Friday, 23 September 2011

Wine Review: Cloudy Bay “Pelorus” Vintage (2006)

Cloudy Bay “Pelorus” Vintage (2006) Review:
Price: £18 per bottle
Availability: Limited production, independent merchants

What can be said about Cloudy Bay that hasn’t been said already? In reality, the answer is probably not very much, for Cloudy Bay is one of the most famous wineries in New Zealand, if not around the world.

Shooting to fame with it’s first vintage of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc in 1985, Cloudy Bay was named after the bay at the Eastern end of the Wairau Valley (within which Cloudy Bay sits) which was so named by Captain Cook on his voyage to New Zealand in 1770. Cloudy Bay today owns approximately 140 hectares estate vineyards, with long term supply agreements also formed with five other Wairau Valley growers.

26 kilometres long, 170 square kilometres in area and formed of the flood plain surrounding the Wairau River, the Wairau Valley is widely considered to be one of the best locations in the world to grow high quality Sauvignon Blanc. Bordered to the north by the Richmond Ranges (whose main peak Mount Riley features on the label of most Cloudy Bay wines - not this Cloudy Bay "Pelorus") and to the south by 4 rugged valleys (Brancott, Omaka, Waihopai and Ben Morven valleys), the Wairau Valley experiences a cool, maritime influenced climate with a range of soil conditions ranging from beds of gravel and pebbles to richer and more fertile clay the further from the river you get. The relatively poor soils encourage vines to send roots deep to gain the necessary water and nutrients to survive, something that imbues Wairau Valley wines with a natural sense of intensity and complexity rarely seen elsewhere.

Having built it’s reputation upon Sauvignon Blanc (and some might say having established New Zealand’s reputation for top notch Sauvignon Blanc), Cloudy Bay now grows Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, and Pinot Gris. A large proportion of Cloudy Bay production is still wines, but some of that Cloudy Bay Chardonnay and Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir makes its way into Cloudy Bay’s range of sparkling wines named “Pelorus”. Consisting of a range of three wines, Cloudy Bay’s “Pelorus” range features two non-vintage Cloudy Bay offerings (a white and a rose sparkling wine) along with this, the jewel in the crown, the Cloudy Bay “Pelorus” Vintage.

Differing from the non-vintage Cloudy Bay “Pelorus” offerings in that it is made only with grapes from the 2006 vintage (rather than from a blend of Cloudy Bay reserve wines from across several vintages), this 2006 Cloudy Bay “Pelorus” is made from 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay using the Champagne method. This method is the same technique that is used in the Champagne region of France and differs from the technique used to make other sparkling wines (such as Prosecco) in that the secondary fermentation (the part of the wine making process that generates the bubbles in this 2006 Cloudy Bay "Pelorus") is carried out in the bottle of this 2006 Cloudy Bay "Pelorus", rather than in large tanks. This technique, along with leaving the grape juice in contact with the lees (waste grape skins) of this 2006 Cloudy Bay "Pelorus" for 9 months during the initial fermentation process, ought to imbue this 2006 Cloudy Bay "Pelorus" with a complexity and richness rarely seen outside of France and Champagne itself.

The grapes for this 2006 Cloudy Bay “Pelorus” were picked between the 27th February and the 9th March 2007 – the earliest time at which grapes had ever been harvested for “Pelorus” at Cloudy Bay. This was a product of an early spring and warm summer in the Wairau Valley which saw the grapes for this 2006 Cloudy Bay “Pelorus” ripen quickly and fully.

In the glass, this 2006 Cloudy Bay "Pelorus" is a light golden colour. Seemingly throwing a custard coloured aura, some of this richness can be put down to the Chardonnay component of this 2006 Cloudy Bay "Pelorus". Relatively light in alcohol at 12.5% abv, this 2006 Cloudy Bay "Pelorus" is comparable with most Champagne in this respect, despite it being grown at the opposite end of the earth. It is hard to pick out the legs on the sides of the glass with this 2006 Cloudy Bay "Pelorus", despite the richer colour of this wine. The mousse (array of bubbles!) in this 2006 Cloudy Bay "Pelorus" is considerable and long long-lasting.

On the nose, this 2006 Cloudy Bay "Pelorus" is complex and endearing. A hint of sweet brioche, along with almonds, adds complexity to the bouquet of this 2006 Cloudy Bay "Pelorus" that is zesty and citrus-led. A certain honeyed roundness balances this zest to produce an overall set of aromas which are full, without being overly fat or overly challenging.

In the mouth, the story of this 2006 Cloudy Bay "Pelorus" is much the same - rounded white peaches and a little sweet apples forms the body of the flavour of this 2006 Cloudy Bay "Pelorus", with a sense of acidity and balance offered by the inclusion of some lemony zing and acidity. The length of flavour is excellent with a softening influence in the form of shortcake biscuits rounding of the flavours of this 2006 Cloudy Bay "Pelorus". A smooth and creamy texture is dissipated with just the right amount of acidity, producing a wine in this 2006 Cloudy Bay "Pelorus" which is truly balanced and harmonious.

In all, with this 2006 Cloudy Bay "Pelorus", Cloudy Bay have shown the world that they don’t just do Sauvignon Blanc, but that they can produce truly excellent sparkling wine too. Thoroughly enjoyable as an aperitif, with seafood, chicken, or alone, the limited quantities of this vintage expression of Cloudy Bay's "Pelorus" are in high demand each year and this 2006 Cloudy Bay "Pelorus" shows exactly why.

Cloudy Bay “Pelorus” Vintage (2006)

Score: 91/100 – Complex, balanced and eminently enjoyable.

Value for Money: 7/10 – Expensive in relation to sparkling wine, inexpensive when compared with Champagne

Other sparkling wine reviewed :

Laurent Perrier Brut NV Champagne (NV)
Laurent Perrier has 200 years experience of producing top quality sparkling wine and this Brut Non-Vintage offering really shows why Champagne remains in such demand today! Crisp, fresh and appealing - this Laurent Perrier is the perfect aperitif!
Hush Heath Estate “Balfour” Brut Rosé (2007)
This Hush Heath Estate “Balfour” Brut Rosé is the English equivalent of this Cloudy Bay “Pelorus”. Made using the grapes of Champagne, in the Champagne style, this excellent English sparkling wine nonetheless manages to conjure its own sense of identity and panache.

Brancott Estate “Brut Cuvée” (NV)
Another Kiwi winery that is looking to end its reliance on Sauvignon Blanc is the Brancott Estate. Like this 2006 Cloudy Bay "Pelorus" this “Brut Cuvée” is a blend of"Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, although this non-vintage wine is signifcantly less expensive than the Cloudy Bay.