Now part of New Zealand wine folklore, Cloudy Bay Vineyards was set up at the beginning of the Marlborough gold-rush (grape-rush?) in 1984 by David Hohnen. Hohnen was no stranger to innovation as he had set up the pioneering Cape Mentelle in Margaret River in 1970. As he was based in Western Australia, he recruited fellow Australian Kevin Judd to actually make the wines.
Cloudy Bay was one of the main producers which put Marlborough Sauvignon on the world map of wine, and such was demand that it often outstripped supply – it was frequently only available from merchants on allocation. Over the years as other vineyards were established, Cloudy Bay was able to increase its supply of grapes but also had more competitors in the market. Perhaps due to the expertise of luxury goods company LVMH who acquired it in 2003, Cloudy Bay has still managed to command a price premium over all its direct competitors.
Although hardly cheap at €35 and upwards in Ireland, the “straight” Sauvignon Blanc is one of the least expensive wines of the Cloudy Bay range. The other include non-vintage and vintage sparkling Pelorus (which we had served for the toast at our wedding), Pinot Noirs from Marlborough and Central Otago, the excellent Chardonnay and a barrel-fermented wild yeast Sauvignon called Te Koko.
Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2019 (13.1%, €35 – €42, stockists below)
The 2019 vintage was released in Ireland at the beginning of November, so this is a very young wine, but awkward and angular it is not. It has an unmistakably Marlborough Sauvignon nose with intense citrus and tropical fruits. They are joined on the palate by juicy grapefruit and gooseberry. There is plenty of acidity, but it presents as mouthwatering freshness and zip rather than being strong enough to make you wince. There’s a certain roundness and texture which is absent from many other Savvies. Hating on Sauvignon is quite common nowadays, but I think this wine is good enough to win plenty of converts.
Thirty years on, Cloudy Bay is still at the top of the pile – though its price reflects the renown of its brand as much as the quality of the wine.
Stockists: Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; The Corkscrew, Chatham St; Gibney’s, Malahide; Londis, Malahide; Sweeneys D3, Fairview; Martin’s, Fairview; Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 2; Deveney’s, Dundrum; Higgins, Clonskeagh; Redmond’s Ranelagh; Mitchell’s, Glasthule & CHQ; Blackrock Cellars; Donnybrook Fair; On the Grapevine, Dalkey; La Touche, Greystones; Bradley’s, North Main St, Cork; 1601 Kinsale; Wine Centre, Kilkenny; McCambridge’s, Galway; World Wide Wines, Waterford.
Disclosure: sample provided for review, opinions remain my own.