WINE

Cloudy Bay

Prestige Hong Kong - - CONTENTS -

Ask Jim White, 45, what most ex­cites him now and his an­swer is pi­quantly per­sonal. “I’m just about to get my New Zealand cit­i­zen­ship,” he says with a laugh. In his third wine­mak­ing job, and the best one yet – he’s the tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor of Cloudy Bay, the spir­i­tual home of New Zealand Sau­vi­gnon Blanc – the for­mer Mel­bourne res­i­dent has two young kids, aged seven and nine, and ex­plains that the is­land coun­try “is a great place to bring up chil­dren. From a ca­reer per­spec­tive, I’d be happy to do this for many years to come.” The wines, of course, are sen­sual and unique. “Cloudy Bay has been my mother’s favourite wine since 1987,” he con­fides. “There were bot­tles of it in the fridge, and they weren’t to be opened ex­cept on my mum’s birth­day and Christ­mas. This was be­fore I worked in wine, in the late 1980s in Mel­bourne. My dad had a friend in the wine trade and you could only buy six bot­tles of Cloudy Bay ev­ery year. It was very pre­cious, avail­able in very lim­ited quan­ti­ties and on strict al­lo­ca­tion.” The most im­por­tant thing about his job, he says, is “to make wines that say some­thing about where we’re from”. White works in Wairau Val­ley, and was pre­vi­ously at Do­maine Chan­don in Vic­to­ria’s Yarra Val­ley and then Cape Men­telle in Western Aus­tralia, which was where I first met him. He now heads the Cloudy Bay wine­mak­ing team, as sec­ond-in-com­mand to es­tate di­rec­tor Yang Shen, who comes from Sichuan, China. “We’re the New World, with very unique cli­mate and soils. We want to make wines that ex­press our grape va­ri­eties, par­tic­u­larly the vi­brancy, fresh­ness and aro­mas of New Zealand Sau­vi­gnon Blanc. It’s a level of so­phis­ti­ca­tion;

with wines that are el­e­gant, it’s not just about aroma, but also about palate and tex­ture.” Cloudy Bay – named af­ter the body of wa­ter dis­cov­ered by Cap­tain James Cook in 1770 – was es­tab­lished by Cape Men­telle founder David Hohnen, with found­ing wine­maker Kevin Judd, in 1985, and is now part of LVMH’s Moët Hen­nessy Di­a­geo wine divi­sion. For its 2018 vin­tage Sau­vi­gnon Blanc, the com­pany’s 34th, fer­men­ta­tion was done pri­mar­ily in stain­less-steel tanks, with 7 per­cent of the blend fer­mented at warmer tem­per­a­tures in old French oak bar­riques and large-for­mat vats for added tex­ture and struc­ture; bot­tling com­menced in July 2018. “Ul­ti­mately, it’s about the qual­ity of the fruit com­ing to you,” he notes. “We don’t want our wines to be overly green and herba­ceous.” Com­pared to the pre­vi­ous vin­tage, though, the newly re­leased 2018 is con­sid­ered spec­tac­u­larly good. “2017 was cooler and we were forced to har­vest ear­lier than we would’ve ide­ally liked,” White says with a shrug, re­call­ing the tough­est vin­tage of his life so far. “The har­vest was punc­tu­ated by one rain­fall event and an­other loom­ing – an even worse one. We chose to pick our grapes be­tween those two events. We didn’t see the level of flavour ripeness that we would’ve liked, but it was still lime-green cit­rus, crunchy but not-quite-ripe green. “This year, we had that clean cit­rus nose,” he de­clares. “We were wait­ing for the fi­nal three days of ripen­ing and there was rain­fall pre­dicted, like 20 or 30 mil­lime­tres, so the fruit was ripe for four days, but we ended up with 80ml of rain! The fruit was so ripe and ready to har­vest that it started to de­grade very quickly, so we had to kick into gear. In the end, we lost a sig­nif­i­cant amount of grapes; we just couldn’t see the qual­ity, so 25 or 30 per­cent of that didn’t go into the Cloudy Bay wine. It’s a blip in the radar, though – I’d rather have less wine than make a wine we’re not proud of.” Also crit­i­cal are the brand’s other wines – a sparkling wine called Pelorus, two Sau­vi­gnon Blancs (the other, also from Marl­bor­ough, is called Te Koko), two Pinot Noirs (one from Marl­bor­ough and the other from Cen­tral Otago; the

cel­lar door for the lat­ter, called Te Wahi, opened this July) and a Chardon­nay. But it’s re­ally the vine­yards of Marl­bor­ough that count, not the grapes that have gone awry. “We were mak­ing Ries­ling and Gewurz­traminer and Pinot Gris, and we stopped those in late 2010; they’re re­ally not great,” he con­cedes. “But we’ve got great Sau­vi­gnon Blanc land that used to grow Pinot Gris and great Pinot Noir coun­try that we used to grow Ries­ling on, and we’ve re­planted it all.” Now, it’s “about trans­fer­ring what we have in the vine­yard as cleanly and el­e­gantly as pos­si­ble into the bot­tle”, he says. “Wine­mak­ing for Sau­vi­gnon Blanc is re­ally about pre­ci­sion – con­trolled tem­per­a­ture and cul­tured yeast. Mak­ing Sau­vi­gnon Blanc has been de­scribed as very naked – there’s noth­ing to hide be­hind. I find I like the lay­ers on the palate and the way it changes in the glass, as it sits on the ta­ble.” Highly in­flu­en­tial to him was a trip he made to the Sancerre re­gion of France five years ago, where Sau­vi­gnon Blanc is also grown. “The thing I re­ally like about the wines from Sancerre isn’t the aro­matic pro­file,” White ex­plains. “They’re quite shy aro­mat­i­cally and they don’t re­ally have a lot of fruit, but what they have is a lot of tex­ture, with the chalky acid­ity. It’s wine that takes it to an­other level. “Sau­vi­gnon Blanc has clear and dis­tinc­tive flavours of cit­rus, kaf­fir lime, pas­sion fruit and white stone fruit,” he con­cludes. “It’s a wine you can talk about, but it’s also a wine that you should be able to drink. De­spite all the other things you want to think about, it should be just de­li­cious.”

“Mak­ing Sau­vi­gnon Blanc has been de­scribed as very naked – there’s noth­ing to hide be­hind.”

FROM LEFT: VIEW FROM THE CLOUDY BAY CEL­LAR DOOR; THE CEL­LAR DOOR’S OUT­DOOR WINE LOUNGE; WINE­MAKER JIM WHITE

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