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Wine of the Week for week ending 21 April 2002
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Cloudy Bay Chardonnay 2000
Marlborough, New Zealand

A pre-release sample of the Cloudy Bay Chardonnay from the 2000 vintage wooed me last September in a blind tasting in conjunction with the New Zealand Wine Fair in Auckland. It was my favourite wine of the tasting. Back then I found very subtle and exotic aromas with grapefruit and lemony citrus. It was rich and powerful in the palate with delicately toasty oak, citrus and figs, leesy characters and a touch of honey. Definitely quite tight in its youth but wonderfully complex with loads of potential and a 'yummy' factor. I even gave it a score. 19/20

There was no way I suspected this to be a Cloudy Bay Chardonnay. This was a complete change in style. The hokey pokey ice cream flavour was missing!

So how would it taste after release almost six months later?

"Mmmm. That's nice" said my husband when he tasted the wine I had poured into his glass.

"Write me a tasting note", I said, for sometimes I'm worried that all my tasting notes sounded the same. His note was short and sweet. "Lemon yellow in colour. Peach and banana on the nose along with toasty oak. Grapefruit and peach flavours and a good long finish showing lemon and limes" he said.

To me this wine was full of peaches, then tropical fruit, then the citrus hit home and lingered. Grapefruit citrus for sure. The sweet grapefruit. Like the ones on the tree in the front garden that have thick orange skins and dark orange flesh. Is there oak? Of course there is. There is spicy French oak but it is oh so integrated and seamless, adding a prosciutto-like smokiness, if anything and more obvious around the regions of the back of the tongue. There's a decent whallop of alcohol in there too. 14 percent says the bottle.* It's no wonder I detected a headiness in the spicy leesy aromas.

It's made in a Burgundian in style with that barrel ferment and wild yeast leesy character, the citrus milkiness from the malolactic fermentation and a touch of hazelnut too, but there's no mistaking it for Burgundy with all that Antipodean fruitiness.

Yes the acid is high, boding well for the cellaring potential of this wine.

I sipped and pondered. I found the honey again - like a citrus honey. Not lemon honey but grapefruit honey. It coated all the nooks and crannies of the mouth. And the more I smelt the wine I though I could even detect a touch of strawberry. Weird, maybe, so perhaps I shouldn't ponder on these things as this character is not something one usually finds in chardonnay. It's all to do with that ripe fruit, I guess. What does it cost. About $34 a bottle in New Zealand. That's not bad seeing some of the best local chardonnays are easily into the realms of $45 and more. This wine is easily in the league of those more expensive offerings.

Where can you get it? From fine wine retailers - here and all around the world.

I'm going to enjoy the rest of this wine with dinner.


* Footnote: Cloudy Bay Chardonnay 2000 is made from 100% Marlborough fruit sourced from the Wairau Valley. Analysis shows alcohol of 14.4%, pH 3.34 and acid of 7.1g/l. Different portions of the wine had pure yeast or indigenous yeasts for the fermentation in French oak barrels, 20% of which were new. 60% of the wine went through malolactic fermentation. The wine was blended after 12 months in barrel and remained on yeast lees in tank for a further 3 months before bottling.

© Sue Courtney

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