Sorrell: ‘I take a Champagne approach to blending at Cloudy Bay

Cloudy Bay’s winemaker, Daniel Sorrell, has revealed that he takes a Champagne approach to blending the iconic New Zealand Sauvignon in order to maintain its signature style.

Cloudy Bay’s winemaker, Daniel Sorrell, takes a Champagne approach to blending

Speaking to db in London this week at the launch of the 2019 vintage, Sorrell said: “There is definitely a house style for Cloudy Bay due to the fact that we harvest and ferment every parcel separately.

“We don’t blend in back vintages like they do in Champagne, but we approach the wine with a Champagne mentality.

“We taste all of the parcels blind then decide which ones will make it into the final blend by a process of elimination.

“The wine will always reflect the vintage, but we want it to have a distinctive signature taste that people recognise, like a non-vintage Champagne.

“I want to keep pushing things forward and am constantly evolving the style of the wine, but the tweaks are so small consumers wouldn’t notice.”

In 2019 Sorrell harvested 86 different parcels across 350 hectares from the Rapaura, Fairhill, Renwick and Brancott sub-regions in the Wairau Valley, 62 of which made it into the final blend.

Sorrell describes 2019 as a “classic” Cloudy Bay vintage. “It has everything we chase for in terms of character and flavour profile. We look for stone fruit and citrus flavours, elegance, balance, aromatic intensity, concentration, tension and acidity,” he said.

During the tasting Sorrell admitted that he wished more consumers would age their Cloudy Bay as it offers a lot of interest and complexity with time in bottle.

“I love Cloudy Bay in its youth but the best thing about it is its ageing potential. It ages really gracefully, but not a lot of people know that as they drink it on release.

“It gains in intensity and complexity and starts developing lovely notes of nougat and honeysuckle like an old Vouvray,” he said.

“We’re toying with the idea of moving our oak aged Sauvignon Blanc, Te Koko, back to cork from screwcap and have been trialling some bottles under cork since 2015.

Cloudy Bay is made from Sauvignon Blanc from four sub-regions in Marlborough’s Wairau Valley

“Te Koko is an oxidative style that spends 15 months on its lees in barrel, so it needs to breathe and it can handle cork,” he added.

As to whether he’s worried about the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc bubble bursting, Sorrell doesn’t seem to be losing sleep over the idea.

“There is always the chance that New Zealand Sauvignon will go out of fashion but I don’t think it will.

“The growth of the grape in the country over the last 20 years has been staggering – we’ve gone from 2,700 hectares planted in the year 2000 to 27,000 today.

“There are different business models with Kiwi Sauvignon and some people are playing in the £5 retail category.

“I believe that if, like us, you are striving to make quality wines then you are always going to have the market – Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc is one of the iconic white wines of the world,” he told db.

On the subject of climate change, Sorrell said that he’s seeing more climactic extremes in Marlborough. “We had to leave 50% of our crop on the floor in 2018, which was a sad situation,” he said.

The 2019 Sauvignon Blanc harvest was the earliest to finish in Cloudy Bay’s 34-year history, with the last grapes picked on 2 April.

Cloudy Bay 2019 has an RRP in the UK of £25. Since 2015, 5% of the blend has been aged in old French oak. The wine estate was founded in 1985 by David Hohnen.

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