Wine Review: Cloudy Bay, Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2012

Ever since fellow wine blogger and friend Oliver was kind enough to ask me to contribute a guest post to his excellent blog, The Winegetter, I have been really excited about the idea. Since the theme was “Somewhere Beyond the Sea” and the post was going to be published in the summertime, I thought reviewing one of my favorite New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs (Cloudy BaySauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2012 – $30) would just be the way to go: definitely “somewhere beyond the sea” pretty much from anywhere you look at it (unless of course you are a Kiwi!) and a refreshing summer wine. So there we go – and of course: (i) you may find this post also in Oliver’s blog and (ii) thank you so much, Oliver, for including me in your list of distinguished guest contributors – I feel honored and it has been a lot of fun!

The Bottom Line

Overall, I think that Cloudy Bay is a very pleasant Sauvignon Blanc in the “Down Under” style: intense, concentrated fruit and herb aromas, lively acidity and citrus-centric flavors. So very refreshing and summery that I would keep drinking it all Summer long… if budget permitted!  😉

Rating: Very Good and Recommended Very Good – $$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

About the Grape

A few interesting notions about the origins of Sauvignon Blanc: recent DNA analysis has identified a parent-offspring relationship between Savagnin (an old white-berried variety that is common in the Jura region of France) and Sauvignon Blanc and, there being much earlier documents mentioning Savagnin than Sauvignon Blanc, the former is believed to be the parent of the latter. DNA results also support the thesis that, contrary to common belief, Sauvignon Blanc did not originate from the Bordeaux area, but rather from the Loire Valley in France, where documental evidence dates back to 1534 (compared to 1710 in Bordeaux). However, it is interesting to note that, when Sauvignon Blanc was grown in the Bordeaux area, it spontaneously crossed with Cabernet Franc to create Cabernet Sauvignon.

In New Zealand, Sauvignon Blanc was first planted in the 1970s and soon became the most widely grown variety in the country, especially in the Marlborough region.

(Information on the grape varieties taken from Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012 – for more information about grape varieties, check out our Grape Variety Archive)

About the Estate

Cloudy Bay‘s vineyards are located in different subzones of the premium wine region of Marlborough at the northern end of New Zealand’s South Island, alongside the Wairau River. Cloudy Bay also sources part of the grapes used for making their wines from a few independent Wairau Valley growers with whom they have established a long-term business relationship.

Our Detailed Review

Let’s now get to the actual review of Cloudy BaySauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2012, which in the US retails for about $30.

The wine has 13.5% ABV and was made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes sourced from estate and grower vineyards located in the Rapaura, Fairhall, Renwick and Brancott subzones of the Wairau Valley. Fermentation was primarily carried out in stainless steel, except for a small percentage that was fermented in old French oak barriques.

As usual, for my review I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher. For your own structured wine tastings, consider downloading our FsT Wine Tasting Chart!

In the glass, the wine poured crystal clear, a beautiful straw yellow in color, and viscous with narrow arches and slow dripping tears

On the nose, its bouquet was intensecomplex and fine, with pleasant, Summer-y aromas of lime, grapefruit, citrus, green apple and herbs (nettle, mint)

In the mouth, it was dry, had medium ABV and was moderately smooth; it was freshly acidic and moderately tasty. The wine was medium-bodied and balanced, despite its freshness (i.e., acidity) being the dominating component – but that is in most cases a desirable feature in a dry white wine and in our case it also helped make the quite muscular ABV of the wine not so evident in the mouth, which is a good thing, so it did not change our assessment that the wine was balanced. Its mouth flavors were intense and fine, with pleasant, refreshing notes of lime, grapefruit, citrus and herbs. The wine had a medium finish and its evolutionary state was mature, meaning ready to be enjoyed now, with additional cellaring not likely to benefit the wine.

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0 thoughts on “Wine Review: Cloudy Bay, Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2012

  1. Pingback: Wine Review: Three First Drop Shiraz from Down Under | Flora's Table

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  3. gotasté

    I’ve had this before 🙂 but it cost a lot more over here in Singapore with our very high liquor tax. But most important of all, I love it. Great to have tasted one within your recommendations….danny

    1. Stefano Post author

      Hi Danny!
      Thank you for your comment! I am glad that you had an opportunity to taste the Cloudy Bay and even more that you loved it! Sorry to hear that it costs a fortune in Singapore though…
      Take care!

  4. Tracy Lee Karner

    I’ve never had a bad Sauv. Blanc. from Marlborough–I’ll keep my eye open for this one for a special treat (like Talkavino–I’ve been quite satisfied with the less expensive N.Z.’s, but there are times when an occasion asks to be honored with a truly memorable wine).

    I was reading your review aloud to my picky-chef husband (who has no patience for pretentious flowery descriptions that don’t give him a concrete idea of the wine), and he enjoys your style as much as I do. Great job of describing.

    1. Stefano Post author

      Thank you, Tracy!
      I am 100% with you: there are times that justify the expense! NZ Sauv Blanc from Marlborough are really good and in my view a perfect fit for the summer!
      Thank you for sharing my review with our husband and I feel honored that he enjoyed it! 🙂
      Take care

  5. vinoinlove

    In my opinion the Sauvignon Blanc Pioneer Block 1 from Saint Clair Family Estate has a better quality price ratio. Have you tried that one? It’s one of my favorite wines 😉
    Sauvignon Blanc from NZ is just perfect for summer 🙂

    1. Stefano Post author

      Hi Julian! Thank you for the pointer: I have never tried Pioneer Block 1 and now I am definitely intrigued. I have looked it up on Wine Searcher and apparently it is not widely available in the US, unfortunately: looks like the only store that carries it for $24 is Jeff’s favorite (the PLCB)! I will have to see if they ship outside PA and also if they have newer vintages as the one that shows up on WS is 2009 which I fear could be a little long in the tooth by now… We’ll see. Thanks again! 🙂

    1. Stefano Post author

      Thank you, Frank: I hear you regarding the leaner style of unoaked SB’s, but trust me, I think the percentage of Cloudy Bay that gets fermented in oak is really minimal as you would be hard pressed noticing it when you taste it. Take care

  6. chef mimi

    All of the Sauvignon Blancs I’ve tried from the Marlborough region have been sublime, although some are a little more tart than others. (The cheaper ones!).
    I’ve tried some from California, but I’m sticking with N. Z. ,

    1. Stefano Post author

      Thank you, Chef Mimi! I agree, NZ SB’s are so good and refreshing, ideal for the summertime! I also like Californian, Italian and of course French SB’s – but that explosion of fruity, herbal notes that you only get with NZ SB’s in my view makes them so uniquely special! 🙂

  7. talkavino

    Nice review, Stefano. Cloudy Bay is good, but overpriced in my opinion. Kim Crawford is about half the price, and will definitely give it a run for the money. In general, there are many options for the good NZ SB in the $10 to $15 range.

    1. Stefano Post author

      Thank you, Anatoli. Yes, Cloudy Bay is definitely in the high end of the price range. I have had Kim Crawford which I like, as I also like Brancott. They both have more appealing price tags, but I have to say, I really like Cloudy Bay! 🙂 So, while I too buy those as my sort of “go-to” options for a NZ SB, once in a while I don’t mind treating myself to a bottle of Cloudy Bay 🙂

      1. talkavino

        Stefano, I have to take my original comment back – you are absolutely right- the good wine costs as much as people are willing to pay for it. So let’s say I owe you a bottle of Cloudy Bay…

        1. Stefano Post author

          My friend, there’s absolutely nothing to take back! 🙂 Jeff made a comment along the same lines on C&C, and like I said I absolutely agree that CB is one of the most expensive NZ SB’s on the market. What I just meant is that personally I like it a lot and while of course it is not a wine that I would regularly buy because of its price tag and the less expensive alternatives that we discussed, I am okay treating myself to the occasional bottle now and then! 🙂 Looking forward to seeing you soon and drinking some more together!

  8. apuginthekitchen

    I am not that familiar with wine from NZ, this sounds like a great summer wine, I imagine it would be just wonderful with seafood. Great review and sounds like a wine definitely worth trying. Just wondering why they age some in stainless and some in oak, in your opinion is oak preferable for a sauvignon blanc?

    1. Stefano Post author

      Oh my gosh, Suzanne, you absolutely have to try a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc out!!! They are so uniquely spectacular! I promise, they are like an explosion of fruit and herbs in your nose and in your mouth. I just loved them. Beside Cloudy Bay, Kim Crawford and Brancott are two more good options if you decide to give it a go. As to the winemaking style, steel make the wine “leaner” and enhances the wine’s secondary aromas, the floral and fruity ones that are produced during fermentation, while oak gives the wine more complexity, structure and, depending on the toast of the wood and how long the wine remains in contact with the oak, tertiary aromas, the spicy or evolved ones, such as vanilla, butter, etc. In this case, the must has been mostly fermented in steel vats with only a small portion doing oak, which reflects in my tasting notes where herbal and fruity aromas and flavors were absolutely dominant.