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Liquipaedia

How Cloudy Bay put New Zealand wine on the map

Cloudy Bay is an icon of New Zealand wine. As this legendary estate releases its unmissable 35th vintage Sauvignon Blanc, find out how it helped pioneer the country’s world-class reputation.

Ask the nearest wine lover which to name sauvignon blanc’s heartland, and chances are, they’ll say New Zealand. Consider for a moment that France’s renowned Sancerre wine has been made with this grape for generations, and you’ll see how quickly the newcomer has made its mark.

With the iconic Cloudy Bay estate and its flagship sauvignon blanc at the forefront, New Zealand’s clean, fruit-forward wines first caught the world’s attention back in the 1980s. Since then, the country’s sauvignon has been joined by a new style of pinot noir and chardonnay too. And winemakers have begun experimenting with pinot gris, Gewürztraminer and other grapes more famous elsewhere… for now.

Cloudy Bay’s reputation has soared during this time – and 2019 marks a particularly special year for the estate. Not only has the winery released its milestone 35th vintage Sauvignon Blanc, but what a vintage it is. The result of a remarkable harvest in the estate’s Marlborough region, this fresh and intense white wine wonderfully expresses its spirit.

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How it all began

Despite the relative youth of Cloudy Bay, and New Zealand wine as we know it, it’s actually 200 years since the first vines were planted in the country’s Bay of Islands, in 1819. Soon after, Scotsman James Busby, who had been making wine in Australia, brought his expertise across the Tasmanian Sea. But although an industry developed steadily afterwards, it waned when the phylloxera louse devasted vines and the temperance movement gained pace.

It wasn’t until the 1970s that a new age of New Zealand wine began. Around this time, winemakers discovered the potential of Marlborough’s striking terroir. And in 1985, Cloudy Bay was brought to life. Founder Dave Hohnen had already established Australia’s successful Cape Mentelle estate. Inspired by the New Zealand sauvignon blancs he tasted, Hohnen pioneered Cloudy Bay – one of Marlborough’s first wineries – creating a different style of sauvignon. The rest of the country soon followed, as Central Otago and other key wine regions developed their own varietal expressions. These wines now rival the greats.

Today Cloudy Bay remains a leading light in New World wine, with the untamed natural surroundings that inspire its wines, a destination in themselves . From vineyards in Marlborough and Central Otago, it creates a chardonnay, a pinot noir, a delicate sparkling wine, and more. And, as showcased in the 2019 vintage, sauvignon blanc remains the flagship grape.

What to drink now

Intense and expressive, Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2019 emerged from near-perfect harvest. A cool spring led to incomplete flowering, with a naturally lower yield. Across Cloudy Bay’s vineyards, the grapes ripened evenly. Picked at their peak of maturity, they delivered an outstanding concentration and complexity which promised exceptional wines.

Technical Director Jim White explains: “This vintage is likely to be remembered as one of the great Marlborough vintages. And we have created a sauvignon blanc that perfectly balances ripeness and freshness. The quality is a testament to our great vineyards, our hardworking teams and a season where everything just came together.”

With aromas of citrus, passion fruit and peach and a vibrant, zesty palate, Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2019 embodies all that is good about New Zealand’s flourishing vineyards. And with vintages like this setting the standard, the possibilities are deliciously endless...