The lack of wind was a problem with the 2018 harvest, especially when the rains came. It was a case of all hands on deck with six helicopters, at one stage, being used to dry the vines. The end result is a good one, though, with the 2018 Sauvignon Blanc from Cloudy Bay as vivacious and succulent as you’d expect. Operations winemaker Daniel Sorrell was at the LVMH headquarters in London for the UK launch to give Sarah McCleery the full SP on the story behind the vintage.
When Sorrell joined Cloudy Bay it was an opportunity to work with, what he sees, as New Zealand’s “most iconic wine”.
2018 is Daniel Sorrell’s fourth vintage as operations winemaker at Cloudy Bay and he is wearing the responsibility of delivering the new vintage of Sauvignon Blanc, what he describes as “arguably the most iconic New World wine”, with what seems like relaxed assurance.
There’s a great deal to like about Sorrell, he’s affable, knowledgeable and describes with refreshing honesty his nervousness about heading to Blenheim to make wine – his recollection of the town being the “tumbleweed blowing down the streets” when he visited as a schoolboy.
His return to Blenheim came via a fairly circuitous route. His working life began as a financier in London – a job that may not have given much personal satisfaction but did mean living in a city that provided easy access to the great winemaking regions of Europe.
He followed the WSET courses before finally jacking in the job to study Wine Science. His second career as a winemaker began.
Sorrell has worked with some big names, including Chapoutier, Esk Valley and Vidal. Sorrell’s Australian wife was keen to return home and that led to a five-year stint with Cape Mentelle in Margaret River. When the job at Cloudy Bay came up, it was just too good an opportunity to miss.
The 2018 vintage was, according to Sorrell, “nerve-racking and a game of two halves. There was good bud count and exceptional flowering. At the back end of December it was heading to drought but the rain came and the vineyards looked great; as good as I have ever seen them”.
The lack of wind was a problem and the calculated decision was taken to open up the canopies to prevent rot, with mechanical thinning. This reduced the crop by about 25%.
As harvest approached, so too did the rains and it was all hands on deck, with as many people drafted in to help as they could find. They also deployed six helicopters over fifty hectares of vineyards to help dry the vines.
Challenging as it was, the Cloudy Bay team succeeded in harvesting grapes that were in excellent condition, albeit in comparatively low yields. The free-run juice was cold-settled for 48-72 hours before racking. Fermentation was carried out primarily in stainless steel with a modest 3 to 4% fermented in large format oak (previously used for Pelorus) for added texture and structure.
The 2018 has a bright, inviting bouquet dominated with lime, gooseberry and passion fruit. The palate is as vivacious as you’d expect but with a lovely, succulent mid-palate that has lovely ripe passion fruit, citrus mousse and a fine mineral backbone.
Alongside the 2018, there was the unmissable opportunity to sample the 2010 and 2006 Sauvignon Blanc. It was a remarkable demonstration of the ageing ability of this wine with the fresh-as-a-daisy, textured and elegant 2006, particularly impressive.