s lime, grapefruit and a little passion fruit, followed by bright zesty acidity and a long, juicy finish.

To compare and contrast try Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Reserve Wairau Valley 2015, Marlborough (Majestic £14.49 or as part of mixed six – £10.86).

It is a little more pungent and perhaps typical of the region with lots of ripe passion fruit and gooseberries on the nose with a very concentrated palate with zesty acidity and citrus fruit. This is very good value at the mixed six price and would go very well with some Asian-inspired seafood.

Two wines I really like from the 2014 vintage which are still available are Tesco Finest North Row Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Marlborough (Tesco £13). Interestingly it’s made for Tesco by Villa Maria. Still very fresh and bright with gooseberry and lime fruit, it’s beautifully focused with ripe acidity and a real elegance.

Brancott Estate Terroir Series Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Marlborough (Tesco.com £13, Ocado £12.99) has green notes including pepper, as well as citrus and something which I often find in Marlborough sauvignon blanc, a bouquet reminiscent of tomato plant leaves.