Cloudy with a

We pay a visit to cloudy bay Vine­yards, ar­guably New Zealand’s best-known wine pro­ducer, for a spe­cial celebration of Pinot Noir.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - TASTE - star2@thes­ Story and pho­tos by MICHAEL CHEANG

IT was a sunny day at Cloudy Bay. The rays of sun­shine cast its warm rays across the rolling hills of the Wairau Val­ley, il­lu­mi­nat­ing the rows and rows of gnarly, leaf­less grapevines that dom­i­nated the land­scape.

Th­ese gnarly plants may not seem like much now, but they would later burst into lush bushes and vines of green and gold, with glis­ten­ing round grapes hang­ing from their boughs, ready to be har­vested and turned into the liq­uid nec­tar that is Cloudy Bay wine.

How­ever, it was only Septem­ber dur­ing the time of my visit – win­ter was just about over, and spring­time was loom­ing on the hori­zon. It was a time to prune the vines, to give th­ese wise old vines their an­nual hair­cut, so to speak, and pre­pare them for the ap­proach­ing sum­mer.

As part of the me­dia visit to Cloudy Bay in con­junc­tion with their Pinot At Cloudy Bay event (more on that later), we were given an in-depth look at the win­ery’s viti­cul­ture prac­tices. Be­sides a visit to the vine­yards, as well as a wine-blend­ing ses­sion, we were given a chance to prune some grapevines as well, which ex­plains why I was stand­ing in the mid­dle of a vine­yard, hold­ing a pair of prun­ing shears in my hand, look­ing slightly con­fused, and hop­ing to high heav­ens that I don’t un­in­ten­tion­ally ruin an en­tire har­vest of grapes for Cloudy Bay.

For­tu­nately, prun­ing grapevines is quite sim­ple, ac­tu­ally, and Cloudy Bay wine­maker and viti­cul­tur­ist Jim White as­sured us that a bunch of jour­nal­ists ac­ci­den­tally cut­ting a few wrong branches hardly con­sti­tuted a plague of lo­custs.

“Don’t be scared about dam­ag­ing the grapevines be­cause we’re go­ing to cut them all off next year any­way, and you can’t re­ally do too much dam­age here,” he said. “Just don’t cut the trunks!”

Af­ter sum­mer, grapevines tend to lose all their leaves and what they are left with is one strong, stout trunk, a few older and stronger branches, and a whole mess of smaller, up­ward-grow­ing lit­tle branches that used to be those lush bushes of leaves and fruit. The job of the pruner, there­fore, is to cut off th­ese ex­cess branches, de­ter­mine which ones are strong enough to keep, and then tie them to the wire frames hor­i­zon­tally.

there are few things bet­ter than en­joy­ing a glass of cloudy bay Sau­vi­gnon blanc at the wine­mak­ers’ vine­yards.

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